• High School March Madness Is Here in Wisconsin

    March Madness is here for high school basketball in Wisconsin, and the playoff field is jam-packed and more competitive than ever. In the past, eight sectional winners made the state tournament field in Division 1. The WIAA did away with that format since they added five divisions to the tournament. This means only four teams in each division will play at the Kohl Center in Madison.

    First up on the road to Madison are the boys, who will begin the playoff round on Feb. 28. The real action heats up on March 2 and 3. The strongest field in each of the four sectionals in my opinion is the Racine Horlick sectional. That final will be played on Saturday, March 10, at Horlick.

    The teams in that sectional include Milwaukee King, Riverside, Brookfield Central, Vincent and Milwaukee Hamilton. An early test for Riverside could be a second round game against Brookfield Central. The Lancers have two players who averaged over 15 points a game in the regular season.

    I watched a Brook Central game about a month ago. They are disciplined and are good with the pressure defense. If Riverside isn't careful with the ball, they will lose the possession game. But if the Tigers get past the Lancers, then they will have to deal with King.

    King won the City Conference this season and Riverside won it last year. They're familiar with each other by now. The Generals won't forget that the Tigers put them out of the playoffs at West Allis Central in 2011.

    Both teams lost key players recently to academics. Now the players from both teams are back. This game should be moved to a neutral site because you can't play in a small gym like King that seats 900, if that many.

    Vincent will play the winner of the Milwaukee Marquette and Ronald Reagan game from the first round. I don't think the Vikings will be ready to play the Hilltoppers. Marquette will beat Vincent at the perimeter game. I saw a couple of Vincent games, and they played out of control, which explained their key losses to King and Hamilton. Outside of Deonte Burton, the Vikings don't have any other players on their team that can provide additional help. Through my crystal ball, I see a King vs. Hamilton sectional final at Horlick.

    Madison Memorial is the Duke of high school basketball. Most people don't like them because they're showoffs and because they usually have an easy road to Madison. They're at state almost every year. They should win the Kettle Moraine sectional. Mukwonago might give them some resistance, but it won't put a dent in Memorial's game.

    An early report from another reporrter I spoke with about Memorial is that they can't shoot from the side of the barn. So if the inside or outside game and fast break opportunities aren't there, then they are in trouble.

    Germantown should win the Manitowoc sectional. They are the top-ranked team in the state. This team is well-balanced. They have size, a great scorer in Zak Showalter and some shooters who can light it up from beyond the arc. They are hungry, and they remembered falling short of state last year by two points. Coach Steve Showalter, Zak's father, will have them ready to play.

    Oshkosh North should have no problem winning the Stevens Point sectional. They have been to state before and won championships, so that team know what it takes to get to Madison.

    In Division 2, four City teams, Madison, Northwest, Washington and Marshall, could go deep into the playoffs, but I don't see any of them going to Madison because they will run up on better and more disciplined teams. The boys state tournament is from Mar. 15-17.

    On the girls side, the best teams are in the Whitefish Bay sectional, which is a great place to watch basketball. Pius, Divine Savior Holy Angels (DHSA), Racine Case, King and Vincent make up a very strong field. You can let freshman sensation Arike Ogunbowale have her points. The rest of the DSHA team won't hurt you.

    Shakeela Fowler is a little sparkplug as a freshman for King. She and Ogunbowale played on the AAU national championship team last summer. Fowler is fast and a little thorn on the side of an opposing team.

    If King and Vincent run the tables in the regionals, they could face each other on Mar. 10. Even though King won the City Conference title and beat the Vikings this season, they are a lower seed (3) than Vincent (2). That should give the Generals some extra motivation to beat them again. If they limit Sydney Howard and Nafeisha Holifield on offense, then they will prevail.

    Don't leave out Pius and Case. Both teams are strong again. Vincent caught Case sleeping in their early season win in November. Don't expect that to happen again if those two teams meet up. I think it will be a Case vs. Pius sectional final, Mar. 17, at Whitefish Bay, on St. Patrick's Day. The green clover will fall on somebody's side that day.

    My pick to win the Sun Prairie sectional is Franklin. Chippewa Falls should take the Wisconsin Rapids sectional. De Pere should win the Sheboygan sectional. Somehow, I have been wrong before.

    The girls state tournament is Mar. 22-24 in Madison. Make that short trip to Mad-Town this year because next year the girls and boys tournament will be in Green Bay, which will be a longer drive.

    The playoffs will be fun to watch. You will get caught up in the moment either way. It will be tears of joy or sorrow. That's when you know that March Madness is here.