High school basketball season is supposed to be upon us, but like all winter sports, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed its start.

Area coaches are hopeful they'll be able to reunite with their teams later this month and games could start being played in January. When high school basketball returns in Minnesota, the Three Rivers Conference will be an absolute gauntlet, so we wanted to dig a little deeper to find out which teams and players will be the ones to watch.

Eight of the 11 Three Rivers coaches participated in the Post Bulletin's preseason poll. They couldn't rank their own team, and they were asked to name a Preseason Player of the Year and a five-man Preseason All-TRC Team.

RELATED:'This league is loaded': Stewartville, Byron headline HVL boys basketball coaches preseason poll

A first-place vote was worth 10 points, a second-place vote was worth nine points and so on, all the way down to a 10th-place vote which was worth one point.

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The votes were recorded. The points were tallied. Here are the results.

Many of the coaches were generous enough with their time to dish on their conference rivals.

Bring on basketball season. Soon. Please.

THREE RIVERS COACHES PRESEASON POLL

1. CALEDONIA, 70 POINTS (7 FIRST-PLACE VOTES)

Caledonia's Eli King (1) goes up for a shot as Stewartville's Bode Mayer (10) defends during the Section 1AA championship boys basketball game on March 12 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Caledonia's Eli King (1) goes up for a shot as Stewartville's Bode Mayer (10) defends during the Section 1AA championship boys basketball game on March 12 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)


2019-20 record: 28-1, 16-0 in conference play

The skinny: Caledonia is back and better than ever. Junior guard Eli King has transformed into one of the best players in the country. He has a flurry of Division I offers, and seemingly a pair of elevators attached to his shoes. The Warriors are stacked with plenty of additional talent, including senior guard Austin Klug, who presents plenty of problems for opponents. Big man Sam Privet is finally healthy. Forward Casey Schultz is a beast on the gridiron and a winner on the hardwood. Andrew Kunelius, Jackson Koepke and Jashon Simpson give head coach Brad King three more guards to add to his elite backcourt. Austin Meyer could be another one to watch. It's Caledonia's conference to lose. The Warriors were picked No. 1 by every single other coach. King was a unanimous choice for Player of the Year, and Klug was a Preseason First-Team All-Three Rivers selection.

Coach Brad King says: "Nothing is ever given, that’s for sure, but we’re going to be very talented. We have a lot of varsity experience returning. We have everything covered. We have height, we’re covered at the guard spot, we’ve got shooting, we’ve got size inside with Casey Schultz and Sam Privet. I’m really looking forward to getting on the floor with this team."

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE WARRIORS:

Chatfield coach Jeff Debuhr: "Eli King is as high-end of an athlete that I’ve seen in this area. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops. He’s still a young guy, but every year, he seems to be a better jump shooter. Every year, he’s a better ball handler. He puts in the time. That’s where the ceiling can get so high. Everyone is born with athletic limitations, but he doesn’t seem to have any."

"Brad is a phenomenal coach."

Fillmore Central coach Brady O'Connor: “If Eli is able to come up the floor with the ball and you don’t slow him down before he gets up the floor, there’s nothing you can do. Absolutely nothing. We had cases last year where he’d go right by us and throw it down. Guys would get out of the way and you can’t blame them because there is literally nothing you can do. If you try to take a charge, he’ll jump right over you."

"Yeah, no, I don’t think anybody will have a chance (against Caledonia). They have speed and size everywhere. Eli King brings the ball up the floor and Klug is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. And Schultz and Privet are beasts inside. It doesn’t end. The guys off the bench are 6-1, 6-2, 200 pounds. They’re just animals in the weight room. It just never ends. We got to the end there and the Schultz kid gets no recognition for basketball when he’s probably a top-three or top-four player in the conference, but how many guys are you going to put on the list from Caledonia?"

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "The thing with Caledonia is that they turn that pressure on you and change the game with one possession. Just one play. That’s all they need. Eli will cause a turnover and go dunk it and it’s a completely different game. They just go on a run and they’re up by 20. They gamble but it’s successful for them. They put that pressure on you and they go, ‘Hey either you respond to it or we’ll bury you.' More often than not, they’re burying you."

