It didn't quite work out that way last year, as a 5th AAA team was recruited in the boys tournament because only 3 AA teams could be signed up. Among the girls, 2 extra AAAA teams and an extra AA team filled in when only 1 AAA team was recruited.
Now comes word that the 2011 girls Sweet 16 is 5--count 'em, 5--teams short.
Girls 2011 Sweet 16 Field
AAAA--Hopkins (my pre-season #1), Kennedy (#4), Wayzata (#7) and one opening. EDIT: Prior Lake has signed on and fills out AAAA. Prior Lake hardly seems like at top 4 teams with the huge losses to graduation in the classes of 2010 and 2011. One wonders if Osseo (#2) and Eden Prairie (#3) were invited? Or White Bear Lake (#5) or St. Paul Central (#7), all 4 of whom look better than Wayzata, not to mention PL. No matter, I suppose. Hopkins is going to run rough-shod over the field. Last year, Eden Prarie topped Hopkins 64-56 in the final. Too bad the Eagles won't be there this year.
AAA--#9 Fergus Falls and unranked New Prague are coming, while unrated Marshall and Simley have been invited. Surely that must mean that #1 DeLaSalle, #2 Benilde-St. Margaret's, #3 Hill-Murray and #4 Richfield have all turned down the Sweet 16.
AA--Braham and Providence (#1 and #2, respectively) may renew their bloodletting in the Sweet 16, where Braham beat Providence 65-60 preparatory to its 46-45 regular season win plus its 59-50 win in the state tournament. Otherwise you've got #10 Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and unranked Staples-Motley signed up. Where are #3 New Richland-H-E-G, #4 Jackson County Central and #5 Caledonia?
A--Here you've just got #6 Sebeka and #8 Fulda, and 2 openings. One would hope to see #1 Maranatha, #2 Goodhue, #3 Hancock or #4 Nicollet. EDIT: I had reported here that Alicia Boe of Sebeka was injured but I was mistaken. Thanks to skeeter and Kevin Anderson for setting me straight. Alicia Boe is not injured.
Among the schools committed so far, only Kennedy and Braham have any hope of making it a ballgame against the Hopkins Royals.
Boys 2011 Sweet 16 Field
Here at least we've got a full field of 16 teams.
AAAA--#1 Hopkins, #4 Eastview, #5 Duluth East and #6 Osseo are signed up. Apparently #2 Cretin and #3 Apple Valley and wunderkind Tyus Jones said, "No thanks."
AAA--Here you've got #1 Benilde and #2 Grand Rapids, but then 2 unranked teams in Rocori and Mankato East. One would have to assume that #3 DeLaSalle and #4 Mpls. Henry passed on the opportunity.
AA--#1 Perham is coming, thank goodness, plus #4 Pelican Rapids. After that it's all the way down to #15 and #16 in Windom and Montevideo. #2 Redwood Valley, #3 Waterville-E-M and #5 Braham might have been more fun.
A--#1 Maranatha, #5 Ellsworth and Casey Schilling, and #6 Rushford-Pete will play, plus unrated Spring Grove. #4 Lakeview Christian and Anders Broman were at the top of my list of teams and players to see, but they're not coming.
I'd have to say this one is wide open. Hopkins' defending champs are favored but it will be close. Last year they defeated Apple Valley 96-89 and Eastview 69-50. This year any of the AAAA teams could be the one to spring the surprise.
But the bigger surprise will be if the girls' field does not have some glaring weaknesses in it. Whatever the problem, the Sweet 16 ain't quite what she used to be. Here's hoping the girls' field gets back to where it was a few years ago.