Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's Trick and Treat as Gopher Women Win Home Opener

The Gopher women treated the home fans to a win on Halloween, but they also had some tricks up their sleeve. The final was Minnesota 76 Concordia (St. Paul) 49, which is as it should be. But there were some surprises. Like, right off the bat, the starting lineup. It was:

C- Micaela Riche, no surprise there
PF- Kionna Kellogg, no surprise there
SF- Sari Noga, surprised me
PG- Rachel Banham, no surprise there other than the fact that she had been ill
SG- Mikayla Bailey. SURPRISE!

But then there was another surprise in that the 5 players who had the most minutes were Kellogg, Noga, Banham, Bailey and Kayla Hirt. Not Riche, who played just 15 minutes, while newcomers Bailey and Hirt led everybody with 26 and 25. The other newcomers, Shayne Mullaney and Jackie Johnson, combined for 25 minutes, and wo are obviously behind Bailey and Hirt. The Hirt-Johnson pecking order is as expected. The Bailey-Mullaney pecking order--nobody saw that coming.

 Jane Thompson played for 1 minute.

But then there also the rotations:

C- After Riche came Kellogg (surprise!), filling in in the post with Katie Loberg unavailable. Johnson played 12 minutes.

PF- Hirt played most of the minutes with Kellogg moving over to the post.

SF- Noga got most of the minutes (surprise!).

PG- Banham was spelled by Mullaney and senior Leah Cotton.

SG- Bailey also was spelled by Cotton but got the lion's share of the minutes (surprise!).

And finally there's the performance.

1. MVP was Banham with 22 points, 5 steals, 5 boards, 2 assists (but 4 turnovers) in 22 minutes.

2. Kellogg with 14 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals while filling in at an unfamiliar position.

3. Hirt with 10 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals, but 3 turnovers.

4. Bailey with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting and 2-of-4 3s and 3 steals. That she started was a terrific shock but she showed why she is starting (and Cotton and Mullaney showed why they are not).

5. Riche with 9 points and 7 boards but 4 fouls in just 15 minutes.

6. Noga with 7 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.

7 (tie). Johnson and Mullaney. Neither scored but they saw the floor and had 5 assists between 'em. They will be fine.

9. Cotton. Unfortunately she did not look like a senior with 3 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers.

A good start! Up next, Mankato State on Sunday at 2 p.m. Not a better test than Concordia, I don't think. Similar, though Aubrey Davis at the point will give the Banham and Bailey circus more of a run for their money than Concordia could do.

But the 1st real test will be the following weekend with South Dakota State, Villanova and Washington State in town for the Best Buy Classic on Saturday and Sunday November 10-11. It will be s treat to see SDSU with a bevy of Minnesotans and a very very good team, perhaps even the favorite to win the Best Buy Classic.

Concordia (St. Paul)

Concordia, the only D2 school in the metro and therefore somebody you've probably got to see if you want to see D2 ball, will be a slightly better than middling D2 team. They have 2 kids who can really play in Annika Whiting and Rachel Hansen. We also know that Carissa Wolyniec and Jodi Batzel can play--just not against D1 opposition. Who a 5th consistently good ballplayer on this team might be is anybody's guess.

Can Concordia, Hamline Challenge Tommies Men?

The St. Thomas men have now won 7 straight MIAC titles (tied with Carleton in 2006 and 2011 and tied with Gustavus in 2012). This ties the record previously held by Hamline from 1947 to 1953 (tied with the Tommies in 1949).

St. Thomas went on to win the post-season playoff title in 6 of those 7 years, losing only to Carleton in 2010. In 2011, despite tying for the MIAC regular season title, the Tommies won not only the MIAC post-season title but the NCAA D3 title as well. Oddly enough, both Hamline in 1949 and St. Thomas in 2011 ended up winning the national championship--Hamline in the NAIA, the Tommies in NCAA D3--in a year in which they hadn't won an outright state conference title.

The Tommies lead Hamline 26-19 on the all-time regular season MIAC titles list, but Hamline hasn't won since 1960. St. Thomas has won 23 regular season titles titles just since 1960.

Enough History Already, What about 2012-2013

Well, as the Tommies go after their record 8th straight MIAC title, they could get some strong opposition from none other than the long-suffering Hamline Pipers and/or from the Concordia (Moorhead), who have not won an MAC title since 1983. What do you think?

Concordia (Moorhead). The Cobbers have size in 6-10 junior Jason Huus from Perham, 6-7 sophomore Scott Flotterud from Zumbrota and 6-4 junior Brandon Fisher. Huus and Fisher return 21 points and 12 boards, while Flotterud made his mark mostly as a shot blocker. The guards include 6-4 junior Ebo Nana-Kweson from Coon Rapids, 5-11 junior Dewon Mackenzie from Cooper and 6-foot guard Andrew Martinson from Chaska. McKenzie and Nana-Kweson return 22 points and 4 assists. So this is a well-balanced group with a quality head coach in Rich Glas, now in his 4th season in Moorhead.

Hamline. The Pipers also return a cast of thousands, though there's nothing like Concordia's size here. The forwards are 6-5 junior Noah Aguirre and 6-5 sophomore Dior Ford, who scored 20.5 ppg between 'em. The boss man is 6-3 swing man Mike Campbell, from Richfield, who scored 14 points with 5 boards and a league-high 3 steals. The pure guards are Tyler Pannell, a 6-foot sophomore, Brand Reig, a 5-8 senior, Al Tillman, a 5-11 junior from Richfield, and 5-10 senior Levi Wenrich. Pannell and Reig are 3-point specialists, while Tillman hit 52 percent of his FG attempts, not bad for a sub-6-foot fellow. This is a great shooting team. But can they keep the other guy from scoring?

St. Thomas. The Tommies return 5 of last year's contributors and they are mostly guards. But here's the scary part. Tommy Hannon, 6-5 center for the 2011 national champs, is back due to medical hardship, missing most of what otherwise would have been his senior season in 2011. Guards Will DeBerg, John Nance and Eric Tengwall, and forward Zach Reidemann would have contended for the MIAC title without Hannon. With Hannon? Well, nobody got rich betting against the Tommies.

1. St. Thomas
2. Concordia
3. Hamline

The rest of the fellows are going to have a tough go of it, some tougher than others.

4. Carleton. Lost Caleb Rosenow but returns 6-0 all-MIAC guard Tom Sawatzke from Monticello, 6-6 senior wing Scott Thiesen from Champlin Park, and 6-3 sophomore wing Shane McSparron from Eastview (named to the all-freshman 5 a year ago).

5. Bethel. Returns 6-8 senior forward Taylor Hall from Spring Lake Park, J.D. Robinson, 6-6 senior wing from Armstrong, and Kyle Zimmerman, 6-3 wing from Champlin Park.

6. Macalester. The long-time doormats of the MIAC promise to make a move this year under 4th year coach Tim Whittle. Though in truth, the optimism revolves mostly around 6-5 senior swingman Pierce Peters from Minnewaska, the league's top returning scorer at 19 ppg who also contributes 7 boards, and shoots 88 percent from the line and 41 percent from long distance. Peters was here when Whittle arrived. But Whittle has brought in 6-5 Sam Marshall, who scores 12 ppg with 6 boards, and 6-foot sophomore point guard Hans Erickson, with 3 assists per game a year ago.

7. Gustavus. Doesn't return much but I can't quite put a Mark Hanson team any lower than this. Guard Ben Biewen from Armstrong will carry a heavy load.

8. Augburg. Lost a ton. Rebuilding but around a superstar in senior guard Tyler Schmidt, who scored 14 ppg with 91 percent shooting from the line and 44 percent from long-range last year.

9. St. John's. Lost a ton. Rebuilding around guard Seth Marx at 9 ppg wityh 4 boards and 38 percent from long range.

10. St. Mary's. Mike Burfiend is back but without much help. Burfiend scores 18 ppg with 5 boards. Point guard Even Pederson recorded 3 assists and a steal as a frosh and is the long-term linchpin if the Cardinals can get off the mat. But, not this year.

11. St. Olaf. OK, now these guys really lost a ton, mainly Bobby Fong and Stuart Neville. Dan Kosmoski's toughest challenge ever.


Tommy Hannon, St. Thomas, 6-5, senior, post, Player of the Year
Pierce Peters, Macalester, 6-5, senior, forward-guard
Scott Thiesen, Carleton, 6-6, senior, wing
Taylor Hall, Bethel, 6-8, senior, forward
Mike Campbell, Hamline, 6-3, senior, forward-guard

2nd Team

Will DeBerg, St. Thomas, guard
John Nance, St. Thomas, senior, guard
Tyler Schmitz, Augsburg, 6-3, senior, guard
Mike Burfiend, St. Mary's, 6-5, senior, forward
Kyle Zimmerman, Bethel, 6-3, senior, wing

3rd Team

Dewon McKenzie, Concordia, 5-11, junior, guard
Jason Huus, Concordia, 6-10, senior, post
Seth Marx, St. John's, senior, guard
Sam Marshall, Macalester, 6-5, junior, forward
Hans Erickson, Macalester, 6-0, sophomore, guard

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NBA Opens Tonight. Here's How It Will All End Up.

Ho hum, the NBA opens tonight. That means that meaningful games are only 4, 4-and-a-half months off! Well, I take that back. Meaningful games for the Timberwolves are maybe only a month or 2 away, when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are back from injury. We'll see how deep of a hole they're in when they get to full strength, and then how fast they can dig out.

Actually I can tell you that I have the Wolves in next spring's playoffs, but I can also say that that is partly because the Western Division has declined dramatically in the past year or 2. The East, paradoxically, isn't much better. It's more a case of the Haves vs. the Have Nots. The Haves have it.


The defending NBA champion Miami Heat should be favored to at least cruise to the NBA finals this year. They're the class of the East with LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, now joined by Ray Allen who left the Boston Celtics to join the Heat. Wade and Bosh have been fragile, however, but if the Heat should falter, who is ready to fill the gap?

Nobody. Indiana looks like #2 in the East but it's hard to picture Roy Hibbert, David West, Danny Granger, George Hill and Paul George in the NBA finals. Atlanta looks like #3 but its hard to see Zach Pachulia, Roy Horford, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and DeShawn Stevenson in the NBA finals.

The Celtics are all the way down to #5, trailing the Knicks in the Atlantic, though Amare Stoudamire's continuing injury problems could be trouble. The Celtics are now Rajon Rondo's team, not Ray Allen's (gone), Paul Pierce's (old) or Kevin Garnett's (also old), and they'll  contend, but the decline will continue.

Then there's the Bulls, the NBA's winningest team the past 2 years. They'll be without Derrick Rose for an indeterminate time and a guard pairing of Kirk Hinirich and Rip Hamilton does not give great confidence. I mean, maybe the old guys have one more campaign in them, I don't know.

So in summary:

1. Miami 58-24. LeBron is East MVP. But moved to the power forward spot. How out of position will that prove to be? Dwayne Wade is the best "2" when he's healthy. Not a powerhouse, but who is?

2. Indiana 51-31. Roy Hibbert (post) and Danny Granger (small forward) are both the best in the East at their positions.

3. Chicago 47-37. Depends on how soon Derrick Rose gets back. Could be a threat come playoff time.

4. Atlanta 45-37. Horford and Smith are a great forward pair. The guards, not so much.

5. New York 43-39. Did they really prefer Raymond Felton to Jeremy Lin?

6. Boston 42-40. Rajon Rondo is the best "1" in the East but his supporting cast is ancient.

7. Brooklyn 41-41. New home, new look with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Still weak up front.

8. Philadelphia 40-42. No Ike. Makes playoffs only because nobody else can.

9. Milwaukee 38-44, has the potential, I guess,
10. Washington 35-47
11. Toronto 34-48
12. Detroit 32-50
13. Orlando 31-51, and that is being generous.
14. Cleveland 25-57. Kyrie Irving brings hope for the future.
15. Charlotte 20-62, and that is being generous.


