The first-ever five-division WIAA boys basketball torunament tips off later this week. Plenty of observers, myself included, have offered their opionions about whether this five-division plan is good or bad for high school basketball in this state, and whether there are other options that could be better. For now, I’m going to put that topic aside–let’s just watch this tournament unfold, and then offer up the observations afterward.
However, as has been my custom prior to many of the WIAA tourneys, I’ll try to navigate my way through the brackets and see how close I can come to getting the state tournament field picked correctly. I’m armed with plenty of confidence after correctly picking 9 of the 12 teams at WIAA state hockey.
It’s interesting to wonder how these brackets would have looked a few years ago, when Eau Claire North wound up as the local sectional representative in back-to-back seasons. But that was then, this is now. The Huskies outlasted Hudson in an epic overtime battle in the 2009 regional final, but this season’s matchup comes in a regional semifinal (the only semi in that entire corner of the bracket–kind of like an NCAA ”play-in” game).
North’s lone win this season was at home over Hudson, so the Huskies should have some confidence going on the road, although they lost by 19 on the Raiders’ home court in the earlier matchup. Since that win over Hudson, however, ECN has lost three straight by a combined total of 52 points. If head coach Aric Carpenter can sell his guys on the philosophy that the regular season record doesn’t matter, then the Huskies have a fighting chance in this matchup. North should be a loose team heading on the road, and if shooters like Alex Cole and Tyler Hermann heat up, the Huskies should compete. However, teams tend to shoot better in their own gym, so, I’ll give this one to Hudson.
Still, whoever wins this game may be able to give top-seeded D.C. Everest a battle in the regional final. Hudson only lost by 4 on DCE’s court during the BRC/WVC Challenge over the holidays. That being said, I’ll go with the Evergreens over the Raiders in another close one.
La Crosse Central at Wausau West should be an entertaining game, but I’ll stick with home court advantage and say the Warriors will edge the Red Raiders. Likewise, if Chippewa Falls vs. Superior was at a neutral site, I’d lean toward the Cardinals, because in Tyson Kalien, Chi-Hi is the one team in this entire section that has a player who’s capable of going off for 30+ points on a given night. However, the game is on the Spartans’ home court, and in Joel Lindberg, Superior has the section’s most complete player.
Eau Claire Memorial has some matchup issues with #2 seed Marshfield. The Tigers lineup boasts 5 players 6-5 or better, including 6-9 Cale Zuiker (17.1 ppg), a Youngstown State recruit. The tallest Old Abes regular, meanwhile, is 6-4 Pat Hince. Here’s another instance where I’d be tempted to pick ECM in an upset if the game were at the Eagles’ Nest. But it’s not…so I’ll take the Tigers.
Sectional semis: Wausau West upsets DCE, Superior edges Marshfield
Sectional final: Superior over Wausau West
Super Tuesday: Bay Port defeats Superior
Other Super Tuesday games: Arrowhead over Wisconsin Rapids, Milwaukee Riverside over Madison Memorial, Milwaukee Hamilton over Burlington
New Richmond’s only loss this season was by 15 points at Middle Border Conference rival Baldwin-Woodville, an up-and-down team that wound up 14-8 overall. B-W also played the Tigers tough in New Richmond, before falling by 3. Here’s the good news for NR: B-W drops down to Division 3. NR already has a win over River Falls this season, plus preseason section favorite Onalaska has been decimated by injuries, so I’ll say the Tigers, with extremely underrated coach Rick Montreal orchestrating things from the bench, run the table all the way to Madison.
Regional quarterfinals: Hayward over Menomonie, Rice Lake over Ashland, Tomah over Sparta.
Regional semifinals: New Richmond over Hayward, River Falls over Rice Lake, Onalaska over Tomah, La Crosse Logan over Holmen.
Regional finals: New Richmond over River Falls, Onalaska over La Crosse Logan
Sectional semifinals: New Richmond over Onalaska, Merrill over Antigo
Sectional final: New Richmond over Merrill
Other sectional winners: Waunakee, Seymour, Wauwatosa East
Plenty of local teams that used to be in Division 2, drop down for this season, creating a fairly entertaining bracket. Of those teams, the best is 20-2 Ladysmith. The Lumberjacks aren’t unbeatable–they lost their opener to Cameron, plus a late-season game at Hayward (scoring 59 points in each loss)–but they’re the one team that has a chance to knock off state power La Crosse Aquinas. In Eric Effertz (14 ppg), the ‘Jacks have one of the most dynamic players in the section, but Ladysmith’s real strength is its balance: Ryley Closs averages 12.5 ppg, Brent Sisko 11.4, Todd Sarauer 9.4, Zach Mulholland 8.1. However, there’s no better player in this section than Aquinas sophomore Bronson Koenig, who’s already received a scholarship offer from North Carolina, among other Division I programs, including both Wisconsin and Marquette.
