Editor’s note: Coaches’ career records for all teams are as of the start of the season.
HEAD COACH: Darrin Berger, third year (19-28).
LAST SEASON: 10-13 overall, sixth in the Badger North Conference at 2-10, lost 66-60 to Sauk Prairie in a WIAA Division 2 regional.
PROGRAM HISTORY: The most recent winning season for the Thunderbirds was in 2010-11, when they went 12-11. Baraboo has never won a Badger North Conference title but took second in two consecutive years: 2007-08 and 2008-09. The T-Birds have a total of five state tournament appearances: 1919, 1951, 1984, 1993, and 1994 but haven’t won a state title.
KEY DEPARTURES: Baraboo graduated two senior starters in guard Spencer Klemm and 6-foot-4 forward Paddy O’Rourke.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior guard Mason Peterson, senior guard Austin Burkhalter, senior guard/forward Connor Grogan and senior guard/forward Justus Neuman.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: While four talented seniors will lead the way, a total of seven juniors will battle for spots off the bench. Six-foot-five junior forward Caden Blum will likely see more minutes after playing in 17 games during his sophomore year. Coach Berger sees a lot of potential in sophomores Calvin Peterson and Joe White Eagle, who will play at the varsity level for the first time.
THE SKINNY: The Thunderbirds have a sizeable class of experienced upperclassmen, with four seniors and seven juniors. However, Baraboo will miss the offensive output that was seen from O’Rourke (7.7 ppg) and Klemm (6.6), who were the team’s top two rebounders as well. Second team all-conference selection Mason Peterson returns as the team’s leading scorer, producing 12.5 points per game last year. Standing at 6-3, Peterson has the rare combination of size and quickness. Height and size will be an advantage for the T-Birds this season with Peterson, Connor Grogan (8.0 ppg), and Austin Burkhalter (11.4 ppg) all standing at 6-3, while Caden Blum (1.2 ppg) stands at 6-5. Burkhalter and Grogan are all-around solid players on offense and defense, while Neuman uses his size and strength to overpower opponents for rebounds and loose balls. Neuman also uses his sturdy stance under the hoop to knock down shots off the glass. Outside of Blum, other juniors battling for minutes include Joe Stout, Caden Carpenter, Ryan Gehin, Brady Quinn, Zack Kargel and Kaden Montpas.
BEAVER DAM GOLDEN BEAVERS
HEAD COACH: Tim Ladron, 10th year (130-86)
LAST SEASON: 23-2 overall, Wisconsin Little Ten Conference champions at 13-1, lost to Cedarburg in the Division 2 sectional semifinals, 57-54.
PROGRAM HISTORY: The Golden Beavers have 17 conference championships, all in the defunct Wisconsin Little Ten, but last year’s title was their first since 1998. They have been to the state tournament four times (1937, ’38, ’41, and ’46), winning the Class B championship in ’37 and finishing as Class B runner-up in ’38.
KEY DEPARTURES: Garrett Nelson (20.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.5 steals per game last year) is gone after setting the program’s all-time career scoring mark (1,403 points) and single-season steals record (62), as are Luke Livingston (12.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists last year) and Davis Braker (8.6 points, 4.7 rebounds).
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. Sam Wilke (8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals per game last year), Sr. Dillon Livingston (5.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals), Sr., Conner Cullen (3.9 points, 2.8 rebounds), and Justin Douma (2.9 points, 2.3 rebound).
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Given how much scoring Beaver Dam is left to replace, there are many. But with Wilke, Livingston, and Cullen expected to shoulder much of the load in that capacity, keep an eye on 6-foot-6 seniors Justin Duoma and Kyle Gebhardt and whether they can provide additional punch.