Oklahoma City should be a shoo-in even without James Harden. They replace him with Kevin Martin, which is not shabby at all. Who is their biggest threat? Well, how about "none of the above." But it has to be somebody, right? So Clips or Lakers? The Lakers of course have Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, now, and Antoine Jamison ready to take over at the small forward for Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest and widely know today as Metta World Peace of ****) when the inevitable meltdown comes. But, hey, Kobe and Nash are a year older and it's doubtful that Howard is a year more mature, so I wonder. The meltdown might extend beyond Mr. Peace.

Then there's Dallas, but Nowitzki's knees are an issue, and there's San Antone, but Mr. Duncan's body is an issue. I mean, it's 50 years old, is it not? But either could get hot come playoff time.

1. Oklahoma City 64-18. Durant and Westbrook are plenty tough, Harden is barely missed.

2. L.A. Clippers 62-20. Chris Paul makes it happen.

3. L.A. Lakers 60-22. Too bad they couldn't assemble Dwight and Steve with Kobe about 4 years ago.

4. Dallas 56-26. Depends on Nowitzki's knees, but Kaman, Marion, Carter, Mayo are tough even if Dirk is out.

5. San Antonio 55-27. Timmie a little long in the tooth. Nowhere near the depth that Dallas has assembled.

6. Memphis 50-34. Gasol, Randolph, Rudy Gay a solid front line. Guards not so much.

7. Utah 45-37. Slipping, but slips in.

8. Minnesota 40-42. A record like that hasn't made the Western Division playoffs in decades. Rubio and Love come back in the nick of time.

9. Houston 38-44. A totally new look built around guards Jeremy Lin and James Harden. We'll see.

10. Sacramento 36-46. Young. The future is in the future.

11. Golden State 34-48
12. Denver 32-50
13. Portland 30-52
14. Phoenix 26- 56. Bye-bye, Steve. Hello, rebuilding. Around Michael Beasley? Good luck with that.
15. New Orleans 20-62


The top 8 advance except San Antone upsets Dallas.

Then Miami and Chicago, and OKC and the Lakers. Then Miami and OKC. This year OKC reverses last year's outcome.

MVP both regular season and playoffs--Kevin Durant


C- Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers
PF- LeBron James, Miami
SF- Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
PG- Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
SG- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City


C- Andrew Bynum, P:hiladelphia
PF- LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
SF- Carmelo Anthony, New York
PG- Rajon Rondo, Boston
SG- Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers


C- Roy Hibbert, Indiana
PF- Al Horford, Atlanta
SF- Danny Granger, Indiana
PG- Deron Williams, Brooklyn
SG- James Harden, Houston

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gopher women EXPECT TO add Amanda Zahui B.

People seem to be pretty pumped up about the signing of Amanda Zahui B., 6-foot-5 Swedish post, to a scholarship offer by Pam Borton's Minnesota Gophers.

But when you see and hear all this optimism, pretty much everybody is quoting Pam Borton. "The signing of Amanda elevates our 2012 recruiting class from the a good one to a great one," Pam said. What's more, Zahui is "a presence in the paint" with the potential to be "dominant" and to make an "immediate impact." Of course, the likelihood is Pam has never seem Zahui play.

A year ago at about this time, it was Alexandra Ionescu whom the Gophers had signed and there was lots of speculation that she was an impact player. So I simply looked up her record and reported that she was coming off the bench and scoring 2-3 points per game for her Romanian team. Sure enough, she has not yet been an impact player for Minnesota.

So one has to ask. Is there any independent corroboration of the Amanda-Zahui-B.-as-savior storyline? MinnesotaHoops is determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

And, well, ah, umm, er, yeah, well, Amanda Zahui B. looks like the real deal!

First of all, there's the little matter of the photo that has been circulated with news of her signing. You can see it at and also at Take a look. She is a beast. Again, 6-foot-5 with a wide body reminiscent of Janelle McCarville or Zoe Harper. More of an Ashley Ellis-Milan, somebody said on one of the forums. But, hey, 6-foot-5, not very comparable, actually, to AEM's 6-2, on a closer look.

But more than that, she's been an impact player wherever she's gone. She made the big first impression in 2007 playing in the Euro 16U championship as a 13-year-old. Giving up 3 years to her opponents (and teammates) all she did was score 12 points per game with 12 rebounds. In her 1st year in 18U she averaged 16 points, 10 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Last year she upped that to 19 points and 12 boards.

Back in Sweden, she is a 9-time all-star and 2 time MVP. Her club team, Telge Basket, has won the last 2 league titles, and went undefeated in last year's playoffs.

In addition to Pam, Daniel Prince of Passion Hoops International, is also talking her up. "She is clearly the best player with size in the international 2012 graduating class....(She's) capable of playing physical down low, but with the mobility, agility and shooting touch to platy away from the basket.... She is a complete nightmare for opponents."

So I think, yes, she'll be an impact player even as a freshman. Whether she starts or not, she will play 20 minutes per game or more, perhaps 25. Katie Loberg and Micaella Riche will both be coming off the bench behind her. One of them, probably Loberg, will have to learn the big forward slot real quick and will become the #1 reserve behind Kionna Kellogg at that position.

Given that the Gophers were not bad at the position--with Loberg and Riche, or Riche and Loberg--Zahui will only be a modest upgrade. But she should be more of a go-to player near crunch time, and should also help the defense get a few extra stops.

All in all, a great signing.


NOW: Amanda Zahui B. has passed her SAT and plans to play for the Gophers. She would become eligible at the start of the winter semester around January 1.

She is a world-class ballplayer who scored 17 ppg for Sweden in the 18 year old World Tournament.

THEN: Amanda Zahui B. has not been cleared by the NCAA to play college basketball in the U.S. and therefore will not be able to play for the Minnesota Gophers. Whether there is a longer term future for the Zahui-Gopher relationship is unknown. This is a big blow to the Gophers' hopes for 2012-2013 as Zahui, a 6-5 Swede, was widely viewed as a huge upgrade to the Gophers' inside game.

Gopher Women Depth Charts

EDIT: It now appears that the Gophers will have Amanda Zahui B. after the 1st of the year. Suddenly this is one of the deepest front lines the Gopher women have ever had. I mean, next January-March they'll have Riche or Loberg or Zahui B, and probably Jackie Johnson as their 3rd string "bigs." Now, just add Carlie Wagner and suddenly Rebekah Dahlman and Nia Coffey and Tyseanna Johnson are forgotten. OK, that's a lie. But still...suddenly this is a really really good looking roster.


For the upcoming season, Pam has achieved almost perfect balance. She could play 2 5-women units if she wanted because she's got 10 women who she says can be in the rotation. Whatever other issues there might be, depth won't be one of them unless the freshman class proves to be unready, then there are issues at the guard spots. But I would guess that Shayne Mullaney is the most ready of all the freshman, and Pam has now acknowledged that it might be a good idea to put Banham on the wing, as I've been saying for the past 18 months now. And with Mullaney in particular, I think Pam is right. This team can push the ball a little harder than they've done in recent years. But can this team defend and hit the boards? Overall this team looks improved from a year ago, let's say 18-12 for the regular season. Then it just depends on how they match-up the rest of the way. Wild guess, 20-14 overall.

C- Loberg, Riche, Zahui B.
PF- Kellogg, Riche, J. Johnson
SF- Hirt, Noga, Kellogg
PG- Mullaney, Cotton
SG- Banham, Bailey, Noga

+ Ionescu and Thompson (both guards)
Seniors in boldface


C- Riche, Zahui B., J. Johnson
PF- Kellogg, Stabresa McDaniel, J. Johnson
SF- Hirt, Noga, McDaniel
PG- Mullaney, Hedstrom
SG- Banham, Bailey, Noga

With a nice senior class, this could be the peak of the Banham years if Mullaney, Hedstrom and Bailey, with help from Hirt and Noga, are a sufficient help at the other guard spot. And, yes, one of 'em, at least, has gotta come through, right? The frontcourt looks solid both in terms of the front line and with Jackie Johnson, probably off the bench but now in her 2nd year. So maybe 20-10 regular season, and being a little more bullish on the post-season, let's say 24-12 overall.


C- Zahui B., Terra Stapleton, Jackie Johnson
PF- Stabresa McDaniel, Jackie Johnson
SF- Kayla Hirt
PG- Mullaney, Hedstrom, Bell
SG- Banham, Bailey, Coughlin

A lot and I mean A LOT will depend on Stapleton and McDaniel, about whom we know fairly little at this point (have never seen them play). But Banham's senior year looks like a bit of a transition year. I mean, of course, a lot will depend on Kayla Hirt, too. I mean, maybe they're the 2nd coming of Whalen and McCarville. But the supporting cast is a bit young. Let's say 18-12 again, and 20-14 overall.

And by the way, if Mikayla Bailey turns out to be a world-beater and ends up playing alongside Banham (i.e. as a starter ahead of Mullaney), do you think the Gophers will be marketing the "Banham and Bailey Circus" before we're done?


Another transition year as Banham moves on.

C- Zahui B., Stapleton
PF- J. Johnson, McDaniel 
SF- Hirt, McDaniel
PG- Mullaney, Bell
SG- Hedstrom, Bailey, Coughlin

Still a nice nucleus but I'm not going to speculate on a W-L record this far out. Like I said, much will depend on the 2 girls from Texas and Ohio whom we have not seen play. Of course, I've never seen Amanda Zahui play and if she still ends up as a Gopher, add 2-3 wins all the way around. What a front court that would be: Zahui (class of 2016 or 2017), Stapleton (2018), McDaniel (2017), Jackie (2016). I would take my chances with that.

Plus Carlie Wagner, who would be an upgrade at the guard spot. Add Zahui and Carlie and sky's the limit.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pre-Season Player, Coach, Team of the Year Candidates

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx of course did not repeat as WNBA champs and Augustus shot 3-for-21 in the final game, a loss to the Indiana Fever in game 4 of the WNBA finals. Still, she was the best player for a 27-7 team, best in the league in the regular season and runner-up in the post-season. And she performed admirably as an Olympian. All in all, a pretty good year.

Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women. Banham has been idle with  blood clot of late but is expected to be ready to go as the regular season gets underway. Rated as one of the top 5 freshmen in the nation last year and as the best in the Big 10, if she is unable to go it would be a tremendous blow to a program that has underachieved in recent years. Significant improvement is expected this year, mostly because of Banham.

Nia Coffey, Hopkins girls. Going for a 3-peat.

Tyus Jones, Apple Valley boys. Possibly the greatest Minnesota schoolboy player ever, but he kind of needs a state title to fill out an all-timer resume.

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. Will miss the 1st month of so of the season with a broken hand, but it will be an immense surprise if he is not the Wolves best player by the time all is said and done. Based on his play last year and then as an Olympian, he's one of the NBA's top 10-12 players when healthy and the Wolves will need him as such PDQ in order to keep another season from getting away from them. Ricky Rubio's and Love's injuries are a powerful argument that this is a franchise that is snake-bit. We'll see.

Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota Gopher men. Has missed most of the last 4 years with legal troubles and injuries, but at least his latest injury got him a 5th year of eligibility. Like the Gopher women, Tubby's crew has disappointed the past several years. If this is the breakthrough year, it will be because of Mbakwe.

Katrina Newman, UMD women. Now in her 3rd year at this level, ready to really assert herself, I'm guessing.

