High School Boy's Basketball Sectional Final Preview & Picks

Only one more game until state next week in Madison! Here's a list of predictions and projections for who will make it to state.

Last night, I got to call Elkhorn vs. Westosha Central in Division 2 at Burlington. Here's the audio via 940 WFAW. Elkhorn led by double-digits at halftime and again a ways into the second half, but two big bench three-pointers got Westosha back in it and they closed out a 46-41 victory over Elkhorn.

Here's my picks for the 20 games on Saturday afternoon and evening.

You can see full brackets by going here

Division 1

Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #2 Sun Prairie over #1 Oshkosh North; #4 Arrowhead, #3 Brookfield East

End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Oshkosh North, #2 Sun Prairie, #6 Brookfield East, #9 Kettle Moraine.

Sectional 1: #1 Oshkosh North (24-1) vs #3 Stevens Point (20-5) at Marshfield (5pm)

With no Joey Hauser, Stevens Point managed to fly under the radar this season. Yet, here they are, knocking on the door for a trip to state. Standing in the way is Tyrese Halliburton and Oshkosh North, whose only loss this year is to Kaukauna. It's impressive this game may not get the proper hype it deserves, since the recent history of SPASH and the star power of Oshkosh North are on display. I picked North before the playoffs and I'll stick here. Oshkosh North over Stevens Point.

Sectional 2: #5 Sussex Hamilton (16-9) vs #3 Kettle Moraine (20-5) at Oconomowoc (1pm)

Kettle Moraine exacted revenge on Arrowhead, having lost twice to them this season. So, they're a game away from state, and standing in the way is Sussex Hamilton, owners of three double-digit playoff victories this season. Kettle Moraine actually already defeated Sussex Hamilton this season, and by 17 points, but that was back in December. I'll pick a repeat winner here. Kettle Moraine over Sussex Hamilton.

Sectional 3: #1 Sun Prairie (24-1) vs #3 Madison East (19-6) at Oregon (6pm)

Neither team had it easy in their Thursday night game, but both teams continued impressive winning streaks. Madison East was 6-6 and languishing in the middle part of the standings, and now has put together a 13-point run. Sun Prairie, a heavy favorite coming into the season, won their first outright conference title ever. Can Sun Prairie make it to state for the first time? Or will Madison East erase the memories of last year's sectional final against Madison Memorial, letting a close game slip away in the final minutes at Sun Prairie? I am picking Sun Prairie over Madison East but this will be an absolute battle on Saturday night.

Sectional 4: #4 Racine Park (21-4) vs #2 Brookfield East (23-2) at West Allis Central (1pm)

Racine Park eliminated Marquette, a surprise winner over top-seeded Franklin in the regional final. This will be the first game in which they are the lower seed in these playoffs. Brookfield East similarly has had a strange path through the brackets, beating #15, #10, and #6 on their way to this game. I'll roll with chalk here in what has been an upside-down bracket so far. Brookfield East over Racine Park.

State Seeding Projection: #1 Oshkosh North, #2 Sun Prairie, #3 Brookfield East, #4 Kettle Moraine

I am pretty set on 3 and 4. I think 1 and 2 could be debated any which way. I guess it depends on how you feel about the respective schedules here, but with Oshkosh North getting coaches' poll nods all year, I'll stick with how the coaches as a whole felt about the division. (Most of my seeding projections below will use that logic).

Division 2

Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Kaukauna over #3 La Crosse Central; #2 Monona Grove, #4 Pewaukee

End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Kaukauna, #2 La Crosse Central, #3 Milwaukee Washington, #4 Monona Grove, #6 Pewaukee

Sectional 1: #1 La Crosse Central (23-2) vs #5 Marshfield (14-11) at Stevens Point (1pm)

Marshfield got a surprise home game in the early part of the playoffs when they faced #9 Medford, winners over top-seeded Rhinelander, and continued their roll all the way to the sectional final. La Crosse Central, however, will be a much more difficult challenge than anything Marshfield has seen yet in these playoffs. I have it La Crosse Central over Marshfield. These #1 seeds are ALL really good.