THE SKINNY: Given that Waunakee is the preseason No. 6-ranked team in Division 2 and has the eighth-best player in the state in Mitch Listau – both according to the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook – the Warriors are the clear favorite to win the conference title. But next in line might be Beaver Dam, which doesn’t return a lot of scoring but returns two starters with a boat load of experience in big games and four others who are poised for bigger roles. Add to that the fact the Golden Beavers boast perhaps the best combination of size and length – they have four players listed at 6-5 or 6-6 and three others listed at 6-2 or 6-3 – and they could be a pretty dynamic team capable of scoring in a variety of ways and disrupting the other team’s offensive rhythm with their height and long arms. And the shortest one of all those tall trees – the 6-2 Livingston – might be the best shot blocker of them all, as he finished last year with the third-most blocks (42) in a single season in Beaver Dam history. Wilke scored 29 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists, and four steals in the Beavers’ season-opening 75-55 win over Milwaukee Morse-Marshall on Nov. 24, and don’t be surprised if there are lot more stat lines similar to that one for him in the weeks to come; “unselfish combination guard with good size, strength and skill” as well as “one of the more versatile players in the league,” is what was written about Wilke in the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook, which has the 6-3 senior rated as the 99th-best player in the state to begin the season. With so many players in new roles, it’ll likely take a bit for the team to jell into the mold it envisions. But with the talent on the roster, once it does shape into form this could be a team that’s better than its record come mid-February and not one that other teams want to see on the schedule.
HEAD COACH: Craig Weisbrod, 18th season.
LAST SEASON: The Norskies went 11-13 overall and finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Badger North Conference at 7-5. DeForest advanced to the regional final, falling to rival Waunakee 71-43.
PROGRAM HISTORY: DeForest has never won the Badger North Conference since the conference’s inception in 2002-03, but have finished second six times, including last year. The Norskies have reached the state tournament once, qualifying in 2012.
KEY DEPARTURES: DeForest graduated six seniors, most notably leading scorer Brodie Runez. The 5-foot-11 wing player led the Norskies with 14 points per game, earning unanimous first-team All-Badger North honors.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior post Jarrett Klein, junior post Austin Westra and senior post Bryce Duffy.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Sophomore Trey Schroeder made an impact during his freshman season last year as the 5-foot-10 wing averaged 4 points per game in 19 contests. Look for Schroeder, along with senior Bryson Girten (5-11, 4.9 ppg) to play a more expansive role last season.
THE SKINNY: The Norskies will have to replace six seniors from last year, with the departure of last year’s leading scorer Brodie Runez leaving the biggest hole. Good news for coach Craig Weisbrod is that the team returns a skilled group from last year’s team. The Noskies bring back their next four leading scorers behind Runez, led by Austin Westra. Westra, a 6-foot-4 junior post, averaged 9.5 points per game followed by seniors Jarrett Klein (6-4, 9.4 ppg), Bryce Duffy (6-4, 5.9 ppg) and Jimmy Klein (6-4, 5.1 ppg). Expect the Norskies to use that varsity experience, as well as their height, to make life rough on opposing teams in their pursuit of a conference title in the difficult Badger North.
MOUNT HOREB VIKINGS
HEAD COACH: Todd Nesheim, 10th season (135-84).
LAST YEAR: The Vikings went 12-11 overall and finished in fifth place in the Badger North Conference at 6-6. Mount Horeb ended its season with 60-54 loss to DeForest in a regional semifinal.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Mount Horeb has won the Badger North Conference three times, including back-to-back titles in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The Vikings have made four appearances at the state tournament, most recently in 2015 when they won the Division 2 state title.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Vikings graduated seven seniors, including all five starters from last year. Mount Horeb lost its top four scorers, including all-conference honorees Mike Holum and Ryan Kratochwill. Holum averaged a team-high 12.1 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game to earn first team honors while Kratochwill averaged 10.1 and 2.7.
KEY RETURNEES: Junior forward Gunnar Nortman, junior forward Bryce Farnsworth and junior forward Jason Larson.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: With a deep senior class last year, Travis Klassy and Tyler Crubaugh didn’t make much of an impact during their junior year. The duo averaged 3.1 and 2.1 points per game last year, but now, like on the Vikings football team, will look to play key roles this season.
THE SKINNY: With the loss of seven seniors, coach Todd Nesheim will have a lot to replace in 2017-18 as he enters his 10th season in charge of the Vikings. While the team lost its four leading scorers, the good news for Nesheim is he does bring back a strong pair in juniors Gunnar Nortmann and Bryce Farnsworth. The 6-1 and 6-3 forwards each averaged 6.2 points per game last season as sophomores and will look to build on that in 2017. Along with Nortmann and Farnsworth, seniors Travis Klassy and Tyler Crubaugh along with junior Jason Larson will aim to be key contributors. Nesheim believes this year’s squad is a skilled, athletic team that should be able to shoot the ball and possesses a high basketball IQ, but he also has some worries. “We lost the majority of our scoring and rebounding with the loss of seven seniors. In-game experience will be a concern as will physical strength and size,” he said.