Clayton Vette, Winona State men. 6-9 senior will be the best player among NSIC men.

Carlie Wagner, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva girls. All-time state tournament scorer as a sophomore, overshadowing the great Rebekah Dahlman in the process. Now a state title would cement her status as one of the greats.

Taylor Young, St. Thomas women. Led her team to the national semis as a sophomore. Can she and the Tommies shoot higher?

Coach of the Year Candidates

Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
Brad Bigler, Southwest Minnesota State men
Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women
Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls
Zach Goring, Apple Valley boys
Faith Johnson Patterson, DeLaSalle girls
Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women
Tubby Smith, Minnesota Gopher men
Dave Thorson, DeLaSalle boys

Team of the Year Candidates

Apple Valley boys
DeLaSalle boys
DeLaSalle girls
Hopkins girls
Minnesota Gopher men
Minnesota Gopher women
Minnesota Lynx
Minnesota Timberwolves
St. Thomas women
Southwest MN State men

NSIC Men's Title Up for Grabs

The 2012-2013 NSIC season can't be as wacky as last year. Moorhead came out of nowhere to start 11-0, then slumped to 14-8. The Bemidji streaked home for only its 2nd NCAA bid ever at 16-6. But they got the #1 seed only because Winona (19-3) was penalized for using an ineligible player. St. Cloud and Southwest were in the mix at 15-7, while pre-season fave Augustana staggered home at 14-8.

For the moment the coaches have installed Winona and Moorhead as favorites in the South and North Division, respectively. But the conference loses a tremendous amount of talent including 7 of its top 8 scorers. Add in some prominent coaching changes and it should be an unpredictable season. I'm going to predict the unpredictable anyway.


1. St. Cloud State (15-7 last year). The coaches pick Moorhead, I like St. Cloud, which brings back forwards Tim Bergstrasser and Theo Rothstein and point guard Shawn Jensen. Jensen and Bergstrasser scored 27 points, while Bergstrasser and Rothstein gathered in 12 boards. Jensen added a league high 5 assists at a league high ratio of better than 2 assists per turnover. Coach Kevin Schlagel returns for his 17th season as head coach with a record of 301-141.

2. Moorhead State (14-8). Moorhead has lost guards D.J. Hamilton and Charlie Chapman, but there's not much despair up there because Alex Novak, coaches' pre-season player of the year in the North, is back after contributing 9 boards, 2 blocks and 64 percent shooting. Sophomore guard Jordan Riewer will try to fill some big shoes in the backcourt, and a huge freshman class will be counted up heavily--especially Tyler Vaughan from Braham. Chad Walthall enters his 3rd year as Dragons coach with a 36-22 record.

3. Northern (9-13). Northern returns 5 contributors including guard Tydan Storrestan from Pelican Rapids, who missed all but 5 games a year ago. Forwards Dustin Tetzlaff (6-7 senior) and Collin Pryor (6-6 senior) scored 28 points with 10 boards a year ago. Paul Sather is in his 2nd year as head coach.

4. Mary (7-15). Mary brings back 6-6 senior forward Alex Dorr and 6-3 senior forward-guard Josh Turner. Turner scored 12.5  ppg, while Dorr contributed 5 boards. Both boasted a good shooting percentage as did guard Danny Robinson on the 3-ball.Point guard Jalen Jaspers from DeLaSalle also returns.

5. UMD (11-11) looks like a 2-man show, those being 6-3 senior guard Jake Hottenstine (16 ppg, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) and 6-7 post Brett Ervin from Eden Prairie (13 ppg on 53% shooting). Freshman guard Austin Pohlen (Grand Rapids) should contribute right away. I'm tempted to move them a bit higher because they recently acquired one of the top coaches in the conference Matt Bowen, reigning coach of the year after leading Bemidji to a 16-6 record a year ago. Bowen could make UMD a powerhouse but it won't happen this year.

6. Bemidji State (16-6). Massive losses including James Ellisor and Bowen.... Guards Lance Rongstad and Dermaine Crockrell will carry the load.

7. Minot State. Has a bit of talent in its 1st year in the NSIC in forwards Josh Johnson and Thomas Korf (St. Cloud Apollo), who scored 26 points between 'em.

8. Minnesota-Crookston (3-19). Guard Aimir Krdzalik is pretty much the whole show/hope for improvement.


1. Southwest State (15-7). Southwest, coached by Brad Bigler, now in his 4th year (48-37), returns a cast of thousands while Winona returns the NSIC's best player in Clayton Vette. I'll take the thousands. Ok, 6. 6-9 junior post Nick Smith and 6-5 senior guard Jordan Miller scored 26 ppg between 'em a year ago. Smith shot 56 percent from the field, Miller 82 percent from the line. Smith added 6 boards, Miller 3 assists. So, nice 1-2 punch. But then 1-2-3: Vinard Birch, 5-11 junior guard with 3 assists and a steal. No, make that 1-2-3-4: Matt Zager, 6-1 junior guard, shooting 55 percent. And 1-2-3-4-5: William Giddings, a 6-5 junior forward, shoots 52 percent. And 6-1 guard Tramel Barnes shoots 85 percent from the charity stripe. That's a lot of weapons. Plus freshmen Mitch Weg, 6-7 from Worthington, and Joey Bartlett, 6-5 from St. Peter.

2. Winona State (19-3). The coaches go with Winona, maybe out of habit but also due to the presence of the League's best player and top returning scorer, 6-9 post Clayton Vette, with 17 ppg, 7 boards, 53 percent..... Add to that guards Taylor Cameron, Kellen Taylor and Xavier Humphey and, well, the talent pool is a little down from where it's been, but coach Mike Leaf will get the most out of what there is.

3. Mankato State (6-16). Coach Matt Marganthaler had an uncharacteristic down year last year but he's got them on the road back. Probably not a contender this year going in the right direction. 6-7 forward Connor O'Bien is the star with 8 boards and 2 blocks per game. Zach Romashko and Jimmy Whithead, both juniors, do more of the scoring with 24 points between them. And 6-5 freshman all-purpose guy Mike Busack will contribute starting on Day 1.

4. Augustana (14-8). Great things were expected last year with guards Cameron McCaffrey and Cody Schilling, but it didn't quite work out. Now McCaffrey is back and their obvious go-to scorer, their leader, their all-everything. Butthe supporting cast is not great.

5. Wayne State (9-13). A two-man show with 6-4 senior forward Darrell Williams and 5-11 guard Amry Shelby, who scored 27 ppg between 'em.

6. Concordia (St. Paul) (9-13). I keep waitin' for the breakthrough but it keeps on not happening. Guard Isaiah Thomas and Cole and Clay Olstad give it their best shot.

7. Upper Iowa (7-15). Erstwhile doormat might be improved with Tucker Wentzien, 6-8 senior forward, leading the way. He scored 14 with 7 boards and a block a year ago. 6-6 senior wing Sam Elgin adds some more size.

8. Sioux Falls. The new guys don't appear to have much.

Pre-Season All-Conference

C- Clayton Vette, Winona 6-9 senior, Player of the Year
F- Alex Novak, Moorhead 6-8 senior
F- Dustin Tetzlaff, Northern 6-7 senior
G- Sean Jensen, St. Cloud 6-0 senior
G- Jake Hottenstine, UMD 6-3 senior

2nd Team

C- Brett Ervin, UMD 6-7 junior
F- Tucker Wentzlein, Upper Iowa 6-8 senior
F- Tim Bergstrasser, St. Cloud 6-6 junior
G- Amry Shelby, Wayne 5-11 senior
G- Cameron McCaffrey, Augustana 6-0 senior

3rd Team

C- Nick Smith, SW State 6-9 junior
F- Collin Pryor, Northern 6-6 senior
F- Darnell Williams, Wayne 6-4 senior
G- Jordan Miller, SW State 6-5 senior
G- Jimmy Whitehead, Mankato State 6-1 junior

Coach of the Year--Brad Bigler, Southwest State

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tommies Look to Repeat As MIAC Champs, National Contender

The MIAC women's basketball season will have some new and surprising looks, but at the very top of the heap, well, there will be a strong air of familiarity there. The St. Thomas women under head coach Ruth Sinn should dominate as much as last year, and will be looking not only for a repeat MIAC title but a return trip to the NCAA D3 Final Four. It's doable for the multi-talented Tommies.

Another familiar face, Concordia (Moorhead), will again be strong and right now look like a 2nd place team. After that, perennial powers Gustavus and St. Ben's look to be a bit down, while perennial not-powers St. Mary's and St. Olaf will be in contention for 3rd place. Hamline and Carleton also should be much improved.

1. St. Thomas (22-0 a year ago). Coach Sinn again enjoys an embarrassment of riches, starting with all-conference sophomores (a year ago, now juniors) Taylor Young and Maggie Weiers. The two bring back 25 ppg between then, while Young also contributed 3 assists and 2 steals. Weiers added 7 boards.

Most teams that lost Ali Johnson and Sara Smith and another 17 points and 11 boards between 'em might be hurting a bit. But Coach Sinn has Anna Smith, Kelly Brandenburg (11 points and 5 boards) ready to step in. There will be no let-downs at those positions.

22-0 is always a bit much to hope or to plan for. Let's say the Tommies got 20-2 this year. That will still be plenty good to repeat in the MIAC. The post-season is always dicey, especially with the powerful Wisconsin IAC in the same region. But this is again a team with national possibilities.

2. Concordia (15-7, 3rd place a year ago). 15-7 and 3rd place felt like a slump in Moorhead and in fact the Cobbers under coach extraordinaire Jessica Beachy Rahman should improve on that in 2012-2013. 6-4 post Alexandra Lippert, 5-11 forward Tricia Sorenson, and guards Emily Thesing and Erika Jossart represent a lot of firepower, as in almost 40 points and 20 rebounds per game. Lippert is also a shot-blocker, and Thesing and Jossart among the league's steadiest ball-handlers. In most years, this lineup would be favored in the MIAC, but this isn't most years.

3. St. Mary's (13-9). The long-suffering Cardinals have made immense strides under coach Mandy Pearson. Courtney Eurele and Jamie Stefely give the Cards an edge inside against most MIAC opponents, and guard Jessie Thone takes care of the perimeter. The 3 combined for 35 points last year, plus 18 boards, and Thone led the MIAC with 5 assists per game.

4 (tie). Carleton (2-20) and St. Olaf (14-8). Carleton has gotten much the better of it down in Northfield the past decade or so but last year, not so much.

It is hard to imagine how Carleton managed to lose 20 games last year with this roster. 5-11 senior forward-guard Akemi Arzouman scored 15 points with 5.5 rebounds. 5-6 junior point guard Jenny Ramey scored 11 with 4 assists and 2 steals. 5-9 soph guard Sylar Tsutsui scored 13 and shot 35 percent from 3-point range. Megan Meads added 6.5 boards. A lack of depth hurt, and Arzouman, Ramey and Tsutsui were all among the league's top 5 in minutes played with 34 apiece. Maybe they ran out of gas late in some games. Hopefully coach Cassie Kosiba can get her starters a little more rest this year. A big improvement should come.

St. Olaf is led by senior guards Mackenzie Wolter and Kirstee Rotty who combined for 22 points a year ago. Rotty added 5.5 boards, Wolter 3 assists and 2 steals. They should at least match last year's record as the inside is not too shabby either with 6-2 Elise Raney and 6-2 Nikki Frogner ready to go. The W-L record may not be a lot better, but I think this team will be.

6. Gustavus (17-5). The perennially powerful Gusties are suddenly rebuilding after losing guards Molly Geske and Colleen Ruane and coach Mickey Haller. New coach Laurie Kelly has front-liners Abby Rothenbuhler, Eli Benz and Kelsey Florian back, and they'll give Gustavus an edge against a lot of people. The 6-2 Rothenbuhler is especially for real. Steph Comer and Julia Dysthe will have to replace Geske and Ruane, and that's a tall order.

