This season, the boys and girls basketball state tournament dates have been switched due to a Target Center conflict meaning that it section time in boys basketball. In the first of a four part preview, here's a look at the eight Class AAAA sections.
The Hopkins Royals are the top seed in Section 6 but it probably won't be easy for Ken Novak Jr.'s bunch to return to state. Why? Because there are three other contenders in the bunch. The second seeded Eden Prairie Eagles, the third seeded Minnetonka Skippers and the fourth seeded Armstrong Falcons could make Royals fans feel blue. This is a tough section to pick.It could be Hopkins year but it's going to be a toughie.
Over in Section 3, the top seed and state's number one team in Class AAAA is the Apple Valley Eagles, led by Duke bound Tyus Jones. The Eagles have a good challenge in the lower bracket awaiting them in the second seeded East Ridge Raptors and the third seeded Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders. The Raiders are led by one of the rising stars in junior Sam Neumann. If he can lead the Raiders to the section final, it could be a great match up between him and Jones.
The top two seeds in Section 5 are the Champlin Park Rebels and Osseo Orioles. Both team have been playing outstanding basketball this season. Is another trip to state possible for the orioles 6'9" center Ian Theisen? Also look out for the third seeded Maple Grove Crimson. The Northwest Suburban Conference has plenty of talent. Which team will it be?
THE REST OF THE FIELD
It's been a big year for the top seeded Lakeville North Panthers, led by JP Macura, who will play for Xavier next season. He has scored more than 40 points in six games this season and if he can continue to pile up points by the bushel, they could dominate the section. Also in the hunt is the second seeded Farmington Tigers.
With Eden Prairie moved into Section 6 due to state high school league realignment, Section 2 is a wide open section. There's the top seeded Shakopee Sabres, under the leadership of veteran head coach Bruce Kugath, the second seeded Chanhassen Storm and the third seeded Bloomington Kennedy Eagles. There's no clear cut favorite to win this section but will Storm fans be celebrating in the growing city of Chanhassen if they make their first trip to state?
In Section 4, the Woodbury Royals are the top seed, followed by the second seeded Mounds View Mustangs and the third seeded Tartan Titans. Can David Leiser, who replaced long-time head coach Zig Kauls lead the Mustangs to a state tournament berth? Zig would be very happy for his successor.
The top seed in Section 7 is the St. Francis Fighting Saints. The Fighting Saints, in their first season in the Mississippi 8 conference are one of only two teams with a winning record. The other is the third seeded Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets. The second seeded Andover Huskies have a 12-13 record. Can they surprise both St. Francis and Cambridge-Isanti and be the section's Cinderella?
Over in Section 8, the top seeded St. Cloud Tech Tigers are on a roll with six straight wins. But look out for the second seeded Buffalo Bison and the third seeded Elk River Elks. It's been a great year for boys basketball in the Granite City with Tech and it's AA counterpart Cathedral having outstanding seasons. Can they rock their way to state?