"I’d love Klug if he was on my team. He’s hard for us to game-plan against because he can hit that outside shot with some real consistency. He’s gotten way better at his game and he can really take it to the basket and being dangerous in so many different ways. You go into a game and you’re trying to stop Eli and then what do you do with Klug? What do you do with Privet? And Schultz, I like that kid a lot. He’s a great defender. He’s so strong."

La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau: "It's crazy because a guy like Casey Schultz, you go through a scouting report for Caledonia, you have King, Klug and Privet. And Schultz is a guy that’s not really in your scoring report. If you want winners, he is a winning basketball player and a winning athlete."

"Eli is probably the best defender in the conference. He can just get after you and make your life miserable."

"People just assume that because they’re just so naturally talented, they can roll the ball out and play. But Brad King does such a good job. I don’t think they get enough credit for how well they play defense. There’s no team in the area that plays defense like they play it. They’re so well-schooled defensively."

"There’s no game in our league that’s attended as well as the Caledonia/La Crescent game. Proximity has a lot to do with that. There’s not a seat in the house available."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "There are several things that make Caledonia a bad matchup for us. First of all, they’re the most physical team, if not in the state, definitely in southeastern Minnesota. That just hurts us. We play physical, but Caledonia punches you in the face in the first five minutes of the game. If you’re not ready for it? Watch out. Let year, it was 18-2 before I could blink. We were ready but they just punch and take you out of it. The game was over before the 12-minute mark of the first half. That’s a hard thing to prepare for. And oh my god do they rebound."

"Andrew Kunelius doesn’t score a lot, but oh, he’s nasty on defense. And Eli, he’s nasty on defense too."

"Privet hasn't really been healthy the last few years, but he’s 100 percent now. He had a great AAU season and signed with Northern Michigan. He was such a role player last year that you kind of barely even noticed him. Oh, you’re going to notice him this year. That’s the scary thing. I honestly think that they had a great chance to win state last year, but they may be better this year and that’s saying a lot when you lose one of the best players around here ever."

"The difference is that last year when they needed a bucket, they knew that Noah King could go get you one. Now, who’s going to get you one? They’re going to have seven guys who can get you one. You can’t double or triple-team Eli because the rest of the guys will kill you. Last year, you were really worried about Noah, and you kind of let Eli get his. This year, you double Eli and Klug is going to get 30. And then Privet will get 25. And Kunelius and Schultz will each get 10. And you get buried by 50. I’m not excited to play them. But I am excited to see what Brad and the boys can do this year. They’re going to be tough to beat. I don't know if even Stewartville can play with them and beat them. They’re so physical and deep. Will Tschetter is going to have to have one of those nights. Will’s going to have to score like 45 or 50 points to get them."

"Best atmosphere by far is at Caledonia. They turn off all the lights and play the Bulls' Michael Jordan music. It’s just intense."

“Brad is a dang good coach. I love that he is disciplined and his kids are pure, 100 percent class. They could beat you by 50 and they’ll be the nicest kids in the world. His three kids, they’ve kicked my butt my whole life, but they’re so classy. I love all of them. That program is so classy. They don’t need to be. They could be as cocky and arrogant, but they’re pure class and I give all the credit in the world to Brad.”

2. PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE, 62 POINTS (1 FIRST-PLACE VOTE)

Plainview-Elgin-Millville basketball player Blake Herber is coached by his dad, Jason Herber. Blake is having a standout junior season, including averaging 24 points per game. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Plainview-Elgin-Millville basketball player Blake Herber is coached by his dad, Jason Herber. Blake is having a standout junior season, including averaging 24 points per game. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)


2019-20 record: 19-9, 11-5 in conference play

The skinny: It's a big year for Jason Herber and his Bulldogs. Senior guard Blake Herber is an absolute scoring machine, and fellow senior guard Conner Schumacher might be the best defender in the conference. Herber and Schumacher will anchor the Bulldogs' backcourt, but P-E-M will have to rebound if it wants to accomplish its lofty goals. Herber and Schumacher both are terrific rebounding guards, but if Luke and Aaron Stevens are monsters on the glass, then P-E-M could be even more dangerous.

