4A story lines

1. Can the Eagles repeat?

Apple Valley has played in three championship games since 2013 and has won them all. In 2015 and 2017, they took down Champlin Park teams that were undefeated before the finals. No player in the tournament elevates the play of his teammates more than Tre Jones, whose work ethic and off-the-chart basketball IQ make up for most Apple Valley shortcomings. The Eagles' top eight players are all seniors and have been playing together since their youth traveling team days. Don't bet against Apple Valley in big games.

2. Showtime

All season Cretin-Derham Hall has been considered one of the favorites to win the Class 4A title thanks to a lineup that checks all of the boxes — size, athleticism, rebounding, outside shooting. Heady point guard in Ryan Larson conducts the entire high-flying production, which power forward Daniel Oturu dubbed the "Showtime Raiders." They play with crowd-pleasing flash. Expect a half-dozen highlight reel plays every time they take the court.

3. Is this Eden Prairie's time?

When Eden Prairie's name is mentioned, it's often followed by a qualifier, such as "might be a year away." Despite a starting lineup of four sophomores — with two key seniors for stability — the Eagles certainly belong. Underclassmen Austin Andrews, Connor Christensen, Drake Dobbs and John Henry all average in double figures. They've posted victories over such tourney teams as Cretin-Derham Hall, Wayzata, DeLaSalle and Minnehaha Academy. These guys are ready now.

4. Bench excellence

The focus is on the players, of course, but the bracket boasts a who's who of the metro's best coaches. Lakeville North's John Oxton, Osseo's Tim Theisen, Eden Prairie's David Flom, Apple Valley's Zach Goring, Maple Grove's Nick Schroeder, Wayzata's Bryan Schnettler, Cretin-Derham Hall's Jerry Kline and Forest Lake's Dan Cremisino make up a stellar lineup of bench bosses. Expect every team in this field to be disciplined and well-prepared.

Jim Paulsen