HEAD COACH: Ron Olson, fifth season (41-53).
LAST SEASON: The Warriors went 17-7 overall and finished tied for second in the Badger North Conference at 7-5. Portage reached the regional semifinal, falling to Monona Grove 82-57.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Portage’s last conference championship came in 2003, the same year the Warriors qualified for the Division 2 state tournament, where they lost in the semifinals to La Crosse Aquinas. Portage has played in the state tournament four times, winning a state championship in 1982.
KEY DEPARTURES: Portage graduated nine seniors, including four starters from last season. Among the key players gone are the team’s top-three scorers in center Thomas Yelk (12.3 points per game), guard Mason Ades (9.9 ppg) and guard Jeff Seaman (9 ppg).
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior forward Craig Steele, junior forward Eli Considine, senior forward Nolan Paul.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Senior guards Erik Isakson and Grant Garrigan were both varsity players last year but didn’t see significant minutes. Expect the pair to make an impact this season. Along with the seniors, sophomore Brett Walker could be a key contributor coming off the bench.
THE SKINNY: The Warriors reached new heights last season under Olson, posting the most wins (17) since he took over in 2013 and more than the previous two seasons combined. Portage, which averaged 55.6 points per game last season, faces a difficult task if it is going to replicate that again this season following the graduation of a deep, talented senior class. While that may seem daunting to replace, the Warriors return a number of skilled players that saw significant time last year. Senior Craig Steele, a 6-foot-4 forward, had a breakout junior campaign, averaging 7.2 points per game. Along with Steele, junior Eli Considine (6-3 forward) played in 21 games, averaging 7 ppg. He’s entering his third season on varsity this year. … Coupled with the duo of Steele and Considine, the Warriors have a trio of skilled, athletic seniors in Nolan Paul (6-4 forward), Erik Isakson (6-0 guard) and Grant Garrigan (6-1 guard). Paul started at the beginning of the year but missed 18 games with a foot injury while Isakson and Garrigan played, but averaged 3.2 and 4.5 points per game. All three are stepping into starting roles this year and will be relied upon heavily. … While the main group appears set for the Warriors, the team’s contributors off the bench are yet to be determined, but Olson has a large pool of candidates that could each step up. Senior Nick Anderson saw minimal minutes on varsity last year and senior Cuyler Pfaff is aiming to make an impact after playing on the JV team last year. Juniors Connor Levander, Travis Miller and Trent Briggs along with sophomores Brett Walker, Matthew Miles and Dale Sheppard will provide depth.
HEAD COACH: Josh Rupnow, third year (24-46).
LAST SEASON: 5-18 overall, last in the Badger North Conference at 1-11, lost 64-55 to Portage in a WIAA Division 2 regional.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Reedsburg’s most recent winning season came in 2013-14, when the Beavers went 14-10, taking second in the Badger North (8-4). Reedsburg came close to a trip to the sectional final in 2000, as it lost 77-67 to Oregon in the sectional semifinal. The Beavers have been to the state level six times but have never won a title. The most recent state trip came in 1975.
KEY DEPARTURES: Reedsburg graduated three seniors, all whom were starters last season, in guard Alex Baker (6.7 ppg), guard Ian Rogers (6.8) and forward Luke Friede (4.7).
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior forward/guard Tyson Tully, senior guard Ben Fuhrmann and sophomore Will Fuhrmann.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Sophomore Will Fuhrmann logged plenty of minutes during his freshman year last season and will likely be a bigger contributor this season. Tyson Tully’s younger brother Max Tully, a sophomore, will likely see some varsity minutes for the first time while other sophomores Carter Daniels, Jonathan Schmitt, Zach Hale and Danny Kast will battle for positions as well.
