The Wisconsin state high school boys’ basketball tournament tips off this week with teams across the state looking to make history by hoisting the gold ball in Madison next month.  We start our preview of the tournament with a look at the Division 1 tournament and some top players who should make an impact…

Note – Everything will be listed in alphabetical order

FAVORITES
KIMBERLY

A #1 seed after an exceptional 20-2 season, the Fox Valley Association Conference Champions are a legitimate threat to capture the Division 1 state title.  A three headed monster that includes seniors Levi Nienhaus-Borchert and Reed Miller along with junior Jake Buchanan bring balance and the ability to score from multiple levels to the offensive attack.  Borchert is a beast on the glass and as a whole Kimberly checks a lot of boxes in any matchup and they have a number of solid role players that can show up on any given night.

WHY KIMBERLY WILL WIN
Teams will take them lightly and when the final horn sounds Borchert will have posted some huge double double performances while dominating the paint allowing Miller, Buchanan, and the supporting cast to offer up the balance and depth needed for a state tournament run.  For Kimberly to win they’ll need to be efficient and tougher every time they take the court and value every possession regardless of the game or circumstance.

WHY KIMBERLY WON’T WIN
Athletically they don’t matchup with a couple of the other teams and in the end the depth of other programs combined with the size and athleticism will be difficult for Kimberly to overcome.

MADISON EAST
I don’t want to say they’ve surprised people this season but I don’t think too many expected a 21-1 mark on their way to a #1 seed except for perhaps coaches and players inside the Madison East program.  They’ve had an exceptional year and the Big Eight Conference champions have an electric high school caliber talent in 2020 PG Anthony Washington whose played the alpha role and delivered some high level performances this season.  East also boasts senior guard Montae Thompson giving them an excellent backcourt that can score in bunches.  Role players like Keonte Jones, Jevon Boyton, Marcus Justice, etc. have also had some solid performances this season giving East some depth and balance as well.  They’re quick and athletic and they’re a problem for anyone they play.

WHY EAST WILL WIN
Washington and Thompson will come up with big performances every game and the role players will take the next step with one of them playing the best he’s ever played.  In the end East will create enough chaos with their quickness to cause turnovers and they’re athleticism will push them over the top.

WHY EAST WON’T WIN
Other teams size, experience, and depth will be too much to overcome later in the tournament and eventually they’ll match up with a team that can counter the exploits of Washington with big performances of their own and match their athleticism while having more depth and balance than East can overcome.

SUSSEX HAMILTON
The Greater Metro conference champions basically went wire to wire this season with their only in-state blemish being a loss to powerhouse Nicolet until they ran into a hungry and well coached Brookfield East team late last week who really put it on them.  Hamilton is still the favorite and they boast sophomore Patrick Baldwin and a team that lost in the state title game last season.  Juniors Carson Smith, J.T. Hoytink, and Lucas Finnessy combine with senior Tyler Ellingson and sophomore Tanner Resch to provide most of the offensive attack alongside Baldwin.  They can really shoot the basketball and when they execute and are hitting shots they’re easily the best Division 1 team in the state.  Baldwin at his best can’t be stopped and when he is in full alpha mode there isn’t a player in the Division 1 state tournament that can cover him.  They are experienced, well coached, and have the start power along with the balance and role players to run the table.

WHY SUSSEX HAMILTON WILL WIN
They’re the best team with the best player with an experienced group of players that can play and make shots.  Baldwin is such a difficult matchup that his ability to score, rebound, and create frees up the other players who have shown an ability to make shots consistently this season.  

WHY SUSSEX HAMILTON WON’T WIN
They will have an off night like they did against Brookfield East or someone will try to be more visible than they need to be and take some ill-advised shots at big moments creating an upset opportunity.  For them to lose it will take a combination of a great game from another team combined with Hamilton not showing up mentally and not making shots or good decisions with the basketball.  

WAUKESHA WEST
The consensus top team in Division 1 in the state by most to start the season, West didn’t jump out of the gate on fire but they quietly just got better and better and once they were fully healthy they made their run and captured the Classic Eight title.  They have size with senior David Skogman and their depth combined with size might be the best in Division 1 with maybe Hamilton matching them.  Senior Chris Bready can be a problem on any given night with his size and athleticism, Sophomore Cameron Palesse has been solid all season in a supporting role to the seniors, and senior Rocky Martinez has been solid as well.  They have four legitimate scorers that have to be accounted for and their size combined with skill and ability to score in multiple ways from multiple levels is a problem for any team they play.