Sectional 2: #1 Kaukauna (22-3) vs #3 Nicolet (16-9) at Manitowoc Lutheran (3pm)

Nicolet played in a relatively easy bracket, compared to some of the other D2 half-sectionals. Not that they are a bad team or anything--but Kaukauna has been tested far more this season. Kaukauna has been described as one of the best teams in the state, if not THE best team in the state. So I'll go Kaukauna over Nicolet.

Sectional 3: #1 Monona Grove (24-1) vs #2 Westosha Central (19-5) at Oregon (1pm)

I have seen a ton of Monona Grove this season. Fantastic, versatile, rangy team with multiple weapons on offense and defense. Going to be a nightmare for any team that sees them. I got my first look at Westosha Central last night in a big rally to beat Elkhorn and this could be a team that frustrates the free-flowing, high-flying Silver Eagles. The Falcons are adept at creating pressure, and will frustrate even the best ball-handlers. It's a plus for Monona Grove that they have multiple distributors. Plus, Westosha Central has seen big teams already in Waukesha West and Elkhorn (the latter with a 6'10" player) so having to square off with the size of Monona Grove won't be very daunting for the Falcons. I think Monona Grove has too many ways to beat a team, inside or outside, and should be winners here-- Monona Grove over Westosha Central.

Sectional 4: #1 Pewaukee (23-2) vs #1 Milwaukee Washington (22-3) at West Allis Central (5pm)

This is, effectively, the #4 vs. #5 game in the state (after Pewaukee held off Whitnall last night) for Division 2. I think if the other top seeds hold that the winner here will be the #4 seed and likely draw Waunakee next round. What is incredible is the depth of this side of the bracket. There were a few upsets, but the top lines emerge for the sectional final. I'll stick with my pick of Pewaukee winning the sectional, but wow the path they've had is impressive. Pewaukee over Milwaukee Washington.

State Seeding Projection: #1 Kaukauna, #2 La Crosse Central, #3 Monona Grove, #4 Pewaukee

I am amending slightly the seeding up top, but it won't change how I see the bracket playing out at state. La Crosse Central beat the team that beat Monona Grove, but it matters very little since I think they'll play each other. Kaukauna appears to be a lock as the top seed. This entire division is ridiculous in terms of talented teams and balance. You could slot one-loss Monona Grove anywhere from #1 to #4.

Division 3

Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Xavier over #2 Brown Deer; #4 Bloomer #3 Martin Luther

End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Xavier, #3 Waupun, #5 Wisconsin Dells, #6 Prescott, #8 East Troy, #10 Valders

Sectional 1: #1 Wisconsin Dells (24-1) vs #1 Prescott (23-2) at Menomonie (1pm)

Something in the water in the Wisconsin Dells this season. The girl's team makes its first-ever trip to state and now the boy's team is knocking on the door. Prescott enters as a favorite, however, in this match-up. First, Prescott will have the luxury of only having to go to Menomonie, which is a fantastic and large venue. Wisconsin Dells has an easy drive but a long one to go to Menomonie. Curious to see how Prescott and their experience pays off for them, since they've been challenged in this playoff run. Key to this one will be how well the teams hold up physically in what should be a rough-and-tumble contest. Prescott over Wisconsin Dells.

Sectional 2: #1 Xavier (25-0) vs #1 Valders (22-3) at Appleton East (2pm)

Xavier will see a pretty good defensive battle in their game against Valders. Many assume that the division is Xavier's to lose, but this is a tricky game since the scoring will be a little lower. However, the Hawks already had a game like that this playoffs, and it's a tall order to contain the shooting and transition game of Xavier. Xavier over Valders.

Sectional 3: #2 Edgerton (20-5) vs #3 East Troy (20-5) at Middleton (7pm)

Third time's the charm perhaps for Edgerton, but wow will they have a challenge. Since the teams weren't seeded together in the same half-sectional, Edgerton earned a higher mark here, but don't let that dictate how you see it playing out. The Tiders have been impressive all year, but how about East Troy. They've scrapped and fought their way through an incredibly difficult playoff bracket, avenging two of their season's losses along the way (no chance for the others--two of them are Big 8 Madison schools, one of which is still playing in the sectional final). I saw East Troy's early playoff win, rallying to survive and advance over Beloit Turner. Regardless, this Rock Valley rematch should be a classic. East Troy swept the season series, so I will go with that here. East Troy over Edgerton.