Coach Jason Herber says: "I definitely think that if we’re not the favorite, we’re the co-favorites to win the West. Us or Lewiston-Altura. It’s win it or bust for us. We’ve been runner-up the last few years to St. Charles, so now it’s time to get over the hump and win the West. We’re not at Caledonia’s caliber, but I personally think we’re the second-best team in the conference on paper. But on paper doesn’t mean anything. We have to go out there and prove it. This senior group, it doesn't matter if it’s checkers, 10-yard dash, anything. They all hate to lose with a passion. They’ve been that way their whole lives. It’s one of the most competitive groups of seniors I’ve ever met."

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE BULLDOGS

La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau: “Coach Herber at PEM is a great Xs and Os coach. They can play. They have their brand of basketball but the way that they can play man or zone defensively, depending on your strengths. We played a real tight game with them last year. It wasn’t an offensive juggernaut of a game. I think it’s because he knew how our team was and what he needed to do to take away."

"Blake Herber is really underrated lead guard and scorer."

Caledonia coach Brad King: "They play hard and they play good defense which is why I picked them No. 1. But I think our conference is going to be wide open. I know a lot of people are picking us to win it which is probably understandable because of how much we return, but man I tell you, the next five, six or seven teams, it’s going to be a dogfight. If you’re not ready, you could lose by 15. And then a month later, they might not be ready and you’ll win by 15. But I think P-E-M is the best of them."

Chatfield coach Jeff DeBuhr: "Conner Schumacher causes more struggles for us defensively and he’s also a threat on the offensive end. He’s probably the one that not many think of as a top player, but he’s absolutely there. He allows them to do everything and he really frustrates things on the offensive end. He gives (Chatfield guard) Reid Johnson the toughest matchup out of anybody that we’ve played in the last few years."

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "Plainview is really well-coached and they especially do some good things with different zones. Schumacher has a wiry frame and he's so tough."

"P-E-M is the team to beat in the west. I have confidence in us. But talking about other teams, P-E-M is going to be that top team. Obviously, you have Blake Herber and he’s so good. So quick and you can't keep him away from the free-throw line. They have 10th- and 11th-graders that always step up because they play together so well. They get a spark and they can play off that in a big way. We found it’s easier to rebound against them when they’re in the zone."

3. ST. CHARLES, 53 POINTS

St. Charles junior Kooper Vaughn was among the state's best this season in 3-point shooting (120 made 3s) and free-throw shooting (91.9 percent). He's also part of the 2019-20 Post Bulletin All-Area Boys Basketball Team. (PB file photo by Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
St. Charles junior Kooper Vaughn was among the state's best this season in 3-point shooting (120 made 3s) and free-throw shooting (91.9 percent). He's also part of the 2019-20 Post Bulletin All-Area Boys Basketball Team. (PB file photo by Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

2019-20 record: 20-8, 13-3 in conference play

The skinny: Kooper Vaughn is a lights-out shooter who averaged 28.4 points per game last year. He even dropped 52 points in one game. Vaughn is back and itching for more buckets, but his running mate Drew Maloney suffered a torn ACL so he'll miss the season. That's a huge loss, but plenty of coaches still have a ton of respect for legendary St. Charles coach Terry Knothe. The Saints got one second-place vote and four third-place votes. But there are concerns if St. Charles will be able to generate enough stops and if anyone will be able to step up in Maloney's absence. If not, Vaughn will have to score a boatload of points to keep St. Charles afloat in the loaded Three Rivers.

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE SAINTS

Caledonia coach Brad King: “Kooper can flat-out shoot it from anywhere. He’s a handful. Love the kid. Absolutely love everything about him. I’d be tickled pink to have him on my team."

"St. Charles will be interesting. They probably fell a little in the rankings after Drew Maloney’s injury, but I tell you what, I loved their last ninth grade and 10th-grade teams too. If they play good defense and shoot the ball... I mean, they almost always shoot it well, and they give people fits with that funky, 3-2 zone. It can give a team trouble if they don’t shoot it well. If Maloney was there, I’d have them No. 1."

