CEDAR RAPIDS — Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ basketball coaches are never shy when it comes to telling you about the quality of their league.
They’re proud men, for one. And they’re right on, for another.
The MVC is great, perhaps never greater than it is this season.
“This is my 13th year, and I’d say it’s the best it has been,” said Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson.
This isn’t the late 2000s/early 2010s, an era when you had as big a collection of high-end talent as you’ll ever see around here. Marcus Paige, Wes Washpun, Jeremy Morgan, Wyatt Lohaus, Josh Oglesby, Matt Bohannon and Jarrod Uthoff all played at the same time, which was incredible.
There are Division I guys again this year (such as A.J. Green of Cedar Falls, Patrick McCaffery of Iowa City West, Matt Mims of Cedar Rapids Xavier, Trey Hutcheson of Linn-Mar and Keegan and Kris Murray of Cedar Rapids Prairie). But the 2017-18 season is more about parity, where every team has its merits.
There are no gimmes.
“Top to bottom, there is not a single night off,” said Cedar Rapids Jefferson Coach Brandon Horman. “We’ve got the showcase talent with McCaffery and A.J., Hutcheson, you name it. There are Division I basketball players all around. But the teams are stronger than ever. You are going to win some and lose some. It’s a battle all season long.”
West unquestionably is the best team in the MVC, 9-0 and top ranked in Class 4A. But the rest of the league is a virtual free-for-all.
Dubuque Hempstead is 8-1 and ranked seventh in 4A, its only loss to West. The Mustangs are tied with Dubuque Senior and Cedar Falls atop the Valley Division at 5-1.
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All 14 teams have won at least three games. Linn-Mar has beaten Cedar Rapids Kennedy twice but lost to Cedar Rapids Washington. Iowa City High has an upset win against Cedar Falls. Cedar Rapids Prairie came from 26 points down at halftime to beat two-time defending Class 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier. Senior beat Prairie the other night in double-overtime.
Crazy, just crazy.
“I think the quality of the league this year is pretty good,” said West Coach Steve Bergman. “You’ve got A.J. and Patrick and Trey, then a bunch of kids who have committed to schools like Upper Iowa. So it’s really good. I don’t think the bottom (of the league) is ever bad, but, this year, it’s better than it’s been.”
“There’s no bottom, just isn’t a bottom,” Robertson said. “Anybody can get anybody most nights. The top, I think, obviously, West is still the best team in our league. But I think there are a whole bunch of us who are pretty good, and we’re going to beat each other up.”
That will make the postseason especially interesting this year. Class 3A and 4A district/substate pods are scheduled to be released Jan. 26 by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, with seeds coming in February.
There will be blemishes on the resumes of a lot of MVC teams.
“Record wise, yeah, our league is going to reflect that,” Robertson said. “Where maybe it doesn’t look as good as some of the records in the CIML and the MAC. But I think when it comes to March, I’ll take our teams against anybody.”
AROUND THE HOOP
— Senior guard Matt Mims of Cedar Rapids Xavier is one of five Iowa preps to be nominated for the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game. The others are Joe Wieskamp of Muscatine, Garrett Sturtz of Newton, A.J. Green of Cedar Falls and Elijah Hazekamp of Sioux City Heelan. A South Dakota State signee, Mims is averaging 21.8 points per game. Over 700 boys’ and girls’ players have been nominated nationwide for the 41st-annual game, which is March 28 at Atlanta.
— Lisbon’s Brett Givens scored 19 points Tuesday night to help Lisbon past Springville, 75-45. That put the senior guard over the 1,000-point mark for his career.
— North Linn junior guard Jake Hilmer set a school and Tri-Rivers Conference record with 13 steals in his team’s 75-34 win Tuesday night against Calamus-Wheatland. Hilmer had a triple-double that also included 30 points and 10 assists. He leads the state by a wide margin in assists and steals and is eighth in scoring (25.8).
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— Western Dubuque Coach Dennis Geraghty was believed to have picked up his 500th career victory last Friday night, but, after a re-check, he discovered that wasn’t the case. Inadvertantly credited with seven more wins than he actually has, Geraghty’s career mark stands at 493-341.
“In my mind, this mistake needed to be addressed today,” Geraghty said Monday in an e-mail distributed to various media members. “I wish I would have checked this before the season, but I didn’t. Consequently, I have not reached 500 wins yet ... Sorry for the confusion, but I just wanted to clarify this and not get credit for something that wasn’t earned yet. Trying to teach integrity and honesty to our young men, this would have been very difficult for me to do without bringing this to your attention."