Minnesota boys basketball state tournament action gets underway Wednesday afternoon and the Waseca Bluejays will be among the first teams to compete. Below is a short preview of their matchup with the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta Tigers.
No. 1 Waseca (20-1) versus No. 4 Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (19-2), 4 p.m., Chanhassen High School
The top-seeded Bluejays are coming off wins of 49, 43, 21 and 51 during their championship run in the Section 2AA playoffs. They're averaging 81.6 points per game this season, which is second only to fellow state tournament qualifier Moose Lake-Willow River (85.1). The Tigers easily dispatched ACGC by 28 points in the opening round of the Section 3AA tournament before winning their final three games by an average of seven points.
Minnesota-Scores.net QRF rankings
Morris Area: 9
No matter what ranking system one looks at, the Bluejays and Tigers are consistently among the top teams in Class AA. Waseca is considered by many to be the odds on state title favorite — with the likes of Minneapolis North and Caledonia often cited as their stiffest competition — though Morris Area should give them their most difficult battle from a Class AA opponent to date.
Key wins (QRF ranking)
Waseca: Marshall x3 (15; Class AAA), Blue Earth Area x2 (20), Waconia (22; Class AAA), New Prague (51; Class AAAA)
Morris Area: Central Minnesota Christian (13; Class A), Breckenridge (18), Hancock (21; Class A), Redwood Valley x2 (24)
The Bluejays played the more difficult schedule of the two teams, though part of that may be due to their geographical advantage. Waseca is surrounded by Class AAA and AAAA schools due to their close proximity to the Twin Cities, Mankato and the surrounding area, whereas Morris is one of the bigger cities in Minnesota's western frontier. Waseca throttled their opponents, no matter the class, winning only one of their 20 games by single-digits. The Tigers, on the other hand, relatively struggled against the likes of Hancock, Redwood, Pipestone (45) and Paynesville (54), winning each contest by an average of four points.
Waseca: Minnehaha Academy (1; Class AAA)
Morris Area: Melrose x2 (3)
All three of the two teams' combined losses came at the hands of very good high school basketball teams. The difference is that the Bluejays' came against the favorite to win the Class AAA state championship, whose roster boasts multiple NCAA Division I caliber players including the Naismith Boys National Player of the Year, whereas the Tigers came against a great team, yet one considered to be worse than Waseca.
Matchup to watch
Andrew Morgan versus Jackson Loge
Morgan — who was recently named as one of the five finalists for the Minnesota Mr. Basketball award — is a consensus top three recruit in Minnesota's 2021 class and is committed to play in the frontcourt for the North Dakota State Bison next season. Loge, a junior and legitimate high NCAA Division II/low Division I prospect, is also one of the state's premier big men, coming in as the 16th-best player and the second at his position in a stacked 2022 class, according to PrepHoops.com. Loge is a 6-foot-8-inch double-double machine who will be the most talented interior player Morgan has seen this season, besides future NBAer Chet Holgrem, that is.
Waseca 75, Morris Area 58
The Tigers will likely be able to keep this one close to start, but the overabundance of talent on the Bluejays roster is ultimately too much for them to overcome. While Morgan and Loge grab all the pre-game headlines, Kyreese Willingham and Ryan Dufault steal the show, while some timely 3-pointers by Zach Hoehn and easy post buckets from Matt Seberson put the game out of reach for Morris. Morgan finishes the game around his 20 point, 10 rebound averages, but Loge is held to single-digit rebounds. The Bluejays move on to face Annandale in the state semifinals.