Chatfield coach Jeff Debuhr: “In the middle, you can make an argument for a lot of teams. St. Charles has a lot of experience with Kooper Vaughn and Terry Knothe. They had a couple of guys on JV that can really score the basketball. We know they’ll be able to put the ball in the bucket. But Maloney was really the engine that made them go. He’s a tough, gritty defender. Losing him is the guy that’s going to hurt on both ends but the immeasurables will be even more. He was their go-to guy as far as keeping the team grounded."

"Terry always finds ways to get creative offensively and get his guys shots."

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "Losing Maloney, that’s a huge blow. They graduated a lot of role players. They always seem to find role players and shooters."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "As soon as Koop gets across halfcourt, he’s in range. He’s not going to be single-teamed at all. My prediction is that Koop will lead the state in scoring. He’ll score more than Will Tschetter because he’s going to shoot 40 times."

"I feel so bad for them because Drew Maloney is the greatest kid in the world. I don't care if they’re our biggest rival, it’s horrible. I’m so glad that he committed to Eau Claire and will keep playing, but that injury broke my heart. He’s such a great player."

4. LEWISTON-ALTURA, 52 POINTS

Lewiston-Altura's Collin Bonow (4) goes up for a shot during Saturday's HVL-TRC Showdown tournament game on Dec. 14, 2019, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Lewiston-Altura's Collin Bonow (4) goes up for a shot during Saturday's HVL-TRC Showdown tournament game on Dec. 14, 2019, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)


2019-20 record: 22-5, 12-4 in conference play

The skinny: Lewiston-Altura got one second-place vote and a couple third-place votes, but they settle in at fourth place. Juniors Thomas Menk and Collin Bonow will step up big time. It's their team now that Gunner Reed has graduated. Menk is one of the elite shooters in the conference. Menk had a little cold-shooting streak last year, but if you took that stretch out, he shot better than 40 percent from long range. Bonow plays with an all-out effort at all times, and the point guard is a menace defensively. Lewiston-Altura has a few nice-looking role players, too, in Charlie Kaczorowski and Jerry Hines.

Coach Michael VanderPlas says: "Our expectations are pretty high, too. We have a good group of seniors that are ready to step in. And then I think Thomas Menk and Collin Bonow are really ready to answer the bell. We think we can compete every time we step on the floor."

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE CARDINALS

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "Collin Bonow from Lewiston is so underrated. If you have 10 Collin Bonows, you’re not losing many games."

"I’ve never coached a kid that plays as hard and tough as Collin Bonow. He’s a warrior. He’s up there for best defensive player in the conference. Some kids play so hard and they’re out of control and turn the ball over, but Collin is so smooth."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "If Thomas Menk is open, forget about it. It's a layup."

La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau: "Menk, I think he’s a guy who was a big reason why they were so competitive last year. I think he’s only going to take another step forward."

"Collin Bonow has played us so tough and so hard."

"For whatever reason, one of the tougher places to play is Lewiston. It’s a small, tighter gym. The bench's side only has five, six or seven rows. You can feel the energy and stuff in there. That place is always tough to play in."

Caledonia coach Brad King: "Lewiston as a team is so underrated. They always play hard and on a given night, if the other team isn’t bringing it, you’re going to get in trouble. That’s what is so fun about playing those guys. You know you’re going to get a heck of a game because of their effort and energy. You always get a heck of a battle out of those guys."

5. RUSHFORD-PETERSON, 51 POINTS

Rushford-Peterson's Luke O'Hare (13) takes a shot as Hayfield's Luke Dudycha (24) defends during a Section 1A quarterfinal boys basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Rushford-Peterson's Luke O'Hare (13) takes a shot as Hayfield's Luke Dudycha (24) defends during a Section 1A quarterfinal boys basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)


2019-20 record: 13-14, 5-11 in conference play

The skinny: Rushford-Peterson is one of the rising teams in the conference. It earned one second-place vote and two fourth-place votes, so it has some respect from area coaches. Senior guard Luke O'Hare (13.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.0 spg) and junior forward Justin Ruberg (15.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.5 spg) are beasts. Plus, don't forget about Malachi Bunke, who can really shoot it from 3-point range. Caledonia is the top dog, but there are multiple teams vying for No. 2. Rushford-Peterson could absolutely be that squad that rises up.