7. St. Ben's (10-12). Coach Mike Durbin and the Blazers endured in his sub-.500 season is god only knows. I'm picking them 6th on the strength of tradition more than anything because, frankly, he roster still seems a little thin. But with Emily and Maddie Lueck from Pequot Lakes joining returnees Whitney Canton, Brianna Barrett and Itisha Alexander, there's some firepower here. Alexander, now a junior, was an incredibly creative high school point guard. I have to believe she's still got a lot of upside at this level.

8. Hamline (6-16). The Pipers have 4 experienced players back who scored 46 points among 'em a year ago. Unfortunately, they're all guards and not one of them is bigger than 5-8. Sophomore Jordan Sammons is far and away the best of the group, you can expect great things from her. But unless a front court player or two emerges, the upside has a pretty solid cap on it.

9. Augsburg (11-11). If Hamline had Augsburg's front line of Brittany Zins and Brittany Dyshaw the sky would be the limit. Unfortuantely, at Augsburg, there's not much in the way of guards to keep defenses loose and get 'em the ball.

10. Bethel (12-10). Lost the MIAC Player of the Year in Taylor Sheley and that is a huge loss. A huge freshman class is on board, but who exactly will emerge remains to be seen.

11 (tie). Macalester (10-12) and St. Kate's (0-22). Macalester begins rebuilding now, St. Kate's moves into year 2 of a major rebuilding.

Pre-Season All-Conference

C- Maggie Weiers, St. Thomas
F- Tricia Sorenson, Concordia
F- Taylor Young, St. Thomas, Player of the Year
G- Jessie Thone, St. Mary's
G- Jordan Sammons, Hamline

2nd Team

C- Alexandra Lippert, Concordia
F- Jamie Stefely, St. Mary's
F- Akemi Arzouman, Carleton
G- Mackenzie Wolter, St. Olaf
G- Kelly Brandenburg, St. Thomas

3rd Team

C- Courtney Eurele, St. Mary's
F- Brittany Zins, Augsburg
F- Sarina Baker, St. Kate's
G- Tish Alexander, St. Ben's
G- Emily Thesing, Concordia

Coach of the Year

Mandy Pearso0n, S. Mary's

The Remainder of Greater MN Class AAA Schools

Section 1AAA

Kasson-Mantorville 568 enrollment boys 91-115 girls 103-108 total 194 wins (Hiawatha Valley Blue). Not exactly feasting vs. Class AA opponents in the HVL. One of the smaller AAA teams along with Dassel-Cokato and a couple of the following. The nearest comparably sized school is maybe New Ulm. So the KoMets can stay where they are.

Section 7AAA

Duluth Denfeld 1,071 boys 88-96 girls 39-140 total 127 wins (1 source says Denfeld currently is independent, another has it in the Lake Superior conference with the following plus Duluth Marshall and Ashland and Superior, WI)

Hermantown 626 boys 78-148 girls 148-78 total 226 wins (ditto Denfeld's conference affiliation)

Cloquet 614 boys 92-127 girls 83-112 total 175 wins (ditto)

Proctor 500 boys 45-157 girls 63-153 total 108 wins (ditto)

Most of these folks are struggling, with the Hermantown girls the only exception. The same geography is served by the Polar League, consisting of Class A and AA schools. The question is whether a AAA league and an AA-A league makes more sense, or whether an AAA-AA league and an A league makes more sense. Esko (enrollment 368, Class AA) would probably beat most of these teams most years. Ditto Barnum, and they're Class A. Ditto Moose Lake, Class AA. Other than Barnum, the Class A schools (such as Cromwell, Floodwood, McGregor, Silver Bay, Wrenshall, etc.) are never going to win a Polar League title.

Still, I'd be reluctant to tell a 368-student school to join a conference with 500-plus enrollment schools and up, all the way to 1,071. And I would also suggest that Duluth Marshall, enrollment 268, should get out of the Superior and into the Polar. That would give each of them even numbers as in 6 (Superior) and 12 (Polar).

Superior (AAA)

Ashland, WI
Duluth Denfeld
Superior, WI

Polar (AA and A)


Moose Lake


Cook County
Duluth Marshall
Silver Bay
Two Harbors

Section 8AAA

Thief River Falls 550 boys 123-78 girls 87-113 total 210 wins
East Grand Forks 514 boys 126-88 girls 162-69 total 288 wins

Once again, the MSHSL Web site shoes these 2 in a conferences with Bagley (enrollment 254), Crookston (365) and Warroad (318). shows these 5 plus Roseau (374) in the Northwest Conference. Here, it is just  too far to go to find any different opponents. So even though the Northwest ranges from AAA to A, let it be, including Roseau.

What Happened to the Lynx?

The Lynx (27-7 on the regular season) lost to the Indiana Fever (22-12) in the WNBA finals. The Lynx  were favored going into the playoffs, but were certainly not considered to be prohibitive favorites. A loss to L.A. or San Antone might not have been a huge surprise. A loss to Seattle would have been another thing. And yet it was Seattle who almost knocked off the Lynx and Indiana that did. L.A., no problem. What up wit dat?

Well, 2 things. 1) The Lynx simply ran into a hot hot hot team. 2) They ran into a hot team with not 1 but 2 new starters, a team/a lineup against which they had relatively little information and so had a difficult time preparing for. And 3) Seattle and Indiana played physical and it worked. It worked well. L.A. ran with the Lynx and that proved to be a recipe for disaster.

Put those 3 things together, and you've got the Indiana Fever: Hot, new and physical.

The Post

Take Erlana Larkins in the post for Indiana. She started just 2 regular season games as Tammy Sutton-Brown manned the post position. Tammy averaged 4 points and 3 boards in 16 minutes of play, while Larkins averaged 4 points and 4 boards in 15.5 minutes. In the playoffs Larkins averaged 8.5 points and 12 boards in 31.5 minutes, or twice as much playing time as during the regular season.

Meanwhile Taj's output fell slightly from 8 to 6 points, 5 to 4 boards, and 51 to 42 percent shooting. And Taj just didn't have the strength to keep Larkins away from the basket.

They increased their output over the regular season, we slipped back a little bit. Larkins was all 3--hot, new and physical.

Big Forward

Here Rebekah Brunson ran into a big strong player but one that the Lynx knew all about, Tamika Catchings, 2011 WNBA MVP and playoff MVP this year based on 22 ppg, 7 boards, 3 assists and 2.5 blocks. This is 5 ponts more than during the regular season.

She also stifled Brunson, who scored 9 ppg with 8 boards, compared to 11 and 9 during the regular season. She actually played as well as anybody for the Lynx, it jsut wasn't enough against Catchings. Catchings is the most dangerous type of playoff opponent--an all-star player who had never won a WNBA title. Given the opportunity, she stepped up quite emphatically.

The increased their output, we slipped a little bit. Catchings was hot and physical.

Small Forward

What can you say about Corey Zellous? A 3rd year pro, her career and 2012 regular season averages are 7.5 points on 37 percent shooting. She almost doubled her average for the WNBA finals scoring 17 points on 41.5 percent shooting. Other than Catchings, the Fever's MVP for the finals.

Meanwhile Maya Moore scored the quietest 15 ppg ever in the finals, only 1 point less than during the regular season. But she shot just 39 percent versus 46.5 during the regular season. She was also down 1 rebound and 2 assists.

They increased their output a bunch, we slipped a little bit. Zellous was hot, new and quick.

Shooting Guard

The Lynx figured to have a huge advantage here with all-star Seimone Augustus, while Indiana's Katie Douglas was out with an injury. Seimone averaged 17 pouts on 49 percent shooting with 4 boards, 3.5 assists and a steal. Douglas' replacement, the Aussie Erin Phillips, had scored 6 points on 39 percent shooting  with 3 boards, 2 assists and a steal in 21 minutes.

Phillips minutes increased 50 percent to 30 minutes He scoring doubled to 13.5 on 44 percent shooting with 3 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals. Seimone's output fell by just 1 point (16) but her shooting percentage plummeted to 37 percent with 5 boards and just 1 assist. And her output in 2 games at Indiana was 7 points per game. In game 4 Phillips out-scored Seimone 18-8.

Phillips didn't quite play at Douglas' level (16 ppg) but Seimone played well below her own. Phillips was new, at least.

Point Guard

Finally, the only position where the Lynx had an advantage. Lindsay Whalen scored 14 ppg on 52.5 percent shooting, 4.5 boards and 4 assists, better than her regular season averages except her assists were down from 5 to 4.

Briann January scored 10 ppg with 2.5 boards and 4 assists, all pretty close to her regular season average. But her shooting dropped from 40 percent to 34. But it was January who defended Seimone Augustus in games 3 and 4, which pretty much evens the ledger in this match-up as well.

In summary, Indiana out-played the Lynx at four positions, while the Lynx didn't out-play the Fever at any position.

Something New

I can't say this for sure, of course, but one imagines that if Katie Douglas had played and if coach Lin Dunn had left the Fever's center rotation as 1) Tammy Sutton-Brown and 2) Erlana Larkins as the back-up, that the Lynx might have won. With Douglas out, the Fever were inspired to step it up a notch, individually, in a way they might not have done if it had been the same old same old. But more tangibly, I wonder if the Lynx just didn't know how to prepare for this new Fever lineup. More physical in the post. Quicker on the perimeter.

But still, while Larkins and Phillips both out-played their Lynx counterpart, it was some old--Tamika Catchings and Corey Zellous--who really stood out. No surprise in Catchings case. But what in the world happened to Corey Zellous. A career 7-pointer, a 37 percent shooter this year, she scored 17 ppg on 41.5 percent shooting.

Except that in the most crucial game--Game 1--Zellous scored only 7, and it was Larkin with 16 points and 15 boards who really put a hurt on the Lynx.

So it was a team effort with the vet Tamika Catchings leading the way. In the other game that the Lynx could have won--Game 4--Catchings scored 25 points with 8 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks.

Wait Until Next Year

Now that Seattle and Indiana have shown people how to beat the Lynx, I can't see our team going 27-7 again. Coach Cheryl Reeve says, however, that the Lynx will be hungry again. And with 3 Olympians still on the roster, surely they'll be a contender.

Taj could be gone. She's 42 years old. If so, the Lynx could be improved in the post. 6-3 rookie Deveraux Peters scored 5 ppg in just 14 minutes, and looks like she's ready.

And reserves Candice Wiggins and Amber Harris could be looking for an opportunity to play more than they do here. They might be harder to replace. Depth at the point guard position could be an especial problem. But let's be honest. The Lynx bench out-scored opponents on the year, but at crunch time Reeve was reluctant to use any of them save Monica Wright.

And the rest of the division will be a lot tougher next year. Lauren Jackson should be healthy all year long for Seattle. Candace Parker and Nnemi Ogwumike will be improved in L.A., the latter having completed a productive rookie season. And Phoenix would seem to be a lock to draft 6-8 Brittney Griner of Baylor with the #1 draft choice. She will be a force on day 1. And of course Phoenix also figures to have Diana Taurasi healthy all year long.

So, for the Lynx, the same questions that pertained this year (see my post "Can the Lynx Repeat?" dated September 1). Post defense. Maya Moore's progress toward being a go-to MVP caliber player, which seemed so solid then fell so flat in the finals. The 3-ball, where they almost always get beat. And Lindsay, who struggles a bit more these days against really quick opponents.

