As I eagerly await all my picks to hold true for the girls’ tournament, I must work in haste on my boys’ selections — deadline. A common two four-letter word in our profession.
Why the urgency? Well, there is one boys’ game on the docket tonight (Tuesday) and I don’t want to be chastised for making the selection after the team had already won. They have never let me get away with that in Las Vegas. I have tried.
I will repeat the next two paragraphs, an act of normalcy on my part, for those just tuning in for the boys’ tournament. For those of you who are gender specific, there was a pretty darn good player in the girls’ field over the past handful of years named Paige Bueckers that deserved even the sport’s general fan viewership.
Anyway, the quarterfinals aren’t seeded 1 through 5 with three random selections like in the past. They are broken down into two groups (North and South), with each being seeded 1 through 4.
The winners move on to the semifinals, but don’t play the other winner in their group. The semifinals become a crossover matchup: the North 1 vs. 4 winner plays the South 2-3 winner and the South 1-4 winner plays the North 2-3 winner.
Let’s move on to my quarterfinal selections:
N1 Champlin Park (21-0) vs. N4 Maple Grove (12-9): Ish! Another Class 4A quarterfinal conference (Northwest Suburban) matchup. Champlin Park beats Maple Grove for the third time this year.
S2 Cretin-Derham Hall (16-5) vs. S3 Rosemount (15-6): Raiders junior guard and Gophers recruit Trejuan Holloman has a knack for hitting game-winning shots. He buries another for the Raiders to win a tight battle.
S1 Shakopee (16-5) vs. S4 Owatonna (17-3): A Section 1 representative not named Lakeville. It must prove me wrong before I can hop on the bandwagon. Shakopee moves on.
N2 Wayzata (16-2) vs. N3 Duluth East (16-3): The Trojans are playing as well as anybody, and riding an 11-game winning streak. As long as they play as a cohesive group, Wayzata wins going away.
N1 Alexandria (20-1) vs. N4 Monticello (8-13): The won-loss records speak for themselves. Big Ole is starting to make his trek to the Target Center.
S2 Mankato West (16-4) vs. S3 Richfield (15-4): Going back in time to my youthful playing days. There is nothing better than celebrating a Richfield victory at Bridgeman’s and enjoying a La La Palooza with the gang.
S1 Minnehaha Academy (17-1) vs. S4 Byron (17-2): An excellent opportunity for Byron 6-9 junior Ahjany Lee, recently offered by Kansas, to prove he is ready to take his game to the next level against the nation’s best 7-0 Chet Holmgren. Lee can’t defend all of the Redhawks’ stars though, and they advance in a blowout.
N2 DeLaSalle (14-5) vs. N3 Hibbing (16-3): This Islanders team isn’t as dynamic as ones in the past. It still has enough to knock off Hibbing.
N1 Minneapolis North (14-1) vs. N4 Moose Lake-Willow River (18-3): The time of year Larry McKenzie thrives in, state tournament time. He will have Minneapolis North ready to roll.
S2 Caledonia (21-1) vs. S3 St. Croix Prep (20-1): I expected Caledonia to slide a little bit with the season-ending injury to junior standout Eli King. The Warriors might miss him, but they have continued to play at a high level. They live another day.
S1 Waseca (20-1) vs. S4 Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (19-2): Even Tink Larson takes time away from the diamond to watch the Bluejays’ basketball team. Waseca scored at least 80 points in all four Section 2 tournament games, and flies into the semifinals.
N2 Annandale (18-1) vs. N3 Fergus Falls (15-7): This game was played Tuesday night. I had Annandale winning in a low-scoring affair; how did I do?
N1 Nevis (19-2) vs. N4 Hancock (17-5): The class that could haunt me. It’ as wide open as it comes. I did watch a Minnesota squad play in the ABA back in the 1960s, so let’s have the World’s Largest Muskie in Nevis come to the Twin Cities.
S2 Central Minnesota Christian (18-4) vs. S3 Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (19-3): These two teams are nearly identical. A flip of the coin says Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s.
S1 Legacy Christian (20-1) vs. S4 Hayfield (18-4): Section 4 hasn’t won a state tourney game since Minneapolis North won the title in 2017. Hayfield keeps the drought intact.
N2 Deer River (20-2) vs. N3 Badger-Greenbush-Middle River (19-3): Another toss up. I’m going with Deer River. If I hit all four in Class 1A, you will find me at the nearest casino.