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE TROJANS

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "Rushford always has great team defense with that 2-3 zone."

"Rushford will be better. They have really good players. They have the Bunke kid, O'Hare, he’s dangerous. Ruberg killed us last year. He’s going to be really good. He already is really good, but he stepped up last year and made a huge jump. He’s only a sophomore last year. So he’ll be a great junior. He can shoot a little bit. He’s got some size. He’s athletic. Rushford is going to be a much-improved team."

La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau: "I don't know if he’s in the class with some of the top dogs, but I hope people start talking about more about Ruberg because he deserves it. He came out and scored 21 or 24 as a freshman in his first game. He’s really good. I love playing those guys."

"Rushford is in there, too. Their tempo keeps a lot of teams in games. Typically when you play them, it’s slower-paced and there are less possessions and the games are a little tighter. They don’t beat themselves. They really make you work. They get the shot they want."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: “The biggest thing is style of play. If Rushford would let those guys play, once in a while... Now, it works for them. They’re always in the hunt, but they have some kids that could go up and down. Lewiston-Altura has the edge for me because of Menk and Bonow. They can hurt you in so many ways. But Rushford has Bunke and Ruberg who are stud juniors. Rushford might have better seniors than Lewiston-Altura. That was tough to vote them No. 2 or No. 3."

6. LA CRESCENT-HOKAH, 40 POINTS

2019-20 record: 18-8, 13-3 in conference play

The skinny: Luke Schwartzhoff and Zach Todd were both absolute loads last year. But they're gone, so La Crescent is going to look a little different this year. But head coach Ryan Thibodeau is really excited about the potential of Cody Kowalski and Carter Todd. Plus, he could have an ace up his sleeve with a talented freshman coming in.

Coach Ryan Thibodeau says: "Part of a culture, part of an identity here that’s been established last two years, they get the challenge of continuing that culture of winning and being competitive and embrace playing in one of the toughest conferences/sections and their chance to put their blueprint on Lancer basketball. There are a lot of unknowns and not having a lot of experience, especially in this year, but there’s also an opportunity. I think some of those teams have the experience factor so they could have an advantage over us. Without having a lot of time to play 5-on-5, that’s the area that’s going to take a little time for us. But part of it is that it’s a good thing too. I know that when we play P-E-M, we have to take care of Blake Herber. That has to be a priority. St. Charles, you have to get out to Kooper Vaughn. Lewiston-Altura? Got to get out to Menk. Rushford, we know what they can do. Some of that is a good thing. Not many people will really know what we are able to do. So if we can put in some nice little tweaks, we could surprise some people. I'm really excited about this group."

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE LANCERS

Caledonia coach Brad King: "La Crescent lost a whole bunch, but I really like their ninth- and tenth-grade programs coming up. Ryan goes about it the right way. He'll have them ready to fight."

Fillmore Central coach Brady O'Connor: "La Crescent had smothering defense but they lost some talent. They lose the star power, but they’ll be very good again. The JV team was solid. There’s not a lot of weaknesses there. They’re solid all around."

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "La Crescent has had a great run there. Their coach has done a great job of getting those guys ready over the years. We’ll see who steps up. The younger Todd kid should step up. They lost a lot with three really good seniors. I think they can compete."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "Ryan is a dang good Xs and Os coach at La Crescent, but I have no idea about Ryan’s team. They were so good last year, but they lost just a ton.”

"La Crescent is the nastiest for sure. Their student section reminds you of college. They’re not nice. And that’s a good thing. My team is ready. I’ve never lost in La Crescent. They got me last year but that was at home. But we haven’t lost down in La Crescent. My kids are pumped to play there. They’ll literally yell personal stuff out at the kids. They are intense."