And, I guess to all of that, add the new question of how long Seimone will be an MVP candidate caliber of player, now that Indiana has shown the world how to stop her. Of course, not everybody will have the personnel to stop her, or to out-quick Lindsay. Still, this team seems vulnerable to a general decline, what with Brunson next year being 32, Lindsay 31 and Seiomone 29--again, not to even mention Taj's 42. I would guess that Moore and Peters are going to have to be much improved for anything near another 27-7 to happen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hail Mary among Northern Sun Women

The Northern Sun expands to 16 teams with the addition of Minot State and Sioux Falls. At the same time, recently successful women's programs such as Northern, Wayne State and Winona State will be coping with significant losses to graduation. It should make for an interesting year. In a nutshell,

• Bemidji State, Mary and UMD all look solid in the North
• Augustana could run away with the South, unless Concordia or Mankato matures quickly. Each has some good-looking talent but not enough of it and it's young.

Overall, hail Mary! Augustana is the only NSIC team rated in the pre-season D2 Top 25, but I like Mary overall ahead of Augustana.


1. Mary. One of the newer members of the NSIC themselves, they' accumulated great inside talent in 6-2 senior forward Linda Murray, 6-1 junior forward Kaitleen Haag and 5-11 senior forward Shauna Knife, who among them will score more than 30 points, and grab almost 20 boards, and block about 4 shots per game.They'll shoot over 45 percent from the floor. Meanwhile guards Alli Collins, 5-9 and Laura Peterson, a 5-10, will held heir own.

2. Minnesota-Duluth. The secret weapon is probably the 2nd best player in the conference, Katrina Newman, the 5-11 junior forward-guard-do everything from Barnum. She is #2 returning scorer in the conference at 14 ppg with 8 boards and 44% shooting. 5-8 senior guard Courtney Doucette is Plan B at 13 ppg plus 3 assists. The supporting cast isn't quite what coach Annette Wiles is used to, but the top 2 can carry this team a long, long way.

3. Bemidji State. Improving rapidly under coach Mike Curfman, the Beavers bring back 6-2 junior post Kate Warmack and guards Morgan Lee and Shannon Thompson. Lee, a 5-7 junior, scored 13 ppg while the 5-7 senior Thompson contributes 3 assists and 2 steals. Warmack and senior Emily Kaus will give Bemidji a size advantage against many opponents.

4. Minnesota-Crookston. Senior guard Brittani Wiese will be another of the NSIC's top players. She scored 15 ppg with 2 assists and 39 percent shooting on 3-pointers. Senior center Laurie Tyson and sophomore guard Ashley Martell will help.

5. Moorhead State. Junior center Morgan Zabel, junior forward Megan Strese and senior guard Marissa Yernatich lead the way.

6. St. Cloud State. Sophomore forward Jessica Benson is a rising star, scoring 10 points with 6 rebounds a a freshman. Guards Nicole Anderson and Amanda Wagner, both seniors, and Rachel Moen, a junior, try to create chaos and turnovers in the backcourt.

7. Northern State. Junior Alison Kusler will lead the way, having scored 11 ppg as a sophomore while shooting 38 percent from 3-point territory.

8. Minot State. One of the conference's 2 new members.


1. Augustana. Top 10 rated nationally, mostly due to 6-0 senior forward Alex Feeney who is the leading returning corer with 16 ppg, and among the top 10 in boards with 7, shooting (44% from the field, 85% from the line, and 40% on 3-pointers), and blocks with 2. A deep but largely unproven roster backs Feeney up and at least 2 or 3 from among Lydia Nelson, Shaunteva Ashley, Emily Schulte, Emily Bose and Andrea Whiting seems likely to emerge.

2. Concordia-St. Paul. Not as deep as the North. CSP is rebuilding but that might be good enough for 2nd in the South. Annika Whiting leads the way, she scored 11 points with 6 boards and 43% shooting as a frosh. Guards Carissa Wolyniec and Rachel Hansen add more than 20 points between them, and Hansen adds 3 assists and 2 steals.

3. Mankato State. Ditto. Rebuilding but fast enough in the South. Guard Aubrey Davis and forward Jamie Bresnahan are a long-term nucleus but just sophomores and it's not clear where additional production will come from.

4. Wayne State loses conference MVP Ashley Arlen, but the cupboard is far from bare. But nobody looks like a go-to like Arlen; Ellen Hanson is the top returning scorer at just 6 ppg. Could finish anywhere from #2 to #7.

5. Winona State. Ditto Wayne. Guard Katie Wolff is the conference's top returning point guard with 4 assists and about 2 assists per turnover. But who along with Wolff is gonna put the ball in the hole.

6. Upper Iowa. Perennial doormat now has sophomore Whitney Kieffer leading the way. She scored 16 ppg with 7 boards and 2 steals last year. It's not clear if the supporting cast is up to it, however.

7. Southwest MN State. Looks to be in trouble. Bree Holleman is one of the league's best guards, but there doesn't appear to be any help.


Not sure what the format is, but let's say the semi-finalists are seeded 1) Mary, 2) Augustana, 3) UMD, 4) Concordia, 5) Bemidji, 6) Mankato, 7) UMC, 8) Wayne.

Mary defeats Wayne, Augie defeats UMC, UMD defeats Mankato, and we'll pick one upset Bemidji over Concordia. In the semi's it's Mary over Bemidji, and UMD surprises Augie. In the final, Mary over UMD.

Pre-Season All-Conference

Alex Feeney, Augustana, F, Player of the Year
Katrina Newman, UMD, F-G
Brittani Wiese, UMC, G
Linda Murray, Mary, F
Annika Whiting, Concordia-St. Paul, F

Coach of the Year

1. Mike Curfman, Bemidji State
2. Mike Roysland, UMC
3. Annette Wiles, UMD

2nd Team

Courtney Doucette, UMD, G
Rachel Hansen, Concordia-St. Paul, G
Whitney Kieffer, Upper Iowa, F
Kate Warmack, Bemidji State, C
Aubrey Davis, Mankato State, G

3rd Team

Shauna Knife, Mary, F
Katie Wolff, Winona State, G
Alison Kusler, Northern, G
Megan Strese, Moorhead State, F
Jamie Bresnahan, Mankato State, F

4th Team

Jessica Benson, St. Cloud State, F
Bree Holleman, Southwest State, G
Liz Collin, Mary, G
Lydia Nelson, Augustana, F
Morgan Lee, Bemidji State, G

Rebekah Dahlman going to Vanderbilt, Jessica January also decides

Probably everybody knows already that Rebekah Dahlman announced her college decision yesterday, and that it is Vanderbilt.

Iowa State and Florida were her other finalists.

You probably also know that Jessica January of Richfield has decided to attend DePaul. Her finalists were said to be Northwestern, Stanford and Miami in addition to the Blue Demons.

With these 2 announcements, the "mighty 2013s" are now pretty much history. All of my top 10 have committed with #11 Taylor Anderson the top uncommitted player. After that it's #18 Aimee Pelzer. One of the greatest classes ever is going to (my Top 10):

Iowa State
Eastern Michigan

I cannot wait to see Allina Starr and Auburn vs. Dahlman and Vandy. I am not at all anxious to see Nia Coffey and Northwestern against the Minnesota Gophers. All in all, a truly woeful job of recruiting by the Gophers. The opportunity of a lifetime---pffft.

The second 10 who are committed:

North Dakota
Missouri State
Eastern Michigan
Wisconsin-Green Bay
Kent State
Illinois State
South Dakota State

Other D-1s: North Dakota, Detroit, South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, UAB, Western Michigan, Harvard,  Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lynx 83 Fever 71

It's 9:30 and the box score on the WNBA Web site still says the same thing it said an hour ago. Lynx 66 Indiana 57 with 7 minutes left to play. Yahoo Sports still has the same thing. Fortunately the StarTrib has the final score...but the same ancient box score. Jeez.

I can tell you that Indiana put a 17-2 run on the Lynx early on and the Lynx trailed 23-11. They only caught up at 36-35 in the 3rd quarter. They finally took the lead for good by scoring the last 6 points of the 3rd at 60-55. Eventually the Lynx matched the Fever's run with a 17-2 run of their own, going from 54-55 to 71-57.

But that is all we know.

Oh Boy!

The Minnesota Timberwolves remain snakebite. Kevin Love will miss 6-8 weeks of the 2012 fall season with a broken hand, joining Ricky Rubio on the sidelines for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 8 years.

So for about 25 games the depth chart will look like this:

C- Pekovic, Stiemsma or Amundson
PF- D. Williams, Amundson or Cunningham
SF- Kirilenko, Budinger
PG- Ridnour, Barea
SG- Roy, Shved

Brandon Roy better be ready to score 20 a night. I figured the Wolves to go 42-40 this year. Now I'm thinking more like 37-45 which would not be a playoff record.

Granite Ridge, Mississippi 8, Wright County Conferences

There's been a tremendous amount of shifting around of conferences from north and northwest of the metro area up and out toward Willmar, Buffalo and St. Cloud. And way not? There's been lots of population growth, lot of schools with growing enrollments, lots of needs for new, fairer rivalries. And then as soon as a former small town Class A type of school gets settled into a Class AA type of setting, then suddenly it's AAA and then AAAA. Just ask Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville for two.

Class AAAA

There are 4 Class AAAA schools in the area, outside the metro but closer in than St. Cloud.

Buffalo enrollment 1,626 boys W-L (last 8 years) 159-45 girls 128-90 total 287 wins
Cambridge-Isanti 1,367 boys 110-114 girls 137-84 total 247 wins
Elk River 1,570 boys 131-96 girls 107-118 238 wins
St. Michael-Albertville 1,314 boys 151-68 girls 173-59 324 wins

3 are now in the Mississippi 8, but the Mississippi 8 may be in trouble, having dropped from 8 to 6 schools recently. Elk River is the only school outside the official 7-county metro in the Northwest Suburban. Also in the Mississippi 8 is one school that is in the metro.

Rogers 1,161 boys 112-122 girls 154-80 266 wins

Mississippi 8 Class AAA

The other 2 Mississippi 8 schools, frankly, don't belong playing the likes of Buffalo and St. Michael.

Big Lake 857 boys 101-117 girls 103-111 204 wins
Monticello 1,087 boys 115-107 girls 84-130 199 wins

It looks to me like the future of Buffalo, Cambridge and St. Michael will be to join a conference with north metro teams. Not at all sure where Big Lake and Monticello are going to fit in, though Wright County and Granite Ridge schools are the obvious candidates.

Wright County Class AAA

Orono 876 boys 140-83 girls 148-71 288 wins
Delano 735 boys 116-90 girls 74-128 190 wins
Mound 644 boys 58-146 girls 58-151 116 wins
Dassel-Cokato 557 boys 34-164 girls 66-132 100 wins

Hutchinson and Waconia are also AAA but I've already allocated them to my Fantasy Southwest and Big 9 conferences.

Granite Ridge Class AAA

Princeton 925 boys 105-119 girls 96-116 201 wins
Becker 722 boys 67-149 girls 142-81 209 wins
Zimmerman 546 boys 107-118 girls 69-138 176 wins

Little Falls is AAAA but I've sent them back to the Central Lakes where they belong.

Other North of Metro Class AAA

Chisago Lakes 1,057 boys 81-139 girls 109-110 190 wins
North Branch 945 boys 65-151 girls 119-107 184 wins

They're both in the North Suburban. Is it a coincidence that their boys finish dead last and next to last in 2012? Do they need a change of scenery? It looks like a long long way from Chisago to Mound and Orono but on the other hand, they play Benilde and Cooper and St. Louis Park in the North Suburban.

