EDIT: Like most people, I missed Hill-Murray over Simley. Like a few, I also missed Richfield over Chaska.
2-time defending state champ DeLaSalle is rated #2 in the AP poll behind undefeated Fergus Falls, and is just #5 in the QRF ratings behind #1 Richfield, Chaska, Monticello and Mankato East, while Fergus is just #7 in QRF also trailing #6 New Prague.
Add it all up and DeLaSalle would seem to be a prohibitive favorite to win coach Faith Patterson's 8th state title. I say that partly because QRF doesn't like DeLaSalle's Tri-Metro Conference schedule, and there's something to that. DeLaSalle really ought to be playing tougher competition. But the Islanders play a tough-enough non-conference schedule that there's no question they'll be ready for the rigors of state tournament competition. I mean, hello, they've already done it twice running. Their only losses are to #1, 2 and 3AAAA Hopkins, Eastview and Kennedy.
Still, Richfield and Fergus make this a solid AAA field so hopefully the day-in, day-out competition at Target and Williams will be better than it has been. Class AAA seeds so there's some guesswork as to the quarter-final match-ups.
Class AAA, Wednesday, March 13, Williams Arena
Section 1--Red Wing (#11 QRF, 17-6) looks like a shoo-in here. Senior guard Tesha Buck leads the way.
Section 2--This should be an exciting Section with Mankato East (#4, 20-3), New Prague (#6, 17-6) and Marshall (#20, 22-3) contending. (They're rated #5, 6 and 7 in the AP poll--Mankato East #5, Marshall #6 and New Prague #7. I like New Prague which has, after all, already beaten Mankato East 69-56, while East in turn defeated Marshall 69-61. I get that these scores don't guarantee anything, but I do like them in that order. The Trojans are led by guard Annie Dittberner and post Lexi Reuhling.
Section 3--This is DeLaSalle's (#5, 21-3) bailiwick. And again don't let the #5 and 3 losses fool you. #5 is due to the Tri-Metro Conference's perennial weakness which has never held the Islanders back yet, and the 3 losses are to Hopkins, Eastview and Kennedy. Tyseanna Johnson and Allina Starr are both BCS recruits. Look out.
Section 4--Simley (#9, 19-5) is favored and why not, with 6-1 Abby Kain and 6-3 Kylie Brown leading the way. But they defeated an improving Hill-Murray team just 43-41 at home recently and have a road game at Hill-Murray remaining. So this pick could change.
Section 5--Monticello (#3, 20-4) and guard Grace Sawatzke lead the way. Lightly regarded until a recent 49-48 win over AAAA St. Michael-Albertville, suddenly they're now in the running for a seed.
Section 6--Richfield (#1, 20-3) and Chaska (#2, 19-5) make this the toughest section in the state, regardless of class. It will be a terribly shame for either of these teams to stay at home. But I'll go against the grain and pick Chaska. 6-2 Elle Thompson has been coming on like gangbusters the past month.
Section 7--Chisago Lakes (#14, 17-7) is the star of a weak section. 6-5 Bryanna Fernstrom gives 'em a shot at any level.
Section 8--Fergus Falls (#7, 22-0) is the obvious favorite. They've already beaten the #2 team in the section, Thief River Falls. Guards Brianna Rasmussen and Bailey Strand are one of the state's best duos regardless of class. Like DeLaSalle, Fergus' QRF reflects schedule strength, not the Otters' actual promise. But their #1 in the AP poll is too high as DeLaSalle will demo in the state final.
1. Fergus Falls
Fergus Falls vs. Chisago Lakes. Fergus by 10.
DeLaSalle vs. New Prague. No contest.
Chaska vs. Red Wing. Each team won at home in the Missota Conference. Chaska by 6.
Monticello vs. Simley. Simley by 2.
Semis and Finals
Fergus and DeLaSalle advance to the finals. The Islanders beat Chaska by 6 in the semi and Fergus by 10 in the final. Chaska knocks off Simley for 3rd.
C- Elle Thompson, Chaska
F- Kylie Brown, Simley
F- Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle
G- Allina Starr, DeLaSalle
G- Bailey Strand or Brianna Rasmussen, Fergus Falls