7. CHATFIELD, 38 POINTS

Chatfield's Reid Johnson (1) is introduced before a boys basketball game against Kingsland Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chatfield. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Chatfield's Reid Johnson (1) is introduced before a boys basketball game against Kingsland Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Chatfield. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

2019-20 record: 9-17, 7-9 in conference play

The skinny: Is it time to shine for Chatfield? The Gophers certainly think so. They have the depth and the star power to really be dangerous. But they haven't really learned how to win quite yet. That will be a big thing for the Gophers to watch. But they're going to be an absolute problem for some teams because Reid Johnson can fill it up, and his supporting cast is really good, too, thanks to the likes of Cole Johnson and Sam Backer. The X-Factor could be the health of big man David Castleberg and if they can shore up their defense.

Coach Jeff DeBuhr says: "This is the most returning talent that we’ve had. I’m really excited to get out on the court. We made a great push at the end of the year, so I’m really looking forward to getting that started. Hopefully, we get back on the floor soon so we can see how much we’ve improved and how far we’ve come. We’re going to be like a lot of teams. I think if things come together, we can compete for that No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4. If things don’t go our way, we could slide down to the lower part of the middle group. It’s going to be a dogfight every night amongst those middle teams. A lot of it will come down to who is going to be focused and ready to go for the shortened start of the season and who can be prepared."

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE GOPHERS

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "Chatfield's Reid Johnson is a player. He’s one of the better ones in the conference."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: "I just think Chatfield is ready. They’ve struggled the last few years. I coached Reid Johnson in AAU this year. Not only is he good, but he’s such a great kid. I just love the kid. He’s so good. And his brother (Cole Johnson) has gotten so much better. I think they might start three sophomores. Obviously, it’s not my team, but I probably would start all three. If Drew Schindler runs the point, then Reid doesn’t have to. Sam Backer won’t score any points, but he’ll do all the dirty work. I just think they’re ready. We’re definitely scared twice a year playing them. You don’t look at Chatifled this year as two wins, that’s for sure. Do they know how to win? That’s the key for them. They’re so used to the seven-win season. Can they get over the hump and get to 13-5 or 14-4. That’s the big question."

"Reid Johnson can just score in so many ways. If you get on him close, he’ll go by you. If you give him any space, he’ll hit the 3. He’s so skilled at getting to the basket. He’s got a great pull-up. Most people don’t have that in their arsenal. My kid doesn't have it. He has a floater, but he doesn't have that yet. Reid's pull-up is money."

La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau: “Both Johnsons are likely players that are going to take significant steps forward. They just have to do it. If they can, they can beat anybody on any given night. I think part of their challenge has been finding a consistent approach to the defensive end. I think the game that we played against them, they were missing the big kid inside, that changed the game with Schwartzoff and Todd. They played three different defenses, trying to find what would work."

"They’re tough to defend on the offensive side, not only because of the offensive talent, but they run so many actions. More than anyone else in our league. So you have to prepare for that and all the counters that come with it. They have to shore up some things defensively to make that run. But if they do it, and they roll with confidence and win a few games, they’re absolutely a team to be scared of."

8. WABASHA-KELLOGG, 24 POINTS

2019-20 record: 10-17, 3-13 in conference play

The skinny: Wabasha-Kellogg was 3-13 in conference play and 7-4 against teams outside the Three Rivers. This clearly tells you how loaded the Three Rivers was last year. There feels like three tiers in the Three Rivers this year. Caledonia is a tier above everyone else. Lewiston-Altura, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Rushford-Peterson, Chatfield, La Crescent and St. Charles are all fighting tooth and nail in Tier 2. And then Wabasha-Kellogg, Fillmore Central, Cotter and Dover-Eyota are in the third tier. Wabasha-Kellogg graduated four of its top six scorers, so it'll need big years out of Max Bergan and Adam Dunagan if it wants to throw its hat in that second tier.

