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Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 WIAA Boys Basketball Tournament

My exposure to high school basketball in Wisconsin has been minimal this year, but that does not make tourney time any less exciting. Finally, it's that time of the year when you can cheer on your alma mater or just support your local teams. We get to marvel at the most talented players in the state and in some cases, future collegiate stars.

The WIAA boys basketball tournament kicks off around the state once again on Tuesday, Feb. 19 with first-round regional action. The Division 1 bracket features some familiar names back in positions of power, like Madison Memorial, Verona, Kaukauna, Sheboygan North, Brookfield Central, Wauwatosa East, Milwaukee Vincent and undefeated (20-0) and top-ranked Milwaukee Washington.

Over the last five years in Division 1, an average of five #1 seeds advanced to the 8-team state tournament at the Kohl Center each season. In fact, 37 of the last 40 participants at State have been at least a 3-seed. There are exceptions, however, as evidenced by the 2007 results which saw both a 4-seed (Milwaukee King) and an 8-seed (Kimberly) crash the party. The seedings also were changed last year to award only nine #1 seeds rather than two in each sectional. (Sectional 1 has had two #1 seeds the past two seasons for some reason.).

History tells us at least two of these top seeds will not make it to State: Eau Claire North/Wausau West (Sec. 1), Bay Port, Madison Memorial, Sheboygan North, Germantown, Verona, Racine Horlick, Milwaukee Washington. An experienced Wausau East team could knock off the co-top seeds in Sectional 1 and Vincent looms as the 2-seed in Germantown's sectional. Defending champion Oshkosh West is seeded fourth in Sectional 4 (featuring Sheboygan North) and the always tough Milwaukee King is also a 4-seed in Washington's sectional.

Locally, undefeated Waunakee (20-0) seems like an unlikely underdog. But the Warriors are only four years removed from Division 2 and find themselves stuck in the same sectional as Madison LaFollette (#2) and Memorial.

However, I've always had a soft spot for Janesville Craig and I will be rooting for them to reach a face-off with top-seeded Verona in Sectional 6. Coach Bob Suter has a nice collection of long, inside-out players on the team -- one of the few teams I have been able to watch this year -- and you know Craig will be well-prepared. Verona has a great program but lacks the marquee firepower of recent Wildcat teams (edit: 6'4" junior Jason Ziemer actually led the county in scoring at over 21 ppg). I see the Cougars taking out the Wildcats to end Verona's last season in the Badger South Conference.

The state tournament also provides some great memories of individual players. I can recall Alex Compton draining threes for Madison West's 1992 champions ... burgeoning thug Sam Okey destroying everyone in Division 4 en route to back-to-back titles with Cassville ... Kyle Weaver strapping his Beloit teammates on his back in 2004 before running out of gas against a Memorial team that featured three current or future Mr. Basketball winners (Michael Nelson, Welsey Matthews and Keaton Nankivil) ...

Since Wisconsin's 2008 recruiting class does not include any homegrown talent, Badger fans will have to hope for a few upsets to see some of the top college-bound seniors play at the Kohl Center. Milwaukee Pius XI, featuring Michigan State signee Korie Lucious, is a 6-seed in the Milwaukee-loaded Sectional 8. Lucious fired a 30-foot strike at the buzzer to beat Catholic Memorial a week ago to give the (14-6, 12-2) Popes a share of the Classic Eight Conference title. Whitefish Bay Dominican's Kwamain Mitchell hopes to lead his squad to another Division 3 championship before heading off to St. Louis University. In Division 2, seventh-seeded McFarland will go only as far as UW-Milwaukee recruit Riley Walker, a 6'6" forward, can take the Spartans in the Sun Prairie Sectional.

While it might be your last chance to catch those players on the high school level, even bigger names litter the rosters of some more talented teams. This group of younger players has the chance to grab the spotlight right away. Junior All-Everything Jamil Wilson led Racine Horlick to a top seed this year, so failing to make State would be a disappointment. If the Rebels can get past Brookfield Central, Wilson and Co. should be on a collision course for the Washington Purgolders in the semifinals.

Many other have "Madison or Bust" expectations. Big man Evan Anderson transferred to Eau Claire North for the better competition and now has to prove his team's top seed in Sectional 1 is no fluke. Jeronne Maymon and Vander Blue earned another #1 seed for Madison Memorial (Sec. 3), while Germantown's Ben Averkamp helped the Warhawks notch a top seed after last season's #2 seed. Superstar sophomore Flavien Davis has fourth-ranked Wisconsin Lutheran positioned for a run as a 1-seed in D-2.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Bay View will struggle to get out of the first round as a 12-seed despite an impressive roster led by Marquette target Johnnie Lacy. Explosions from Nate Zastrow, Luke Russell and Marquis Mason are the only hope Manitowoc Lincoln (#7), Menomonee Falls (#6) or Madison East (#11) has in picking up more than one or two wins.

2008 Boys Brackets [pdf]:
Division 1 : : : Division 2 : : : Division 3 : : : Division 4

If you are interested, there is a lot of historical tournament data available at the WIAA's website as well. Also, the esteemed Mark Miller will be making predictions on every game in every division on

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