A New Class AAAA Conference

You've got to combine your northerly non-metro Class AAAA schools with some metro schools. Here's where I end up:

Buffalo 1,626 enrollment and 287 wins
Andover 1,614 from the Northwest Suburban
Elk River 1,570 and 238 wins from the Northwest Suburban
St. Francis 1,504 from the North Suburban
Park Center 1,471 from the Northwest Suburban
Cooper 1,408 from the North Suburban
Cambridge-Isanti 1,368 and 247 wins from the Mississippi 8
Irondale 1,355 from the North Suburban
St. Michael-Albertville 1,314 and 324 wins
Rogers 1,161 and 266 wins from the Mississippi 8 (Class AAAA)

North Suburban (mostly Class AAA)

St. Louis Park 1,178 (Class AAAA)
Spring Lake Park 1,135
Chisago Lakes 1,078
North Branch 945
Benilde-St. Margaret's 930
Totino-Grace 802
Fridley 718
DeLaSalle 544 from the Tri-Metro

The North Suburban loses it largest members St. Francis, Cooper, Irondale and its smallest member Columbia Heights (Class AA) and gains DeLaSalle to go from 11 members to 8.

The Northwest Suburban gives up its 3 smallest members and drops from 11 to 8.

A New Class AAA Conference

Monticello 1,087 and 199 wins from the Mississippi 8
Princeton 925 and 201 from the Granite Ridge
Orono 876 and 288 from Wright County
Big Lake 857 and 204 from the Mississippi 8
Delano 735 and 190 from Wright County
Becker 722 and 209 from the Granite Ridge
Mound 644 and 116 from Wright County
Zimmerman 546 and 176 from Granite Ridge

Dassel-Cokato would fit in this conference but not very well with 557 enrollment and only 100 wins, both boys and girls over an 8 year period, an average of only 6 wins per year per team. I would see if I can find a AA conference that they would fit in for now. Actually the Wright County is no longer quite such a wacky group now that I've moved Hutch, Delano, Orono, Mound and Waconia out of it. The remainders are all AA, except struggling Dassel-Cokato:

The New Wright County

Glencoe-Silver Lake
New London-Spicer
Holy Family

Or perhaps the remainder (AA teams) in the Wright County could merge with the Central Minnesota or the West Central Conference...but for now we've taken care of the AAAA and AAA teams from the north of metro area.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Step Back

Fortunately it's been two steps forward and one step back. For the Minnesota Lynx, I mean. Whatever adversary they've had over the past 2 seasons they've overcome. Now they'll have to overcome a 1-0 series deficit and the loss of homecourt advantage to the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals.

Don't bet against 'em.

But meanwhile you gotta hand it to the Fever who played a perfect game, beating the WNBA's best team on the road and overcoming more than a bit of adversity themselves. First, leading scorer Katie Douglas was on the bench with a sprained ankle. And second, after leading the Lynx through most of the early going, the Fever gave up an 8-0 run to trail 54-50 late in the 3rd quarter. Now the gritty Lynx, who won 1 point games against both Seattle and L.A. in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the playoffs, had the Fever where they wanted them.

Nope. Shavante Zellous hit 2 FT to close scoring in the 3rd quarter, and the Lynx turned to ball over on their next 3 possessions, one in the 3rd and 2 in the 4th. By the time the Lynx got off another shot it was tied at 58. A Lindsay Whalen bucket put the Lynx ahead 60-58. But by the time they got off another shot they were down 63-60. By the time they scored another FG they were down 72-64.

The Lynx shot just 2-of-13 and were out-scored 20-12 in the 4th quarter. The final was 76-70.

The Lynx had 17 turnovers to just 8 for Indiana. The Fever scored 15 points off turnovers and out-scored Minnesota 38-24 in the paint. And the held the Lynx to just 39 percent shooting from the field. It was just the 2nd loss at the Target Center all year for the Lynx.

The Southwest and South Central

Hey, there's a lot of conferences out there so, at least for now, let's see if we can't multi-task a little bit. Today: the Southwest and the South Central. Adjacent on the map, both with mostly AA but a AAA team or two, too.


Marshall enrollment 699 boys 151-71 girls 153-77
Worthington 563 boys 129-79 girls 159-57
Redwood Valley 353 boys 141-73 girls 87-118
Jackson 310 boys 71-127 girls 136-78
Luverne 310 boys 87-119 girls 75-109
Pipestone 287 boys 92-126 girls 131-63
Windom 247 boys 115-99 girls 61-138

All are AA except Marshall, which is AAA. The results follow the enrollments fairly well. The Redwood and Windom boys and the Jackson and Pipestone girls are out-performing their numbers, but the Big Two are otherwise doing what you'd expect. The issue here is that Marshall and Worthington are just too big for the other conference members, but there's nobody else for them to play out in that kneck of the woods. Or is there? Well, that and the fact that only 7 schools belong to the conference, not a number that anybody would hope for.

South Central

New Ulm enrollment 589 boys 48-150 girls 59-129
Waseca 522 boys 70-126 girls 104-96
Fairmont 494 boys 118-75 girls 135-61
St. Peter 492 boys 94-105 girls 96-106
Blue Earth 322 boys 131-75 girls 143-66
St. James 292 boys 50-147 girls 94-104

Here, there are only 6 teams, again illustrating how hard it is for Greater Minnesota teams above class A to find peers out there. New Ulm and Waseca are AAA, the rest are all AA. And all you can say is New Ulm's not a basketball town and Blue Earth is. Fairmont, too, while the Waseca boys also under-perform their enrollment.

Other AA and AAA Schools in the Area

In Class AAA, Marshall, New Ulm and Waseca are in Sections 1 and 2. All of Waseca's partners in 1AAA are already slated to move into the new Big Nine (that is to say, in my Fantasy Big Nine). In 2AAA, you've got one candidate for a new conference in Hutchinson. Dassel-Cokato and Willmar (also in 2AAA) are considered to be too far north, and Willmar has also already been permitted to remain in the Central Lakes.

In AA you've got scads of possible rivals for the Southwest and South Central Conference teams, if a 6 and a 7-member conference violate your sense of order, as they do mine. From 2AA you've got:

• Belle Plaine, Jordan, LeSueur, Montgomery and Sibley East of the Minnesota River, a nice, orderly 8-team conference all in class AA, so I'm not inclined to mess with it

• NRHEG, United South Central and Waterville-E-M, who are altogether too big for the Gopher Conference

• Maple River, who has feasted on a bunch of class A opponents in the Valley Conference long enough

Hutchinson enrollment 762 boys 96-117 girls 108-104
Maple River 295 boys 189-48 girls 120-92
NRHEG 264 boys 119-100 girls 180-49
Waterville-EM 251 boys 165-56 girls 121-93
United South Central 210 boys 118-94 girls 100-109

In 3AA:

• Benson, BOLD, Lac Qui Parle Valley, Montevideo, Morris and Yellow Medicine East of the sprawling West Central Conference, which at least consists entirely of AA schools

• Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop and Minnesota Valley Lutheran of the Tomahawk, which is otherwise a Class A conference

• Lake Crystal/Wellcome Memorial and Martin County West, also of the Valley

• Tracy-Milroy-Balaton which I believe to be the only AA school in the Camden

Montevideo 372 boys 156-39 girls 80-127
Morris 295 boys 122-82 girls 94-101
Benson 282 boys 137-77 girls 107-96
Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 265 boys 133-84 girls 73-136
Yellow Medicine East 252 boys 55-147 girls 113-86
Lac Qui Parle Valley 250 boys 77-108 girls 99-110
BOLD 237 boys 65-180 girls 50-152
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 221 boys 111-97 girls 63-138
Martin County West 214 boys 152-61 girls 107-82
Lake Crystal-Wellcome 209 boys 125-88 girls 118-101
Minnesota Valley Lutheran 205 boys 147-70 girls 176-48

All of these teams (one more time) are AA playing in conferences with 1 or more class A school. You could say that the Montevideo boys are feasting, but not the girls. The Morris, Benson and GFW boys are doin' OK but not the girls. Martin County may appear to be feasting but seriously their enrollment is just a dozen or so kids more than the bigger Class A schools.

What's the Problem?

This is all just Fantasy League stuff, of course. I don't find fault with schools that are trying hard to keep their travel costs low and stuff like that. Still, the problem in my Fantasy League is teams that are winning or losing too much against schools that are either a lot bigger or a lot smaller than they are. And there's some of that out in southwestern Minnesota, probably because travel cost can be an issue out in the wide open spaces out thattaway.

And the schools that stand out are Marshall, Hutchinson, Maple River and Montevideo.

Marshall. There's nothing that can be done. So they're bigger and they're dominant in the Southwest. There simply is nobody else to play out there. I mean, Sioux Falls Washington, sure (enrollment 2,000).  t's a non-conference game, but they play 'em, home and home. Sioux Falls Lincoln and Roosevelt (enrollment 1,900 and 2,000). They play 'em both. Willmar (994). It's a non-conference game, but they play 'em. Mankato West (1,100). They play 'em. Hutchinson. They play 'em. But otherwise, south and west of a line from Mankato to St. Cloud, there is not another school (besides Willmar, Hutch and the Mankatos) that is bigger than Marshall. There is just nobody else out there to play.

Hutch. Hutch has hardly been "feasting." The boys and girls are a combined 204-221 over the past 8 years. But here's the thing. They've moved from the Missota to the Wright County Conference, and the Wright is the most illogical conference anywhere in the state of Minnesota right now. Something like 2 of the 9 schools in it are actually located in Wright County. And it's split up into AAA (6 schools) and AA (3 schools). So the fact is that Hutch is going to start feasting sometime soon. Of course, if it moved to the South Central or the Southwest the same would be true and it would be traveling further than it does in the Wright County. Glencoe is 15 miles away, Dassel 15, Litch 32, Waconia maybe 40. If you go south, the closest South Central Conference school is New Ulm, 47 miles away. If you go Southwest, Redwood Valley is the closest school and it's 70 miles. So stay where you are. For now.

Maple River. With the break between AA and A at about 200, there's a bunch of AA schools in mixed (AA-A) conferences in the 205-210-220-230 range who are clearly not feasting, who are playing class A schools at 175-180, and those are pretty good rivalries, pretty good conferences. Great. But Maple River at 295 (among others), well, it's just too much. So I'd like to see a new conference consisting of:

New Conference

Maple River (295) boys and girls combined for 309 wins in 8 years
NRHEG (264) 299
Waterville (251) 286
Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (265) 206 but boys are feasting in the Tomahawk
Minnesota Valley Lutheran (only 205) but a fantastic 323 wins (why do you think New Ulm High has only won a combined 107 games over 8 years?)

Plus Pipestone (287) 223 wins
Windom (247) 176 wins
St. James (292) 144 wins

You can't move Marshall, even though they're too big, but you can move the schools that are too small.

Southwest and South Central?

They merge. 5 from the Southwest: Marshall, Worthington, Redwood, Jackson, Luverne. 5 from the South Central. New Ulm, Waseca, Fairmont, St. Peter, Blue Earth. And then that brings us to....


Like Hutch, Montevideo is in a tough spot. Travel is not a trivial concern. But still, here's a 372 enrollment school in a conference that otherwise averages about 260 enrollment. Montevideo with 236 wins (boys and girls) over 8 years, BOLD with 115. Arguably, Monte's best rivals in the conference are Morris (295) and Benson (282), 52 and 38 miles away. Yellow Medicine, in Granite Falls, is just 13 miles away but its enrollment is just 252. Last year Monte beat YME twice by a total of 73 points.

So, put Monte into the new merged Southwest/South Central. Marshall is 38 miles away, Redwood 51.  And, yes, it would be on average 90 students smaller in enrollment than its new rivals, but right now it's 120 students bigger than its rivals in the West Central Conference South.

