1. Hopkins 21-0. (Was #1.) Having survived injuries to Nia and Sydney Coffey and Mikaala Shackleford, the Royals now seem safely on their way to an unbeaten 25-0 regular season. Just 4 games to go and then it's tournament time. Is Nia the best player in the state right now? If her play in the 76-53 rout of DeLaSalle two weeks ago is typical--18 points, 23 boards, 5 steals, 5 blocks--the answer is "Yes."
2. Eden Prairie 18-3. (Was #3.) By process of elimination, it seems that if anybody can compete with Hopkins it will have to be the Eagles. They lost to Hopkins 83-51 at Christmastime, then lost 65-58 at Hopkins 10 days ago. Hopkins led 43-18 at the half, but EP out-scored Hopkins 31-9 in the 2nd half to get within 3 before Hopkins again. But that was at the height of Hopkins' injury troubles, and I don't expect the Royals to have anymore "close calls,"
3. Edina 19-3. (Was #2.) A tough call but now that MC McGrory is back, Edina might even be competitive with the 2 sources of its losses--Hopkins and Eden Prairie.
4. Wayzata 17-5. (Was #5.) Slumped from 15-1 to 17-5 in the past 2 weeks, but aside from White Bear Lake all other losses are to the 3 teams above them in this ranking.
5. DeLaSalle 17-3. (Was #23.) Class AAA. Has lost only to Hopkins in its last 15 games, and soundly defeated arch-rival Benilde-St. Mararget's 70-54. Tyseanna Johnson is sorely underrated that she's not mentioned in the same breath as Nia Coffey and Rebekah Dahlman. Seriously, she is good. Still, the 3rd dilemma is how high to rank the top AAA team. Could be higher, could be lower.
6. White Bear Lake 16-6. (Was #11.) The 2nd biggest dilemma in constructing these rankings is how high to go with the Suburban East conference. And with which of its members? Well, I think White Bear is a pretty clear preference even though it's now in a 3-way tie on top with Park and Roseville. They've beaten DeLaSalle, Eastview and Wayzata, and several of their 6 losses came when Alexis Foley and/or Tarah Hobbs was out. They've now won 9 in a row.
7. Osseo 18-4. (Was #6.) Kind of a quiet 18-4. Those 2 losses to Coon Rapids are real head-scratchers for a team that is 18-2 with losses to Cooper and Eden Prairie otherwise. Athletic, can compete with anybody, but more of a collection of athletes than basketball players. Still, a trip to state is hardly out of the question.
8. Bloomington Kennedy 16-5. (Was #3.) The biggest dilemma is where to put Kennedy. With the 2nd best talent in their class, they've nonetheless lost 3 of 5, including to lightly regarded Eagan. What's with that? But if they have their heads screwed on straight, this is probably the one team most likely to give Hopkins a scare. Enigmatic is the word, I guess.
9. Roseville 19-3. (Was #8.) Roseville scores about 62 points per game, Park (and Mounds View) 60 and White Bear only 55. So I see them ahead of Park and Mounds View, but some of White Bear's problems were attributable to injuries which have now healed.
10. Fergus Falls 21-1. Class AAA. (Was #9.) Beat Providence, who beat DeLaSalle, Richfield and Lakeville North. Still, that's not the same as beating them yourself, and Fergus hasn't done that. Mariah Monke and Brianna Rasmussen are a nice inside/outside combo.
11. Benilde-St. Margaret's 18-3. Class AAA. (Was #7.) Took a tumble after losing at DeLaSalle 70-54. Benilde vs. Richfield in section 6AAA looks like 1 of the toughest calls in the post-season. Khadidjah Shumpert and Grace Coughlin are a terrific inside/outside combo.
12. Park 17-5. (Was unrated.) Coming on strong. Beat a decent Forest Lake team 64-23 the other night to remain tied for 1st place in the Suburban East. Lamberty and Lurken are a formidable 1-2 punch. But games against all 3 of the co-leaders--White Bear 12-2, Roseville 12-2 and Mounds View 11-3--loom.
13. Eastview 17-5. (Was #14.) With a decisive loss to Lakeville North and Park coming on strong, no longer a slam dunk to win the section 2AAAA title. Still, they're tied with Kennedy atop the South Suburban at 12-2, and anybody who can do that is a threat.
