Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boys State Tournament Preview

The boys field was completed Saturday with what must have been a dramatic game: It was between 2 teams whose trips to the state tournament are few and far between, #2 upset #1, and it was a 1 point game: Esko 68 Mora 67, perhaps helping to salve the disappointment over the Esko girls' near miss of a tourney appearance.

So the AA seeding and drawing was done just today, Sunday, a day after the A, AAA and AAAA draw was announced. And once again AA, where so very very few top seeds advanced to the tournament, has to be considered to be wiiiiiiide open. #1 seed Minnehaha is the highest rated team to make the tournament field because the top 5 rated teams were all upset in the sections. #9 Byron and #10 Litchfield are the other 2 among the top 10 to make the field. After its win over #1 Melrose in the 5AAA finals and as the defending tournament runner-up, Litchfield would have to be regarded as at least a co-favorite with Minnehaha. 

More than that, the higher seeds will generally only be slight favorites in AA, whereas the seeds in the other classes are mostly solid favorites and #1AAAA seed Apple Valley and #1AAA DeLaSalle are clear tournament favorites.

As with the girls, I've brought my 4 earlier tournament previews forward so they're right behind this post. In this case, however, the news isn't as good as with the girls where I got 24 of 32 tournament entries correct a month before the tournament (30 of my 32 picks made it to the section finals).

Here I picked 5 Class A champions, only 2 in AA, 6 in AAA and 4 in AAAA, so a total of 17. Well, more than half, but not good.

Class A

Here I got Rushford-Peterson, Southwest Christian, Maranatha, Upsala and Lakeview right and missed on Mountain Lake, Battle Lake and Walker-Hack-Akeley. The 5 I picked all got seeds, the other 3 not. The top 4 seeds--Maranatha, Rushford-Pete, Upsala and Southwest Christian--are all solid favorites. Maranatha (#1, 29-1) and Upsala (#2, 30-0) are not obvious favorites in the semis. In fact, I'll take Southwest Christian (#3, 27-1) to knock off both of them.

Class AA

Tournament entrants include3 #1 seeds, 3 #2 seeds and 2 #3 seeds. The only entrants I picked are Redwood Valley and Minnehaha. Redwood, surprisingly to me, anyway, did not get a seed, while Minnehaha got #1.

• #1 Minnehaha (23-6) is a clear favorite over Perham (23-7), having defeated Perham 66-50 earlier this year, but there's no doubt that Perham has 1 of Minnesota's great high school coaches in Dave Cresap.

• Byron (#4, 25-4) is a slight fave over Annandale (#5, 20-9).

• #2 Litch vs. unseeded Redwood (both 24-5) is the most intriguing match-up of the 1st round, both coming out of the 2 toughest sections in the state.

• #3 Hayfield (22-7) cannot be much of a favorite over Esko (26-4).

In fact I'll take the underdogs in the lower bracket, with Minnehaha and Redwood meeting in the final, and Redwood taking home the biggest hardware.

Class AAA

Here I missed on Grand Rapids back when it wasn't clear when Alex Illikainen would be back. Well, he's back and so are the Thunderhawks for the 6th straight year. And I missed on Sartell, and who didn't? The top 4 seeds--DeLaSalle, Delano, Austin and Marshall--should all advance, though the #1 Islanders are the only lock. St. Paul Johnson, Blake and Grand Rapids all have the potential to pull an upset and, at a minimum, should make for some pretty good ball games.

Still, DeLaSalle and Austin look good for the finals, and the Islanders look like a repeat champion.

Class AAAA

I only got 4 of these right--#1 Apple Valley and #3 Edina, who are heavy 1st round favorites--and #4 Woodbury and unseeded Lakeville North, who are not. #2 Park Center is the biggest threat to Apple Valley and Tyus Jones after defeating defending state champ Osseo in their section final. Woodbury vs. #5 Eden Prairie is the only tossup in the 1st round.

Championship Saturday

So, to summarize, here's what to look for on Saturday:

Class A--Southwest MN Christian 56 Maranatha 54

Class AA--Redwood Valley 64 Minnehaha 59

Class AAA--DeLaSalle 65 Austin 53

Class AAAA--Apple Valley 73 Park Center 68

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