Sectional 4: #1 Waupun (24-1) vs #4 Kettle Moraine Lutheran (21-5) at Whitefish Bay (4pm)

Kettle Moraine Lutheran has put up some impressive scoring totals, but out-slugged Dominican to advance to the sectional final. Waupun has more or less kept things a little less dramatic in their playoff run. That "1" in the loss column for Waupun? Kettle Moraine Lutheran, who they earned a split with this season, winning the most recent matchup by six in February after losing by seven in January. It will be an East Central Conference championship game, with the winner going to state. Waupun over Kettle Moraine Lutheran.

State Seeding Projection: #1 Xavier, #2 Waupun, #3 Prescott, #4 East Troy

I probably over-thought Division 3 (same thing I did in girl's basketball, where I scored an oh-fer in predicting state teams) but this round is similarly difficult. Outside of Xavier, on an incredible winning streak and with no sight in end, you could talk me into any of the remaining six teams in three games making it to state with little argument.  If you take my four winners, I think this is how it shakes out. An interesting 1-4 with shooting vs. size, and the #2-#3 game a fairly solid draw too. D3 is a difficult division to project.

Division 4

Jimmie's Pre-Playoffs State Picks: #2 The Prairie School over #1 Mineral Point; #3 Marathon, #4 Osseo-Fairchild

End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #3 The Prairie School, #4 Clear Lake, #6 Mineral Point, #7 Pardeeville, #9 Roncalli

Sectional 1: #1 Clear Lake (24-0) vs #3 Durand (21-4) at New Richmond (1pm)

It was starting to feel like a Lakeland conference tournament for a minute for Clear Lake, but now they'll find themselves back in the Dunn St. Croix against Durand, who probably felt like they were in a Dairyland conference tournament in their own right. While Durand has had some quality games this year, including the playoffs, Clear Lake is one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the entire state. It's not as though the Lakeland was down or anything--there were some very good squads in the conference this year. So I'll go Clear Lake over Durand.

Sectional 2: #2 Marathon (21-4) vs #2 Shiocton (19-5) at Wausau East (1pm)

Once we get to smaller schools in the northeastern part of the state, that's the area I feel the least confident in making picks. Most of the games I call are in southern or western Wisconsin. To make matters even more difficult, each half-sectional had top seeds with several losses. So, I mostly trusted the coaches here. Shiocton sort of stood out as a contender off of the top line, given their schedule. Both teams have ripped through the playoffs to this point as well. I am keeping my pre-playoffs pick intact, so Marathon over Shiocton.

Sectional 3: #1 Mineral Point (21-4) vs #2 Pardeeville (22-3) at Baraboo (1pm)

One of the more surprising results from last night was Pardeeville taking down previously-unbeaten New Glarus. The Glarner Knights scrapped their way to a win over St. Mary's Springs the game before. So, we are denied a Mineral Point-New Glarus rematch, but this contest should be great in its own right. Mineral Point was a young, young team coming in, and played a rigorous schedule to beef up their experience in a hurry. Despite two close losses at the WBY Shootout against top-notch squads, the Pointers still look like a state tournament team. I'm going with the eye test here. Mineral Point over Pardeeville.

Sectional 4: #1 Roncalli (20-5) vs #2 The Prairie School (21-4) at Waukesha South (1pm)

Roncalli survived a game with a very good Howards Grove squad that went triple overtime, and their reward is a date with The Prairie School. Prairie School has won some difficult playoff match-ups already, so this game is one they'll come in already tested for. The Prairie School has also played Monona Grove and Xavier this season, at the WBY Shootout, who you can read about above in the D2 and D3 sectional finals, respectively. I'll roll with my pre-playoff state pick The Prairie School over Roncalli.