14. Chanhassan 18-3. (Was #20.) What is this, the Storm's 3rd year, 4th year...? And here they are at 18-3, and running away with the Missota at 10-0. Still, they're only rated 4th in their section 2AAAA. Ouch.
15. Providence 18-3. Class AA. (Was #10.) But their schedule reads more like AAA at least. If you want to see what the pace of the game of basketball was before WWII, these are your girls. Their average win is 51-32. Last week they won at Breck 39-26, the beat Lakeville North earlier in the year 41-33. Methodical doesn't even begin to say it. Like watching paint dry. But good for 13 straight wins right at the moment.
16. Buffalo 18-3. (Was #12.) I'm sure I'm not the 1st to misunderestimate the Bison, nor will I be the last. There are wins over Roseville and Minnetonka, and 11 in a row. And in a weak section 8AAAA they look like the closest thing to a slam dunk to appear in the state tournament this side of Hopkins.
17. Richfield 18-4. Class AAA. (Was #16.) QRF has Benilde and Richfield 1-2 in AAA, so it's a damn shame 1 of them will miss the state tournament. I still think that will be Richfield, though Minnesota Basketball News has Richfield #3 and Benilde #4. Jessica January is great but Benilde has more weapons.
18. Lakeville North 14-8. (Was #19.) Good deep talent, but they lack the go-to player of the recent past. Still, section 1AAAA was custom-made for a Panthers trip to state.
19. Mounds View 16-5. (Was #13.) 2 straight losses, but aside from 1 game vs. Park, they're done with the Suburban East contenders, so a share of the conference title is still not out of the question. What's more problematic is a trip to state vs. section rivals Roseville and Osseo.
20. Robbinsdale Cooper 18-4. (Was #24.) Not gonna win section 6AAAA, but 2nd to Benilde in the North Suburban.
21. New Prague 15-7. Class AAA. (Was unrated.) Slight fave over Mankato and Hutch in section 2AAA by virtue of playing tougher competition week in and week out.
22. Hutchinson 19-3. Class AAA. (Was unrated.) Has won 11 of 12, and beat Mankato East earlier in the season, so a section title is a distinct possibility.
23. Mankato East 20-2. Class AAA. (Was unrated.) Beginning to look like the best team in tough section 2AAA. Losses to section rivals New Prague and Hutch were a long time ago. Now they've won 11 in a row.
24. Minnetonka 13-9. (Was #17.) 13-9 but against the toughest schedule in the state. 0-4 in the Lake, plus losses to Braham, Buffalo, Benilde, and that's just the Bs. 4 more Lake games remain, possibly all losses, which would mean 11 losses in 12 games. That's gotta shake anybody's confidence.
25. Maranatha 18-4. Class A. (Was #21.) Won 14 out of 15. Schedule overall looks more like AAA than A, at least the non-conference part. Onye Osemenam coming on strong now in her junior year.
Dropped Out: Braham (#3 in AA), St. Paul Central, Chisago Lakes, Hill-Murray
State Tournament Forecast
2--Eden Prairie #2 seed
4--White Bear #3 seed
5--Osseo #4 seed
6--Hopkins #1 seed
Project Hopkins vs. Buffalo, EP vs. Cambridge, White Bear vs. Lakeville North, Osseo vs. Park. Park wins an upset. Then Hopkins over Park, and White Bear surprises EP.
2--New Prague #4 seed
3--DeLaSalle #1 seed
6--Benilde-St. Margaret's #2 seed
8--Fergus Falls #3 seed
Project DeLaSalle vs. Chisago, BSM vs. Dassel-Cokato, Fergus vs. Red Wing, and New Prague vs. Simley both from the Missota. Simley wins the upset. Then DLS over Simley and...ok, this is a tough one. Benilde over Fergus.
1--Pine Island #2 seed if there were seeds
3--Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
5--Providence #1 seed if there were seeds
It's 1 vs. 8, 4 vs. 5, 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6, meaning Pine Island, Providence, Braham and Sauk in the semis. Then Providence and Braham, setting up a rematch of last year's final.
1--Spring Grove #4 seed if there were seeds
2--Minnesota Valley Lutheran
3--Minneota #3 seed
4--Maranatha #1 seed if there were seeds
6--Parkers Prairie #2 seed
Same match-ups as AA, meaning Spring Grove, Maranatha, MVL and Parkers Prairie in the semis, then Maranatha and Parkers in the final.