Let’s start with class 4A. Mankato West and St. Thomas Academy are the top two teams in the rankings, as well as the favorites to win the Prep Bowl. But it’s not as easy as it seems. Mankato West is in the same section as Hutchinson and Marshall. The combined record of the three is 24-0. The Scarlets might be the favorite, but it isn’t by much.
The Cadets have been test once this season, against Mahtomedi, other than that they’ve blown away their competition. It won’t be easy getting past Holy Angels (7-1) or South St. Paul (7-1) if they happen to meet in the section championship.
The rest of the 4A brackets look competitive as well, but I believe all of the top seeds will advance. Bemidji is quietly the No. 3 team in the state, and Spring Lake Park brings a solid defense to the field every game. And don’t sleep on the Rocori Spartans. The Central Lakes Conference has done well in past tournaments, and they won the CLC this year.
The theme in class 5A will have a “David vs. Goliath” feel to it. Wayzata and Cretin-Derham Hall look like stone cold locks to advance to the state tournament again.
The Lakeville North Panthers are the heavy favorite to take the section one crown. Owatonna is a strong No. 2 seed, and they might have the easy side of the bracket. Lakeville South lost 2 of its final 3 games and fell to a 5 seed. That means they could meet up with Lakeville North in the semifinals… North crushed South this year, but round two probably won’t be a blowout.
Normally, Eden Prairie would be a lock to make it to the state tourney, but their offense has some issues, and the likes of Minnetonka, Hopkins, and Shakopee are capable of pulling an upset in section 6. I’m not picking it, but anything is possible.
Section 7 will be a treat to watch unfold. Anoka is a strong No. 1 seed but Blaine is good enough to beat the Tornadoes. And don’t sleep on St. Francis, they went 7-1 and might be the surprise team in the state.
Class 3A is going to be very competitive this year. My three teams to beat are Glencoe-Silver Lake, St. Croix Lutheran, and Fairmont. GSL and Fairmont play in the same section, but I really like both teams.
Class 2A features a bunch of talented teams. I'll take Blue Earth Area, Caledonia, and Moose Lake-Willow River as my top three.
Class 1A is one my favorites, I attended a small school as well. I like New Ulm Cathedral, Braham, and Dawson-Boyd.