State Seeding Projection: #1 The Prairie School, #2 Clear Lake, #3 Mineral Point, #4 Marathon

Another division where seeding is impossible. Do you give Clear Lake the #1 by default if they make it as the lone undefeated team over multiple-loss other squads, who have played arguably more difficult schedules? I think that Mineral Point and The Prairie School are the best two remaining teams of the ones I've picked playing in the more difficult sectional finals, and it will be a test of the pre-state seeding procedure to get those two teams opposite each other (at least in one person's opinion). Really hard to figure how the coaches will proceed here. I'll go in order of end-of-season coaches' poll, but man, good luck at this seeding meeting.

Division 5

Jimmie's Pre-Playoff State Picks: #1 Bangor over #3 Sheboygan Lutheran; #2 Columbus Catholic, #4 McDonell Central

End-of-Season Coaches' Poll Ranked Teams Remaining: #1 Bangor, #2 Columbus Catholic, #5 South Shore, #6 Deerfield

Sectional 1: #1 South Shore (23-3) vs #3 McDonell Central (16-10) at Spooner (TBD)

McDonell has played a superior schedule this year and has had a more difficult path through the playoffs. That's why despite their record I have them winning in this game. Size and shooting are valuable in small-school basketball, and McDonell seems to have a factory of guys who are over six foot and can shoot from the wings. McDonell over South Shore.

Sectional 2: #1 Columbus Catholic (24-2) vs #3 Green Bay N.E.W. Lutheran (14-12) at Antigo (1pm)

See D-4 for how confident I am in picking northeastern Wisconsin games, but based solely on results in the tournament and on the season you'd have to lean Columbus Catholic. Columbus Catholic had two losses this season, one of which they avenged last night against Assumption. The other is to a D4 #2 seed (Marathon). Columbus Catholic over N.E.W. Lutheran.

Sectional 3: #1 Bangor (24-1) vs #7 Southwestern (14-12) at La Crosse Logan (TBD)

The tournament's ultimate Cinderella run continues, with a double-overtime shocker over top-seeded Seneca. By far the lowest seed remaining in the state, Southwestern will have its hands full with D5 favorite Bangor. The far southwestern Wisconsin squad will have about a size 22 glass slipper if they can win one more time and make it to state, especially considering Bangor has been considered the top team in D5 for much of the year. Bangor over Southwestern.

Sectional 4: #1 Deerfield (22-4) vs #2 Lourdes Academy (19-7) at Watertown (TBD)

A tough schedule strengthened Lourdes Academy, after losing five in a row from mid-December into early January, including twice at the WBY Shootout against tough customers. They haven't lost since January 5th in a non-conference game against Columbus, rampaging through the Trailways East. Deerfield has scattered its four losses around, but topped Barneveld in overtime (a defending champ) to get here. It's effectively a Trailways conference title game, with the winner advancing on to state. You could flip a coin, but I will take the team that bounced my playoff pick Sheboygan Lutheran, Oshkosh Lourdes over Deerfield.

State Seeding Projections: #1 Bangor, #2 Columbus Catholic, #3 Oshkosh Lourdes, #4 McDonell

I am keeping with Bangor winning the title, but am very intrigued by this final four. It should make for some entertaining Division 5 games, something you don't always get when there's a clear-cut favorite. Bangor is a favorite, but I don't know if they're going to win going away in their match-ups. In any event, it should be entertaining!

* * * * *

Overall, I believe Division 2 is the deepest at the top... with probably five teams relatively even heading into the quarterfinals, and three obviously great challengers there to try and knock one or two of them off.

I'm MOST confident in my D2 picks though, as a result of having some of the top-line teams still playing. D1 is also a pretty confident selection. D3 is a mess, beyond Xavier--I am fairly sure Xavier will win state (or at least be the favorite) but have no idea which three teams will join them. 

The D4 seeding will be the most interesting seeding meeting I think, regardless of participants. I am hopeful they make The Prairie School and Mineral Point play in different semifinals. In Division 5, I have moved along three non-public schools to the final four, and as is often the case in D5 all of the teams have a case to move up in seeding based on competition.

We will have continuing coverage from the Kohl Center next week here at The Big 1070, and also will have coverage of Saturday's sectional finals on thebig1070.com as well.

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