THE SKINNY: Having only graduated three, Reedsburg has a deep group of upperclassmen. The Beavers will again rely on their top returning scorer, 6-foot-4 senior Tyson Tully, to make things happen. Reedsburg will feature six seniors this season, all of which have size to hopefully mimic what Alex Baker did on the boards last season. Seniors Dayne Rothwell, Derek Halvensleven and Luke Rapisarda will look to get more points after minimal performances last season. Senior Ben Fuhrmann was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (10.5 ppg) while sophomore Will Fuhrmann and senior Matthew Kohlmeyer will all be contributors. The returning squad will need to improve its rebounding, with Tully leading the way (6.1 rpg) followed by Will Fuhrmann (2.2), Ben Fuhrmann (1.9), Kohlmeyer (1.5) and Rapisarda (1.2).
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES
HEAD COACH: Levi Massey, fifth year (66-32).
LAST SEASON: 14-10 overall, tying for second in the Badger North Conference at 7-5, defeated Baraboo 66-60 in the WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinals before suffering a 68-43 regional semifinal loss at Stoughton.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Sauk Prairie has reached the state tournament three times; 1996, 1997 and 2010. Sauk Prairie’s last Badger North Conference title came when they went 18-6, including 10-4 in conference play, in 2005-06.
KEY DEPARTURES: Sauk Prairie lost seven seniors from last season, including honorable mention All-Badger North Conference selections Josh Holler and Trevor Wilkinson.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior forward Dawson Evert, senior guard Elijah Jorgenson, senior guard Carson Radl, senior guard Spencer Kostroski.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Sophomore Trevor Spray is expected to be a regular in the rotation once he returns from a leg injury.
THE SKINNY: Sauk Prairie is fighting with the rest of the Badger North to keep up with conference favorite Waunakee. The Eagles have experience in key roles, as seniors Dawson Evert (11.3 ppg) and Spencer Kostroski (10.6 ppg) return after leading the team in scoring last season. The 6-foot-3 Evert also averaged a team-high 5.3 rebounds per game, while Kostroski returns in the point guard role… Seniors Carson Radl (6.4 ppg) and Elijah Jorgenson (2.2) will step into larger roles at the off-guard positions... With seniors Aidan Young and Parker Chrisler out with season-ending injuries, the rest of the Eagles will be inexperienced at the varsity level, as head coach Levi Massey will be looking for players who can fill secondary roles in Sauk Prairie’s system. The Eagles play a consistent brand of basketball, looking to play solid team defense, take care of the ball and out-compete their opponents. If Sauk Prairie can do those things and rely on the scoring of their four senior starters, the Eagles should be able to compete near the top of the Badger North.
HEAD COACH: Dana MacKenzie, 14th season (223-112).
LAST YEAR: The Warriors went 24-3 overall and won the Badger North Conference for a second-straight year going 12-0. Waunakee reached the state tournament for a second-straight year, falling to eventual state champion La Crosse Central 78-56 in a Division 2 semifinal.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Waunakee has won eight Badger North titles, all of them coming in the last 10 years, including the last two. The Warriors have qualified for the state tournament three times in that span as well, including a runner-up finish in 2016.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Warriors graduated only four seniors, including starters Tyler Ronk and Matt Broadway. Ronk averaged 7.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game en route to earning second team All-Badger North honors while Broadway added 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds.
KEY RETURNEES: Senior guard Mason Steffen, senior guard Mitch Listau and senior forward Nate Carter.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: As a sophomore last season, Josh Cash made an impact coming off the bench for the Warriors. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and will look to build upon that this season.
THE SKINNY: The Warriors have been the class of the Badger North Conference under coach Dana MacKenzie, winning eight conference titles in the last decade. MacKenzie, now in his 14th season in charge, and the Warriors will have a strong chance at title No. 9 this season returning a trio of starters from last year’s state team. The team’s most notable returnees are seniors Mason Steffen and Mitch Listau who enter their fourth season as varsity starters for the Warriors. Listau, a 6-foot-4 guard, committed to Division I Belmont University this fall and averaged 22.1 points per game last year. Steffen (6-4 guard) has received Division II offers after averaging 12.8 ppg last year. Along with Steffen and Listau, senior forward Nate Carter (6-7) returns after averaging 6.7 ppg and 4.8 rebounds per game last year. With a dominant trio, coupled with a slew of role players, Waunakee is the conference favorite again and may be the favorite to win a first-ever state title.