Of course, this bumps the Southwest/South Central up to 11 teams. So on second thought, let's put Hutch in there, too. What a great conference.

The New Southwestern Conference "Big"

St. Peter

The New Southwestern Conference "Medium"

New Ulm
Blue Earth

The New Southwestern Conference "Small"

And on second thought we'll call our new new conference Southwestern as well.

Maple River
Minnesota Valley Lutheran
St. James

And of course you would need some cross-over games to maintain historic rivalries. How about:

Hutch vs. Monte vs. Waterville
Marshall vs. Luverne vs. Pipestone
Worthington vs. Jackson vs. Windom
Waseca vs. New Ulm vs. MVL and NRHEG
Fairmont vs. Blue Earth vs. St. James and Maple River
St. Peter vs. Redwood vs. GFW

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another Verbal for Lady Gophers in Terra Stapleton

Coach Pam Borton pulled another surprise out of her bag of tricks today with the announcement that Terra Stapleton, a 6-4 rising junior post from Fairland, OH, would be attending the U of M after completing her high school eligibility in 2014. Stapleton scored 21 points per game with 13 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while shooting 63% from the floor as a sophomore last year, leading the Dragons to a 23-1 record and just their 2nd ever trip to the regional tournament. She averaged 16 points, 15 boards and 6 blocks in 2 regional games, a win and a loss. The Dragons came up 2 wins short of the Ohio state tournament, a 4-team affair, so they were sweet 16 in Division III.

She had played at St. Joseph Central in West Virginia as a freshman and averaged 6 points, 7 boards and 2 blocks as a freshman between moving to Fairland.  At Fairland, then, she was the Southeast District Player of the Year, 1st team all-state Division III. She was the #4 rated prospect in West Virginia in 2011, but only the #96 rated player in Ohio in 2012, at least according to the 1 rating service I could find her listed in.

She joins 2014 recruits Kenisha Bell and Grace Coughlin, a pair of Minnesota guards. And she joins Stabresa McDaniel, a 2013 from Texas, as out-of-state recruit for Borton.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hey, Kevin Love Says We'll Make the Playoffs

The T-wolves open 2012-2013 pre-season play tonight with hopes high. No less than Kevin Love says that he believes in this team and that we'll make the playoffs for the 1st time since 2004, 9 long years ago! Is his optimism justified?

Well, of course, we don't know. But first, let's look at those roster moves. Did they really improve this team?


Nicola Pekovic came to camp light but stronger, and should be poised to go from solid to stardom. Last year he was the T-wolves #2 scorer with 14 ppg based on 56 percent shooting, and was also the #2 rebounder with 7 per game. all in just 27 minutes per game, the team's 4th best, on the floor.

The roster move here was to replace Darko Milicic with Greg Stiemsma as Pek's bad boy back-up. Milicic scored 5 ppg in 16 minutes, Stiemsma 3 in 14 minutes, so it's hard to see a big improvement there. The improvement will be Pekovic and it will be significant.

Center: Improved a bit

Power Forward

Here again, Kevin Love returns. But unlike Pek, it's hard to see the guy improve a whole hell of a lot. He is already the best 4 in the NBA. Last year he clocked in art a team high 39 minutes, 26 points and 13 rebounds, on 45 percent shooting.

Here the improvement will come from the back-up, presumably Derrick Williams. Last year the #2 pick  from the 2011 draft scored 9 points with 5 rebounds on 41 percent shooting in 21 minutes of play. He was considered a disappointment, playing somewhat aimlessly, good minutes followed by long periods in which he would disappear. He's come into camp, like Pekovic, slimmed down, and he has said that he intends to be more aggressive, and he has played that way to date in the fall camp.

If it doesn't pan out, the Wolves have 2 new bodies to throw into the breach. Lou Amundson scored 4 points with 4 boards in 12.5 minutes at Indiana last year, while Dante Cunningham scored 5 points with 4 boards and an assist in 18 minutes at Memphis.

But while Williams expects to improve, are Amundson and Cunningham really an improvement over Beasley, Randolph and Tolliver? Don't know. But, frankly, if Love and Williams play as expected, it might not matter. There may not be any minutes available to Lou and Dante, and that would be fine with me. If Williams fails to earn coach Rick Adelman's confidence again, well, then one of the two will have to step up and, let's be honest, they're not savior types.

Power Forward: Improved a bit

Small Forward

Here's where things start to get interesting. Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger will share the spot this year and--whaddaya know--it is their natural position. Last year it was shared mostly by a bunch of power forwards, principally Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams, but also by Wes Johnson and Martell Webster, for whom this was their natural spot. They scored 32 points with 16 boards in 91 minutes. (Most of them played other spots on the floor as well.)

Kirilenko and Budinger combined for 21 points, 9 boards and 4 assists last year (actually 2 years ago at Utah for Kirilenko, who sat out last year)(and at Houston for Budinger). So on paper there's not a big improvement. And Kirilenko is old enough that one wonders if he's still got it after sitting out a year, except that he seemed just fine playing for Russia in the Olympics this past summer.

This is addition by subtraction as much as by addition as things sometimes ground to a halt with Beasley out there. Chances are that Kirilenko and Budinger will be where coach wants them on the floor about 50 more often than last year's duo, and will hit their teammates with crisper passes, and move without the ball a bit more. So they may not be better than Beasley and Williams, but their teammates will be better with them out there.

Small Forward: Improved a bit

Point Guard

Now, here's where it gets really interesting. Ricky Rubio contributed 11 points, 4 boards and 8 assists in in 34 minutes. This year, who knows when he'll return to the floor, and at what percentage of full speed, after a devastating ACL injury last spring?

It will again be Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea filling in in Rubio's absence. Will the T-Wolves again be a totally different and lesser squad with them out there instead of Rubio? If that's the case, then this season and Love's promise of a play-off birth will be lost before Rubio is back.

Well, the one hope is that Alexei Shved will be the one filling in for Rubio and he'll be a stud out there. But the expectation is that the 23-year-old will need at least 1 year to get comfy in a new league and to become Ricky's back-up.

The other hope is that the improvements at the other positions will put us over the top even with Ridnour and Barea out there. But even then, it will feel like treading water. The Wolves need Rubio back in the worst way, and he will have to be at his best.

Point Guard: Regressed with Rubio recovering from a bum knee

Shooting Guard

Now things get really really interesting. I mean, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee in place of Wayne Ellington, Wes Johnson and Ridnour and Barea whenever one of the two was not occupied at the 1 spot. Ellington and Johnson scored 12 points in 42 minutes. Each shot 40 percent,

Meanwhile Roy, the former all-star, has sat it out for a year due to a bum knee. In fact, he had retired until Adelman gave him a call.Two years ago he scored 12 points with 3 boards and 3 assists on 40 percent shooting. Previous to that, of course, he was a 20 point scorer. Is there any way he is a 20 point scorer again? No, I didn't think so. The likelihood is he is Ellington and Johnson with 12 points and 40 percent shooting.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Lee scored 3 points in 13 minutes of play and shot 39 percent. Is this not the real Malcolm Lee?

Shooting Guard: Trouble.


So the Wolves have perhaps improved a bit at all 3 front court positions, but the guard spots will be a problem until Rubio is back. Is that a much improved team?

Of course, the real idea is that Adelman now has players who suit his game plan, and the whole will be so much greater than the sum of the parts.

And let us acknowledge that, yes, as the T-Wolves seek to upgrade, the fact is they've already upgraded at coach, they've already got the best game coach not named Bill Musselman that they've ever had, and probably therefore the best all-around guy ever.

Still without Rubio, this is more like the team that went 9-23 down the stretch. And when Rubio returns, they'll be more like the team that went 17-17 to open the season.


So just for the sake of symmetry, let's say it's 42 games before Rubio is at full strength (last year he played 34 games and then missed 32) and 40 games with him back in the saddle. For the 1st half, .500 is too much to ask, I think. A bit of an improvement from 9-23 makes 'em 17-25 at that point. Then over the final 40 games, a bit of an improvement over .500 equals, say, 25-15. Total record 42-40. I can't imagine anything better than that, can you? Historically in the West that's pretty borderline for the playoffs. Sorry.

But, yes, they'll beat Indiana tonight.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Iron Range Conferences

Not just the Iron Range Conference, but the Iron Range conferences, which also includes the Northern Lakes Conference. Several other Iron Range schools are now independents.

The Iron Range (meaning the Mesabi and Vermillion Ranges, not the Cayuna, which is well south) has of course a venerable basketball history, including 6 state champions (Virginia 1916, Aurora 1923, Chisholm 1934, 1973, 1975, 1991, Buhl 1941-1942, Gilbert 1951). And runners-up including Gilbert, Chisholm (twice), Virginia, Hibbing (twice) and Nashwauk-Keewatin, plus near-Range Ely and Crosby-Ironton (on the Cayuna), now 0-and-5 in state finals.

The decline of the iron industry has meant decline on the Range--economic decline, loss of population and school enrollments, etc. etc. Since Hibbing and Kevin McHale in 1976, Chisholm has the only state title (1991), and Nash-Kee has the only other boys finals appearance. (C-I, though not a Mesabi Range school, has been in 3 finals in recent years and is 0-3.)

That's the boys. Meanwhile, among the girls, well, basketball has never quite fully arrived. Chisholm has the only state title (1984), and that is in fact the only appearance in a state final by an Iron Range school.

Here's who looks like a Ranger to me today. First, if it says Iron Range Conference, then its members must be on he Range.

Iron Range Conference

Chisholm  159 enrollment
Eveleth-Gilbert 294
Greenway (Coleraine) 263
Hibbing 634
International Falls 387
Mesabi East (Aurora) 186
Virginia 460

Well, not quite. International Falls isn't really considered to be a Range town but I'm including it because it is in the Iron Range Conference.

Northern Lakes

Bigfork 78
Deer River 215
Greenway (Coleraine) 263
Hill City 74
Littlefork-Big Falls 86
Nashwauk-Keewatin 133
Northland (Remer) 109

Greenway is double dipping. Bigfork, Deer River, Hill City and Remer, located west of Grand Rapids, are generally thought of as a lakes communities. Hill City is closer to the Cayuna Range. Other possible opponents located in the triangle between Bemidji, Brainerd and Grand Rapids include Cass Lake-Bena, Crosby-Ironton, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, Nevis, Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus. This is not to say that all are appropriate size-wise. Littlefork-Big Falls is up north near International Falls.

Short story long: Greenway and Nash-Kee are the only true Iron Rangers in the Northern Lakes.


Cherry 83
Ely 163
Mountain Iron-Buhl  113
North Woods 86
Northeast Range 91
South Ridge 107

Several of these have been formed just recently. North Woods, located in Cook; Northeast Range, combining Babbitt and Tower-Soudan, in 2011; and South Ridge, in Culver, combining AlBrook, Cotton and Toivola-Meadowlands, also in 2011.

Actually, South Ridge is not on the Range but more in the bog land between Duluth, Grand Rapids and Hibbing. Ditto nearby Floodwood, which plays in the Polar Conference with schools along the North Shore and/or nearer to Duluth than to the Range. I would expect South Ridge to join the Polar when it is able. Ely is more of a lakes community, but located off the far east end of the Range, there is nobody else to play.

The Real Iron Range Conference

So, stripping it back to schools that are really located on the Range, you get a nice round number for a conference--10.

