So what is there to watch for this upcoming basketball season? Well, grab a pen and paper and gather round.
5 story lines to watch
March sadness: Oshkosh North and Neenah are two of the best boys’ teams in the state, as the defending Fox Valley Association champion Spartans are ranked No. 3 in Division 1 by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook. The Rockets, last year’s FVA runners-up, are ranked No. 6.
These two teams figure to stage a pitched battle for FVA supremacy this year, but only one will have the chance to show off its talents at the WIAA State Tournament as they will compete in the same sectional come tournament time.
The same holds true in Division 2, as Seymour (ranked No. 2 in the state) and West De Pere (No. 3) will stage a season-long battle in the Bay Conference but come the postseason are assigned to the same sectional.
In fact, in both cases, only one will make the sectional final as they both are paired in the same half of the bracket.
On the one hand, it’s unfortunate. On the other, it will make for two incredibly entertaining sectionals.
Papermaker power: Kimberly opens the year ranked fifth in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Division 1 girls’ poll and is the odds-on favorite to repeat as Fox Valley Association champs, as the Papermakers return four starters from a team that won the league by four games.
Kimberly has been a model of consistency, winning at least 13 conference games for 10 years running. The only thing missing from its resume of late is a state berth. A four-time state champion, the Papermakers are looking to return to The Big Show for the first time since 1998.
Again, the path will not be easy as De Pere, ranked No. 7, and Arrowhead, ranked No. 4 and who topped the Papermakers in last year’s sectional final, provide high hurdles to clear.
A Bulldog eat dog world: Can anyone in the Bay take down New London this year?
The Bulldogs own a 39-game conference win streak and return 10 letterwinners and four starters from a team that lost to New Berlin Eisenhower 48-47 in a state semifinal last season. That loss saw New London’s overall 68-game win streak come to an end.
Conference player of the year and all-state selection Brenna Heise is gone and she will be missed. Coach Troy Krause, who led New London to back-to-back state championships, returns after taking a year off. Can this group continue this amazing run?
All eyes on Sandy: It’s not often we have a high-profile recruit from our area heading to one of our state’s top college programs. But that’s the case this year with Sandy Cohen of Seymour, who is on his way to Marquette.
That kind of notoriety provides a little extra juice for opponents and adds a little more weight to Cohen’s shoulders. And as is always the case in such situations, everyone wants to know how Cohen will perform with the spotlight shining brighter.
To his benefit, he has three other starters returning to alleviate some of his burden and he has a solid, veteran coach in Jon Murphy who will help him navigate him through any rough spots.
It’s not often such a talent passes our way, so sit back, relax and enjoy the games.
Who wins The Border Battle? The six-game Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Border Battle comes to Kaukauna on Jan. 25. This will be the eighth edition and the Badger state teams are currently in arrears 23-16 after being swept 7-0 last year.
There will be four teams currently ranked in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Top 10, in various divisions, representing Wisconsin: Stevens Point, Seymour, Stevens Point Pacelli and Waupun.
Minnesota, as you can see based on last year’s result and the overall series, will not be short on talented teams either.
Conference battles and the state tournament take up the majority of our attention throughout the year, but this promises to be a high quality, highly competitive and highly intriguing event.
Can’t miss games
Oshkosh North vs. Neenah (Dec. 13 at Neenah, Feb. 4 at Oshkosh North): The matchup of point guards Nathan Neveau (North) and Adam Pohlman (Neenah) would be worth the price of admission alone. But both of these teams have a lot more. North returns eight of its top nine players, while Neenah has three starters and six of its top eight back. North swept the season series a year ago, so Neenah will be one motivated team.
Seymour vs. West De Pere (Jan. 16 at West De Pere, Feb. 20 at Seymour): While Seymour boasts Marquette recruit Sandy Cohen, West De Pere has Chandler Diekvoss (headed to Richmond) and returning Bay player of the year Cody Schwartz, a junior, who has a scholarship offer from Marquette. The second matchup will be the conference finale for both teams. Buckle up.
Neenah at Stevens Point, Nov. 26: The Panthers have two of the best sophomores in the state in Trevor Anderson and Sam Hauser and are ranked just a spot below Neenah in the WBY preseason poll. This is like being treated to prime rib for breakfast.
Oak Creek at Kimberly, Jan. 11: Oak Creek is the top-ranked Division 1 team in the WBY preseason poll, led by 6-2 Tamya Sims and 6-2 Stephanie Kostowicz. Sims has accepted a D-I scholarship to Bradley and Kostowicz is heading to D-I UW-Milwaukee. Oak Creek has two other starters returning as well, and this will provide a wonderful test for the Papermakers.
Xavier vs. Fox Valley Lutheran (Dec. 13 at FVL, Feb. 4 at Xavier): The Foxes are ranked No. 9 in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook Division 3 poll, while Xavier is one of the teams to watch in D-2 according to WBY.
These two teams played three great games last year, as they split during the regular season and Xavier took a one-point win in the WIAA tournament.
The Hawks have a new coach in AC Clouthier and four new starters, while coach David Wenzel returns three starters to the Foxes. These games are always fun, intense and have high entertainment value. Plus, the fact that Xavier is being forced to move to the Bay Conference next season means this wonderful rivalry won’t be what it once was. So take advantage and take in these games.
Fox Valley Lutheran at New London, Feb. 15: Two of the top programs in the area doing battle in a nonconference matchup. Not much more to ask for here. This should be a great measuring stick game for both teams as the WIAA tournament will be right around the corner.