Don't look now, but two-time defending Class 4A champion Hopkins not only has a talented group back, it is hands-down the team to look out for once again. Last year, with no returning starters from the undefeated 2008-09 squad, the Royals went 30-2 en route to another title.
Not to be outdone is St. Paul Johnson in Class 3A. The Governors beat Hopkins last year en route to a perfect season and a first state championship in the long history of the school (the team first went to state in 1922). The team's top three scorers are back, including point guard Estan Tyler (14 points per game).
In 26 regular-season games before a run toward the Class 1A championship in March, Minnesota Transitions went over 100 points 10 times. That includes back-to-back games of more than 135 points last January. Kyle Noreen and Rodney Owens again lead the charge. All you need to know about them is each posted a triple double last weekend for the Wolves.
Certainly a game worth keeping an eye on is Tuesday's matchup that brings Robbinsdale Cooper to Minneapolis North. The Polars' school, once so rich with basketball talent it was a Class 4A champion in 2003, has been in the news lately because of declining enrollment. It has fewer than 300 students this year. Many have opted to choose Cooper for their education and athletics. Let's just say the mood should be rather festive.
Loads of question marks surround every team this early in a season. But plenty will get sorted out this weekend at Minnetonka High School. That's the site of this year's annual Tip-Off Classic, a jam-packed day of marquee matchups. Highlights of the 14-game schedule include Chaska vs. DeLaSalle (3:15 p.m.), Apple Valley vs. Tartan (5) and Hopkins vs. Osseo (6:45).
– Brian Stensaas