WHY WAUKESHA WEST WILL WIN
Skogman will have big performances and their balance across the board combined with the athleticism of Martinez and Bready will be too much for teams to overcome.  At some point they’ll spread the floor allowing Palesse to attack off the bounce and when that doesn’t work they’ll give the ball to Bready in isolation and he will attack and get to the rim.  

WHY WAUKESHA WEST WON’T WIN
They are at their best with the lead when they can spread the floor a bit and create matchup problems for Palesse and Bready.  If you get the lead early and take them out of their comfort zone, make Skogman run the floor from rim to rim, you contest their perimeter looks, and are able to play solid defense on the ball to reduce dribble penetration they’ll struggle.  That’s a lot but the reality is they have a legitimate chance to capture the Division 1 state title for a reason, they’re good team.  If they don’t show up or show up to go through the motions early they can be beat.   

FIVE IMPACT PLAYERS TO PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO
Patrick Baldwin Jr. – 2021 – G/F – Sussex Hamilton

He has the ability to score 30 plus points whenever he wants and his ability to rebound and create with a 6-10 frame is unmatched in the Division 1 state tournament.  He’s the #1 sophomore in the country and one of the best pure shooters in the country regardless of class.  His ability to impact the game is unmatched in the Division 1 state tournament when he’s at his best.

Carter Gilmore – 2020 – F – Arrowhead 
Arrowhead is a bit of a sleeper here and the reason is Gilmore whose 23 point 20 rebound 9 assist effort this past week showed once again what he’s capable of.  A triple double performance earlier this season in a win over Waukesha West was huge and he has the ability to step up big allowing the others to do their thing and giving Arrowhead a sleeper’s chance to make a run.

Levi Nienhaus-Borchart – 2019 – F – Kimberly
For Kimberly to win he will need to be a monster around the basket on both ends.  He has 20-20 ability and if he gets on a run like that every game Kimberly will be very difficult to beat.

David Skogman – 2019 – F/C – Waukesha West
The top interior prospect in the senior class and a Division 1 prospect who’s holding high major offers right now, Skogman is a matchup problem because of his size and ability to play away from the basket.  If Skogman has a huge tournament West has a legitimate chance to capture the state championship.

Anthony Washington – 2020 – PG – Madison East
He’s quick, athletic, and skilled and at his best he’s a problem for opposing teams.  His ability to score and attack off the bounce while knocking down shots makes him the one guy for East that has to be accounted for.  Expect a lot of zone defenses against East in the tournament and Washington is the type that if he gets it going he can really carry them deep into the tournament.  

SLEEPERS
Arrowhead 

They’ve already shown an ability to beat one of the favorites with an early season dominant win over Waukesha West.  Junior Carter Gilmore’s ability to fill the boxes combined with senior guard Tyler Gouin’s ability to make shots can create problems for opposing teams.  They could pull off some upsets on their way to a deep tournament run if everyone plays at a high level.  

Brookfield Central
Despite the loss of senior Gage Malensek Central still has senior Cole Nau and sophomores Ben Nau and David Joplin amongst others.  While a state championship run is tough to project, they have the ability to run deep and pull off an “upset” or two at their best.

Brookfield East
They’re very well coached and they compete and play hard.  While they don’t have any mid or high major Division 1 prospects or any size, but what they do have is a team that is efficient, plays defense, and will execute.  They completely dominated Sussex Hamilton this past week and that has to be respected.  They can beat anyone on any given night if taken lightly more so because they believe they can and they play together.  

Homestead
Head Coach Sean Crider has done a great job with them this season and they put a scare into Nicolet both times they played until the Knights pulled away in the second half.  They execute, they have Ciurlik, Waddell, etc. who can score and they play tough and hard on most nights.  Very similar to Brookfield East with maybe more offensive firepower, Homestead can beat anyone who takes them lightly in the tournament and they have the ability to pull off an upset or two as well.  

Racine Park
They’re led by seniors Nobal Days and Larry Canady and on any given night at their best they can deliver a big performance.  Consistency is a big thing for Park over the past couple of years but they have the athleticism and talent to pull off a shocker or two in the tournament if they are at they’re best.  

PICKS
Final Four in Madison – Sussex Hamilton, Madison East, Waukesha West, and Kimberly

State Championship – Sussex Hamilton over Waukesha West