9. DOVER-EYOTA, 22 POINTS

Dover-Eyota's Brady Williams (31) dunks the ball over St. Charles' Drew Maloney (3) during a Section 1AA quarterfinal boys basketball game on March 2. Williams created plenty of highlights for the Eagles on the football field and basketball court. Send your video highlights to sports@postbulletin.com to possibly have them included in our "Play of the Year" bracket. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Dover-Eyota's Brady Williams (31) dunks the ball over St. Charles' Drew Maloney (3) during a Section 1AA quarterfinal boys basketball game on March 2. Williams created plenty of highlights for the Eagles on the football field and basketball court. Send your video highlights to sports@postbulletin.com to possibly have them included in our "Play of the Year" bracket. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

2019-20 record: 15-14, 9-7 in conference play

The skinny: It's pretty clear that no one has lost more talent than Dover-Eyota. Brady Williams is gone to Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the Eagles' senior-laden group went on a big run in section play when they finally got healthy. The problem is that all the seniors are gone, 11 in total. The coaching staff is high on Elvis Pina, and soccer star Tyler Johnson did some nice things off the bench for the Eagles last year. Head coach Scott Cork is working with a brand new deck. But new players do not always mean a bad team. Dover-Eyota will be a team to watch.

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE EAGLES

Caledonia coach Brad King: "Dover as a team is so underrated. They always play hard and on a given night, if the other team isn’t bringing it, you’re going to get in trouble. That’s what is so fun about playing those guys. You know you’re going to get a heck of a game because of their effort and energy. You always get a heck of a battle out of those guys."

“I think they have some talent in the lower levels. He always gets them to play hard. Playing hard and great energy usually turns into good results. Talent doesn’t always win games in this conference. They graduated all five starters and some guys off the bench, but even some of those teams at the bottom have improved their programs. Sometimes it’s hard to see it in wins and losses because everyone else is so good."

P-E-M coach Jason Herber: “Dover has lost like seven guys. The first time you saw an underclassman was like their eighth man. You lose Brady Williams, alone, that’s just crushing. I mean he was all-Three Rivers for each of the last three years. Maybe four? For sure the last three years.”

Chatfield coach Jeff Debuhr: "It’s going to be a very difficult circumstance but they also have guys that put in the time and they have a lot of basketball players that can play. That’s a basketball town. That’s where it makes it hard. A lot of individual talent but there’s also a lot of teams that are bringing in new guys. And new guys doesn’t mean a step back, necessarily. They might have been sitting behind really good players. They might be really good players too, but they’ve been forced to just sit and wait their turn."

10. FILLMORE CENTRAL, 18 POINTS

2019-20 record: 5-23, 2-14 in conference play

The skinny: Fillmore Central still has a ways to go, but it has a legitimate No. 1 in Zach Haugerud. The senior guard will be able to score at all three levels, and he'll do it all for coach Brady O'Connor. Haidyn Gunderson (15.1 points per game) has graduated, so Haugerud is set up for a big usage rate. Now, they'll need to get Haugerud some help.

Coach Brady O'Connor says: "Zach had a heck of a year in the weight room. Really excited to see what he does if we ever get out there, if we can stay healthy –– we had a lot of injuries and illness last year. Once we got down and you see some of these schools on the schedule, it got tough. Some schools did lose some studs, so they might come back to us a little bit."

11. COTTER, 9 POINTS

2019-20 record: 2-25, 0-16 in conference play

The skinny: Last year was tough sledding for Cotter as it struggled to be competitive against its Three Rivers foes. But the Ramblers will return basically their entire roster, including leading scorer Connor Yocum (15.7 points per game). Cale Beckman was a big-time shooter and Payton Weifenbach and Charles Reilly filled it up too.

OPPOSING COACHES ON THE RAMBLERS

Lewiston-Altura coach Michael VanderPlas: "The kid from Cotter (Connor Yocum) can really play. He really stood out on that team last year, and I expect him to have a huge year."

PRESEASON ALL-THREE RIVERS TEAM

Player of the Year: Eli King, Caledonia (unanimous)

All-TRC Team

G Eli King, Caledonia (unanimous)

G Kooper Vaughn, St. Charles (unanimous)

G Austin Klug, Caledonia (7 votes)

G Reid Johnson, Chatfield (6 votes)

G Blake Herber, Plainview-Elgin-Millville (6 votes)

Just missed the cut: Thomas Menk, Lewiston-Altura (2 votes); Sam Privet, Caledonia (2 votes); Elvis Pina, Dover-Eyota (1 vote).