We are off to the Kohl Center for state basketball! Here's a look at each game, as well as predictions both old and new to see how things shook out. Spoiler alert: There were lots of upsets (at least in my mind) so the re-draw was pretty necessary!
Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #2 Sun Prairie over #1 Oshkosh North; #4 Arrowhead, #3 Brookfield Central
Actual Seeding: #1 Oshkosh North, #2 Sun Prairie, #3 Brookfield East, #4 Sussex Hamilton
End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Oshkosh North, #2 Sun Prairie, #6 Brookfield East
Semifinal 1: #1 Oshkosh North (25-1) vs #4 Sussex Hamilton (17-9) - Friday 6:35pm
Tyrese Halliburton gets to state as one of the biggest stars in the field regardless of division. Oshkosh North enters as a top seed against upstart Sussex Hamilton, who got in through a topsy-turvy bracket. Division 1 is one of the easier predictions given that Oshkosh North and Sun Prairie have seemingly been destined to meet at some point at state, and now it would potentially be a title game. While Sussex Hamilton has navigated its way here, the feeling is that Oshkosh North is perhaps the team to beat in Wisconsin, with their lone loss coming to D2 favorite Kaukauna. Oshkosh North over Sussex Hamilton.
Semifinal 2: #2 Sun Prairie (25-1) vs #3 Brookfield East (24-2) - Friday 8:15pm
This will be the first time in the playoffs #3 Brookfield East has faced a seed higher than them, after knocking down #15, #10, #6, and #4 on their way to state. So, it's safe in saying this will be their toughest playoff game this season. Sun Prairie's top-line talent gets much of the attention (and for good reason--Jalen Johnson is as good of a basketball player as you'll find, and senior Marlon Ruffin is electric), but dig into the outstanding depth of this team and you have players who have maxed out their roles, such as future Wisconsin football player Marty Strey, who is a legitimate defensive stopper typically drawing huge assignments, especially in the ultra-competitive Big 8. Sun Prairie over Brookfield East.
Championship: #2 Sun Prairie over #1 Oshkosh North
This is the title game everyone outside of parts of southeastern Wisconsin is rooting for. With all that can happen in a single-elimination tournament, we are one more round of games away from a juggernaut of a final. I'll give the Cardinals the very slight edge here. I've seen both teams, and it's a coin flip. My next order of criteria, after the eye test, statistical analysis, and gut feeling, is blatant homerism.
Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Kaukauna over #3 La Crosse Central; #2 Monona Grove, #4 Pewaukee
Actual Seeding: #1 Kaukauna, #2 La Crosse Central, #3 Milwaukee Washington, #4 Westosha Central
End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Kaukauna, #2 La Crosse Central, #3 Milwaukee Washington
Semifinal 1: #1 Kaukauna (23-3) vs #4 Westosha Central (20-5) - Friday 1:35pm
I saw Kaukauna at the WBY Shootout in December, and was amazed at the shooting and speed on display in a couple of big wins, including a dominant performance over short-handed Waunakee, minus a good chunk of their rotation after beating Whitnall the night before. Jordan McCabe is the most exciting player you'll see on a high school basketball court in Wisconsin this year, and it's not hyperbole. His passing ability is breathtaking. I called Westosha Central's sectional semifinal against Elkhorn last week, in which Elkhorn held a pair of double-digit leads in the second half on the Falcons. However, two big three pointers by Joey Gilliland [Ed. Note: NOT David... sorry, Mr. Gilliland!] off the bench got the Falcons back in it, and they took their first lead of the game under two minutes to play before Jaeden Zackery took over and led Westosha Central to victory. I really like Westosha Central, and the way they beat Monona Grove is certainly notable. I feel like Kaukauna might be the best team in the state, right up there with Sun Prairie and Oshkosh North. It will be entertaining to see the Westosha Central pressure-and-trap defense try to turn over one of the most incredible point guards our state has ever seen. Kaukauna over Westosha Central.
Semifinal #2: #2 La Crosse Central (24-2) vs #3 Milwaukee Washington (23-3) - Friday 3:15pm
Division 2 is crazy this year. This could very well be one of the best semifinal games of the entire tournament, and for those going in to see the D1 semifinals, maybe worth picking up a day pass and spending the entire afternoon and evening at the Kohl Center. Milwaukee Washington has lost one game this season in the state of Wisconsin--in their opener, against an outstanding Brown Deer squad all the way back in November. They've had a few reasonably close games this season, but no losses to a team from Wisconsin in 23 tries since that loss to Brown Deer. La Crosse Central scheduled aggressively this season, against the Big Rivers and in a couple of showcases, with their only losses coming to a good D1 team in Eau Claire North in their opener, and a loss to rival Onalaska, who they beat twice this season after that loss in January. I am giving the slight nod to Milwaukee Washington, as they have had a more difficult playoff path. The 2/3 seeding didn't really matter here--seemed like 1/4 was pretty well locked in considering the season as a whole. Milwaukee Washington over La Crosse Central.
Championship: #1 Kaukauna over #3 Milwaukee Washington
As stated above, Kaukauna might be the best team in the state, and split with potential D1 champion Oshkosh North this season. I think a Kaukauna-La Crosse Central championship would bring a lot of attention as well considering the players involved.
Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Xavier over #2 Brown Deer; #4 Bloomer #3 Martin Luther
Actual Seeding: #1 Valders, #2 East Troy, #3 Prescott, #4 Kettle Moraine Lutheran [Ed. Note: Jimmie is never allowed to pick D3 again, going 0-8 in boys' and girls' basketball predictions]
End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #6 Prescott, #8 East Troy, #10 Valders
Semifinal 1: #1 Valders (23-3) vs #4 Kettle Moraine Lutheran (22-5) - Thursday 1:35pm
True to form, Valders kept the scoring down and shocked Xavier 59-57 in the sectional final, turning one of Division 3's projected easier brackets to predict into an absolute free-for-all. It's not house money for Valders, however, as they enter as the #1 seed in a field loaded with potential. Both teams are capable of winning any style of game, although the scoring will be a tad lower than what you might see in some of the other games. KML's furious second-half rally against Waupun to take down their East Central Conference rivals puts them in to the wide-open Division 3 state field. Valders also played Waupun this season, losing narrowly near the beginning of this season. Valders over Kettle Moraine Lutheran.
Semifinal 2: #2 East Troy (21-5) vs #3 Prescott (24-2) - Thursday 3:15pm
Prescott has had a pretty difficult path through the playoffs, but it's one they've made before. It's a strong correlation between deep playoff trips and sustained success at programs because of all the extra practice a team can get in... plus, who doesn't like playing for a winner? East Troy, on the other hand, has played in several down-to-the-wire games, including a game I called in their regional opener against Beloit Turner, in which East Troy had to rally and hold off a pesky Turner team in the final minutes. This is one seriously under-the-radar great game at state. I'd expect a low-scoring affair to favor East Troy, as that has been their key to victory in some tough playoff battles, but the Trojans are more than capable of hanging with high-flying Prescott, who averages north of 70 points per outing. East Troy over Prescott.
Championship: #1 Valders over #2 East Troy
Much like the girl's basketball bracket, I am trusting the coaches here. I could argue for any of the four teams in this division easily. I am rolling with chalk since one of the usual measures--how well a team does in close games--in picking games applies to all four squads in D3. You can ignore some of East Troy's record since they took on a very ambitious non-conference schedule, although they are only allowed four games outside of the Rock Valley (they played D1 sectional final loser Madison East, as well as perennial Big 8 contender Madison Memorial, this season). This particular match-up would feature some outstanding defense.
Jimmie's Pre-Playoffs State Picks: #2 The Prairie School over #1 Mineral Point; #3 Marathon, #4 Osseo-Fairchild
Actual Seeding: #1 Roncalli, #2 Clear Lake, #3 Marathon, #4 Pardeeville
End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #4 Clear Lake, #7 Pardeeville, #9 Roncalli
Semifinal 1: #1 Roncalli (21-5) vs #4 Pardeeville (23-3) - Thursday 6:35pm
Roncalli took down The Prairie School to get to state. Two of Roncalli's five losses are to Valders, the #1 seed in D3. Pardeeville, of the Trailways, defeated a young, talented Mineral Point squad and the upset pushed them into the state semifinals. It doesn't seem obvious, but my gut feeling is that Roncalli will be a heavy favorite in this semifinal based on the schedule strength of each team. While the Trailways has had a ton of playoff success, Roncalli battles bigger schools during the season. Roncalli over Pardeeville.
Semifinal 2: #2 Clear Lake (25-0) vs #3 Marathon (22-4) - Thursday 8:15pm
With Marathon, it's been a breeze through the playoff field. For Clear Lake, it hasn't been a breeze, but they've won with some stellar defensive work, their trademark this season. Clear Lake played in a showcase at the Target Center back in January, and also in Glenwood City's annual holiday tournament. I think a lower-scoring game is probably waiting here, maybe the first team to get to 50 wins. Regardless, it will be a pretty good semifinal between two teams from the northern part of the state. Clear Lake over Marathon.
Championship: #1 Roncalli over #2 Clear Lake
The key will be solving the riddle of Clear Lake's defense. Clear Lake is the lone remaining undefeated team in the state. It's hard to discount the strength of schedule for Roncalli--they seem more tested. Then again, it is hard to win every single game in a season, and allow the low total of points that Clear Lake has given up this season (just once has a team scored more than 57 points against Clear Lake this season). I'm leaning Roncalli to win state regardless of the match-up here.
Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Bangor over #3 Sheboygan Lutheran; #2 Columbus Catholic, #4 McDonell Central
Actual Seeding: #1 Bangor, #2 Deerfield, #3 McDonell Central, #4 Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran
End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Bangor, #6 Deerfield
Semifinal 1: #1 Bangor (25-1) vs #4 Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran (15-12) - Friday 9:05am
Bangor enters this game a heavy favorite, and already downed one Cinderella run last week by beating Southwestern in the sectional final. The D5 field is often unpredictable but Bangor might be the heaviest favorite in any division this season, now that Xavier is out in D3. Bangor over Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran.
Semifinal 2: #2 Deerfield (23-4) vs #3 McDonell Central (17-10) - Friday 10:45am
The challengers to Bangor for a state title will play in what should be an entertaining Friday morning game. Deerfield has already bested some solid competition, including Barneveld, en route to the state semifinals. McDonell plays in a rugged Cloverbelt Conference against larger schools, so you can forgive part of their record here. Seems like Archie Sherbinow's crew can really turn up the heat in the playoffs once they play schools closer to their enrollment. The least-popular pick in Dane County is me picking against Deerfield... McDonell over Deerfield.
Championship: #1 Bangor over #3 McDonell
It isn't particularly an inspired pick, but Bangor is probably the largest favorite in any division this postseason. D1 has co-favorites, D2 is stacked, D3 is wide-open, and D4 is probably just as much so. Bangor has been #1 seemingly wire-to-wire.
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See you at the Kohl Center! The state basketball tournaments mark a high point in the sports calendar for me, with the boy's tournament wrapping up the winter sports season just before the snow melts and we hit the diamonds for baseball and softball here in a couple of weeks.