Regional quarterfinals: Somerset over Amery, SCC over SCF, Cumberland over Bloomer, Spooner over Barron, Northwestern over Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Ellsworth over Durand, Baldwin-Woodville over Mondovi, Neillsville over Arcadia, BRF over West Salem.
Regional semifinals: Unity over Somerset, Osceola over SCC, Ladysmith over Cumberland, Spooner over Northwestern, Altoona over Ellsworth, Baldwin-Woodville over Prescott, Aquinas over Neilsville, G-E-T over BRF.
Regional finals: Osceola over Unity, Ladysmith over Spooner, Altoona over Baldwin-Woodville, Aquinas over G-E-T.
Sectional semifinals: Ladysmith over Osceola, Aquinas over Altoona.
Sectional final: Ladysmith (yes, I’m going out on a limb here, but in a one-game situation, I think the Lumberjacks catch the Blugolds napping)
Other sectional winners: Lakeside Lutheran, Roncalli, Dominican.
A Regis vs. Blair-Taylor state semifinal game is a real possibility, but both teams will have to navigate their way through their respective sectional brackets. The Ramblers have been good all season, but as so often happens with a Bill Uelmen-coached team, Regis seems to be playing its best when it counts the most. Beyond that, Uelmen now has athletic 6-3 senior Joe Lorenz back in the playing rotation–Lorenz missed most of the season with an injury suffered in the Ramblers’ final football game. Speaking of athleticism, there aren’t many better than Blair-Taylor 6-3 senior Hank Kujak. If I weren’t on the WIAA broadcast crew, I’d probably buy a ticket to watch this game…but if it does happen, my guess is that I’ll have a pretty good seat.
Chippewa Falls Sectional
Regional quarterfinals: Glenwood City over Clear Lake, Webster over Boyceville, Chequamegon over Washburn, Phillips over Hurley, Elk Mound over Augusta, O-F over Fall Creek, Colfax over Cadott, Abby over O-W, S-B over Athens.
Regional semifinals: Grantsburg over Glenwood City, Spring Valley over Webster, Cameron over Chequamegon, Flambeau over Phillips, Regis over Elk Mound, Colfax over O-F, Colby over Abby, Thorp over S-B.
Regional finals: Spring Valley over Grantsburg, Cameron over Flambeau, Regis over Colfax, Colby over Thorp.
Sectional semifinals: Spring Valley over Cameron, Regis over Colby.
Sectional final: Regis over Spring Valley.
Regional quarterfinals: The only upset (i.e., a lower seed beating a higher seed) I’m forecasting is Eleva-Strum over Necedah.
Regional semifinals: Form prevails, with the higher seeded teams advancing.
Regional finals: Ditto
Sectional semifinals: Blair-Taylor over Westby, Cuba City over Deerfield.
Sectional final: Blair-Taylor over Cuba City (although it’s tough to pick against a Jerry Pettitgoue-coached team–ever)
Other sectional winners: Marathon, Laconia
Another instance where we could have an all-local state semifinal matchup, and a dilemma for those of us on the broadcast crew. We love having Cuba City coach Jerry Pettigoue and Benton coach Jim Blaine as color commentators, but you know both guys would much rather be coaching at state. We don’t take offense–hopefully, they won’t take any from my “homer” picks against them…
Regional quarterfinals: no upsets
Regional semifinals: no upsets
Regional finals: Luck over Siren, Mellen over Drummond, Clayton over Gilman, Marshfield Columbus over Prentice
Sectional semifinals: Luck over Mellen, Clayton over Marshfield Columbus
Sectional final: Clayton over Luck
La Crosse Central Sectional
Regional quarterfinals: no upsets
Regional semifinals: no upsets
Regional finals: Gilmanton over Plum City, Royall over Hillsboro, Seneca over Wauzeka-Stuben, Benton over Potosi
Sectional semifinals: Gilmanton over Royall, Benton over Seneca
Sectional final: Gilmanton over Benton
Other sectional winners: GB NEW Lutheran, Randolph
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to post your comments below. We’re almost to the time when we’re done talking about what might happen–now we’ll get to see things decided on the court, as they should be. This is a very special time of the year, so make sure you get out to a few games along the tournament trail. As always, we in the WQOW News 18 Sports Department, plus the WIAA Network, will be working long hours to provide outstanding coverage throughout the next weeks.
Good luck to all the teams and coaches, and we’ll see you in Madison!
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on February 28, 2011