Chisholm  159 boys 164-74 girls 122-86
Eveleth-Gilbert 294 boys 59-157 girls 110-106
Greenway (Coleraine) 263 boys 30-176 girls 45-155
Hibbing 634 boys 93-125 girls 156-64
Mesabi East (Aurora) 186 boys 141-87 girls 82-123
Nashwauk-Keewatin 133 boys 132-82 girls 104-95
Mountain Iron-Buhl  113 boys 136-77 girls 162-56
North Woods 86 boys 22-4 (1 year) girls 25-1 (1 year)
Northeast Range 91 boys 6-17 (1 year) girls 17-8 (1 year)
Virginia 460 boys 192-42 girls 100-116

But of course competitive balance is an issue, only here it has little to do with enrollment. Chisholm, with 159 students, wins 69 percent of its boys basketball games and 59 percent of the girls. Hibbing, with 634, wins 43 percent of its boys games. Greenway, with 263 students, wins 15 percent of the boys and 22.5 percent of the girls.

I suspect that it has more to do with ice hockey. Schools are probably ranked in roughly the inverse order of their hockey programs. Great hockey, bad basketball ; weak hockey, better hoops.

And of course we've already put Hibbing into a revamped Central Lakes Conference, seeing as how Hibbing is more the size of Alexandria, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, etc., than it is Chisholm and Eveleth-Gilbert and Coleraine Greenway. The antidote to that is to simply admit that if we get too exclusive with the Range Conference, then there will be some schools who will have nobody to play.

Those include:

International Falls 387 boys 127-89 girls 110-109
Ely 163 boys 112-88 girls 111-87
Littlefork-Big Falls 86 boys 111-88 girls 74-112

Again, Bigfork, Hill City, Northland, Cherry,  South Ridge and Deer River can find better match-ups in other conferences that do not require too long of trips. And having already bumped Hibbing into the Central Lakes, whose members are of a more comparable enrollment, that leaves 12 in the "new" Iron Range Conference. The enrollment numbers vary all the way from 460 (Virginia) to 86 (North Woods and Littlefork-Big Falls, so let's organize them by size.

Iron Range Big

Virginia 460 boys 192-42 girls 100-116
International Falls 387 boys 127-89 girls 110-109
Eveleth-Gilbert 294 boys 59-157 girls 110-106
Greenway (Coleraine) 263 boys 30-176 girls 45-155
Mesabi East (Aurora) 186 boys 141-87 girls 82-123
Chisholm  159 boys 164-74 girls 122-86

Iron Range Small

Ely 163 boys 112-88 girls 111-87
Nashwauk-Keewatin 133 boys 132-82 girls 104-95
Mountain Iron-Buhl  113 boys 136-77 girls 162-56
Northeast Range 91 boys 6-17 (1 year) girls 17-8 (1 year)
North Woods 86 boys 22-4 (1 year) girls 25-1 (1 year)
Littlefork-Big Falls 86 boys 111-88 girls 74-112

The only teams with unhappy prospects are the Eveleth-Gilbert boys, the Greenway boys and girls, the Northeast Range boys and the Littlefork-Big Falls girls. With Hibbing missing, Virginia would have the opportunity to be a dominant power, but they (the boys) have been that already, even with Hibbing in there. But if they played home-and-home within the division and once outside the division, the schedule would be pretty interchangeable with the one they're already playing. So I like this arrangement better than the Iron Range Conference's current 7 members.

The biggest fly in the ointment, along with Hibbing's proposed move, would be forcing the Northern Lakes to regroup, but I think that could be done. So I like this better than the current 7 members in the Iron Range Conference.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Amir Coffey, Henry Ellenson named to U.S.A. development team

2 players with Minnesota ties have been named to the USA Men's Developmental National Team, and participated in a mini-camp Sunday October 7 at Colorado Springs, CO. They are:

Amir Coffey, Hopkins, 6-3, guard, class of 2016, meaning he is a freshman in 2012-2013. Coffey is not only a MN resident and high school student-athlete, his father Richard was a Minnesota Gopher baller 1986-1990.

Henry Ellenson, Rice Lake, WI, 6-9, 250 lb. forward-center, class of 2015, so he is a sophomore in 2012-2013. His brother Wally, a 6-4 guard, is a freshman at the U of M.

Both play summer ball with Pump N Run, a Minneapolis club.

Impressive! The Lynx, That's Who

The Minnesota Lynx swept the L.A. Sparks to advance to the WNBA finals for the 2nd straight year. They'll be defending their WNBA title against the winner of the Connecticut-Indiana series, probably the Sun who lead that series 1 game to none.

The Lynx nipped the Sparks 80-79, making this the 2nd straight series in which the deciding game was won by a single point. But while the Seattle series win was, well, unimpressive, this one is impressive with a capital IMPRESSIVE. That's the difference between winning at home and winning on the road. And it's the difference between desperately hanging on to a once-comfortable lead and roaring back from behind.

The Lynx trailed L.A. 65-52 at 0:46 of the 3rd period and 65-57 to start the 4th. They caught up and took the lead at 73-72 with 5 minutes still to play. In other words, they out-scored the Sparks 21-7 over just 5:46 as Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen each contributed 3 buckets. L.A. regained the lead at 74-73 and 79-77, and Moore hit a pair of throws and Rebekah Brunson scored (how else?) off the offensive glass. A Monica Wright 3 at 1:14 put Minnesota back out front, and Alana Beard missed a pair of shots inside of 1 minute.

The Lynx' finish followed a terrible 3rd period in which L.A. had a 17-0 run.

In game 1 the Lynx held L.A., a solid rebounding team, to a ridiculous 1 offensive rebound and out-scored them 20-2 on 2nd chance points. In game 2 L.A. grabbed an equally ridiculous 18 offensive boards...and lost. At home, where they were 16-1 this year going into tonight's game. 17 turnovers didn't help, nor 5-of-10 FT shooting.

Augustus, Moore and Whalen finished with 21, 20 and 17 points. Brunson contributed 10 boards, while Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Whalen had 5 assists apiece. Candace Parker was all-world for L.A. with 33 points and 15 boards.

Once again, here are the Lynx' keys to victory:

Inside D: Grade D
3-Ball: Grade B (Lynx hit 7-of-18, L.A. 4-fo-17)
The good Lindsay shows: Grade B+
Maya steps up: Grade B+
Blocking and tackling: C (out-rebounded badly and allowed L.A. to shoot 47 percent)

And yet they won on the road. This was every bit as impressive as the Seattle series was not.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Central Lakes

The main question with the venerable Central Lakes is, What the hell is Little Falls thinking? A member of the Central Lakes for many years, the Flyers bolted last year to join the--are you ready for this?--the Granite Ridge. It traded a long-standing rivalry with Brainerd for Mora. Rocori for Foley. Willmar for Zimmerman. St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech for Milaca!

What they accomplished was to get a much easier conference schedule. The Central Lakes continues with 2 4A schools and 7 in 3A. The Granite Ridge has 2 3As--well, 3 now including Little Falls--and 4 2As.

Remaining in the Central Lakes are:

Central Lakes--Class AAAA

Brainerd total enrollment 1,685 boys W-L (past 8 years) 84-126 girls W-L (past 8 years) 98-110
St. Cloud Tech 1,241 boys 153-77 girls 149-74

Central Lakes--Class AAA

Alexandria total enrollment 1,126 boys 91-107 girls 133-83
Fergus Falls 730 boys 58-145 girls 157-63
Rocori 742 boys 161-78 girls 44-167
Sartell-St. Stephen 962 boys 79-129 girls 140-83
Sauk Rapids-Rice 1,078 boys 38-172 girls 35-173
St. Cloud Apollo 1,031 boys 159-70 girls 70-144
Willmar 994 boys 152-70 girls 141-69

Former member

Little Falls (AAA) 654 boys 124-96 girls 75-136

The Big Nine of the North

The Central Lakes is sort of like the Big Nine of the North, encompassing as it does many of the largest schools north of the Twin Cities. The Big Nine ranges from about 800 to about 1,600, the Central Lakes from 700 to 1,700.

The pecking order among the schools has little or nothing to do with enrollment, however. The Brainerd boys and girls both underperform, as do the Sartell and Sauk Rapids and Alexandria boys and the Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud Apollo girls.

On the other side of the coin, the Sartell, Fergus and Willmar girls over-perform, as do the Rocori and Apollo boys.

The Little Falls boys performed pretty well over recent years, but their girls struggled. But if anybody should have been looking for an easier schedule, it would be Sauk Rapids, not the Flyers.

But now having 9 members, who might you add to get to 10 or 12 or 16?

Other obvious candidates

Moorhead 1,356 boys 123-82 girls 107-100
Duluth East 1,345 boys 164-72 girls 136-85
Bemidji 1,145 boys 107-113 girls 115-83
Grand Rapids 947 boys 160-76 girls 141-82
Detroit Lakes (Mid-State) 737 boys 111-103 girls 132-84

Add all 5 (plus Little Falls) and you've got 15 good programs. Well 15 potentially good programs. These 5 here are all good enough to translate. All of them except Sauk Rapids has a successful boys or girls program.

But of course there's a reason why these schools don't belong to the Central Lakes already. For Little Falls and DL, I suspect it's competitive balance (too small). For Moorhead, it's competitive balance (too big, too good). For Grand Rapids and Duluth East, it's geography. They're a ways off, and the Iron Range and Duluth conferences always made more sense. But all of them are independents now, and they mostly play each other anyway.

The less obvious candidates

Hibbing (Iron Range) 634
Thief River Falls (NWC) 550
East Grand Forks (Mid-State) 514
Virginia (Iron Range) 460
Staples-Motley (Mid-State) 372
Crookston (NWC) 365
Chisholm (Iron Range) 159

It turns out that most of the cities and towns and schools that come to mind are smaller than the Central Lakes schools and smaller than you might think.

And so, the thrilling conclusion...

Getting to 10: add Detroit Lakes.

Getting to 12: DL, bring Little Falls back, and/or Moorhead and Bemidji.

Getting to 16: All of the above plus Duluth East and Grand Rapids. Then add Thief or Hibbing depending on whether you prefer to expand east or west. I guess I would take Hibbing just because they're bigger. And keep in mind that Hibbing is much larger its fellows on the Iron Range. So then you've got 2 great divisions, IMO.

Central Lakes West

Detroit Lakes
Fergus Falls
Little Falls

The challenge is getting DL and Little Falls to join, DL right now being an 800 pound gorilla in the Mid-State and Little Falls having just bolted.

Central Lakes East

Duluth East
Grand Rapids
Sartell-St. Stephen
Sauk Rapids-Rice
St. Cloud Apollo
St. Cloud Tech

Here the challenge is getting Hibbing to commit to a fair amount of travel (Duluth East already roams the state quite widely including a lot of games vs. metro teams).

Or as I've suggested for a "new Big Nine," you could do it by enrollment.

Central Division (Big)

Duluth East
St. Cloud Tech
Sauk Rapids
St. Cloud Apollo

Based on recent history, Sauk Rapids (both boys and girls), the Alex boys, and the Apollo girls would be a bit overmatched. And there's some big travel times in there but, hey, Duluth East played Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Rocori last year anyway.

Lakes Division (Small)

Grand Rapids
Fergus Falls
Detroit Lakes
Little Falls
Sartell-St. Stephen

Maybe you could swap out Sauk and Grand Rapids for better competitive balance. And then there's the cross-over rivalries:

Duluth East vs. Hibbing
Grand Rapids vs. Bemidji
Alex vs. DL
Brainerd vs. Little Falls
Sauk vs. Sartell
St. Cloud Tech vs. Rocori
Moorhead vs. Fergus
Apollo vs. Willmar

But, in Conclusion...

This is another fantasy that's not going to happen. DL and Little Falls don't belong to the Central Lakes now for a reason. Duluth East has become more oriented toward the Twin Cities metro than to the north central and northwestern town teams. Hibbing's traditional rivals are home on the range, though the Iron Range conference has certainly fallen on hard enough times. Oh, well.