Editor's note: Coaches' career records for all teams are as of the start of the season.
Head coach: Darrin Berger, fourth year (23-47).
Last season: Baraboo went 4-19 overall, finishing last in the Badger North Conference at 0-14. The T-Birds were defeated 72-45 by 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. Conference-wise, Baraboo has never won a Badger North 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 four seniors, three of whom were starters: Mason Peterson (14.87 ppg, 6.22 rpg, 3.32 apg, 2.04 spg); Justus Neuman (13.91 ppg, 6.13 rpg); and Connor Grogan (8.73 ppg, 4.18 rpg, 2.27 apg).
Key returning players: Senior center/forward Caden Blum (3.1 ppg, 2.45 rpg) and senior forward Ryan Gehin (2 ppg, 1.7 rpg).
Breakout candidates: Nearly the entire roster has potential to improve this season. Coach Berger mentioned 6-foot-1 junior guard Max Koenig has made leaps and bounds in the weight room and will take on a big role during his first year on varsity. Junior guard Calvin Peterson had flashes of strong play during his sophomore season and will be a big contributor, along with senior guard Noah Jackson, who looks to make an impact during his final year.
The skinny: The Thunderbirds are more or less starting from scratch after the loss of their top three scorers and rebounders. Baraboo’s top returning scorer is the 6-foot-5 Blum, who Berger believes was underused last season as he collected just 62 points during his junior year. Senior forward Ryan Gehin (6-3) looks to lead by example as he’s a physically strong defender, solid 3-point shooter and overall scrappy player. While Baraboo returns seven letter winners and features seven seniors and five juniors, most players on the roster are inexperienced in terms of production from last year. Berger is expecting a lot more from third-year varsity seniors Caden Carpenter (104 ppg, 1.57 rpg), a smart defender and a consistent 3-point shooter, along with Joe Stout (1.18 ppg, 1.32 rpg), one of the quickest players on the team and a good ball handler. Along with more contributions from junior guard Calvin Peterson (6-2), junior guard Max Koenig (6-1) and senior guard Noah Jackson (6-0), a variety of other upperclassmen will look to prove themselves, including senior guard Zack Kargel (5-11), junior guard Joe White Eagle (6-2), senior forward Brady Quinn (6-2), junior guard Graham Langkamp (5-9) and 6-foot-6 junior forward Alec Schmelzer. “I think the guys have been thus far really unselfish with the ball and doing a good job of spreading it around,” Berger said. Baraboo averaged just over 51 points per game last season. Berger said his team will continue to run the four-out motion offense, but will look to score more in transition, feed Blum more on the inside and make better use of the pass.
BEAVER DAM GOLDEN BEAVERS
Head coach: Tim Ladron, 11th season (146-94)
Last season: The Golden Beavers were dealt several key injuries over the second half of the season, including one that ended leading scorer Sam Wilke’s year with six games remaining, but still managed to win nine of their final 10 games en route to a 16-8 record. They finished tied for third in the Badger North with DeForest at 8-6 and had their season come to an end with a 63-41 loss to Glendale Nicolet in a Division 2 regional final.
Program history: The Golden Beavers have 17 conference championships, all in the defunct Wisconsin Little Ten, but the title they won in 2016-17 in the final year of the conference was their first since 1998. This is year two for the Beavers in the Badger North. 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: Wilke (17.6 points, 3.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals per game), Dillon Livingston (10.9 points, 4.6 rebounds), Connor Cullen (8.5 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Justin Douma (5.7 points, 3.8 rebounds).
Key returning players: Cade Ferron (6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds per game), Jordan Schwanke (3.3 points, 3.1 rebounds) and Marshal McGauley (2.2 points, 2.5 rebounds).
Breakout candidates: Schwanke and McGauley. The high-flying duo — Schwanke is 6-foot-4 and McGauley is 6-6 — didn’t get many minutes last year, but it wasn’t for lack of ability. Now that it’s their turn to star, Ladron expects them to put on a show night in and night out with highlight-reel plays and packed stat lines.
The skinny: The Golden Beavers are a mystery this season because of how many players they’re counting on to assume much larger roles. But those players have been widely lauded by Ladron since the day that practice began, and their abilities plus those of the newcomers make Beaver Dam a sneaky team in the Badger North race. The Golden Beavers might not have enough to hang with favorites Mount Horeb and Waunakee, but they were picked by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook as the preseason No. 3.
Head coach: Craig Weisbrod, 19th season (206-209)
Last season: The Norskies went 15-9 overall last season and finished tied for third in the Badger North Conference with Beaver Dam at 8-6. DeForest saw its season come to an end with a 58-53 loss to Stoughton in a Division 2 regional final.
Program history: DeForest has never won the Badger North Conference since the conference’s inception in 2002-03, but has finished second six times. The Norskies have reached the state tournament once, qualifying in 2012.
Key departures: The Norskies graduated seven seniors last year, including second team All-Badger North Conference pick Jarrett Klein. Klein was second on the team in scoring as he averaged 12.5 points per game.
Key returning players: Senior forward Austin Westra (16.7 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), junior point guard Trey Schroeder (10 ppg, 4 assists per game) and senior guard Cody Riggs (8.6 ppg, 5 rpg).
Breakout candidate: Senior post Jack Bogan was the team’s top player down low off of the bench last season, averaging 2.2 points and 2 rebounds per game. Weisbrod expects Bogan to be a major contributor this year.
The skinny: Despite graduating seven seniors from last year’s team that reached the regional final, the Norskies enter this season with plenty momentum as they eye their first Badger North crown. Leading that charge for DeForest is a trio of returning starters, headlined by Westra. As a junior, the 6-foot-6 post/wing was the Norskies leading scorer en route to earning first team all-conference honors. Fellow starters back are Schroeder and Riggs, who provide added scoring depth to a team that averaged 60.3 points per game last season. With eight players returning Weisbrod believes the team has the experience and scoring to contend for the conference title, but folding in the new players will be key. “To be successful we have to come together as a team and continue to improve throughout the season,” he said.
MOUNT HOREB VIKINGS
Head coach: Todd Nesheim, 11th season (153-90)
Last season: The Vikings finished the year 18-6 overall and finished runner-up behind Waunakee in the Badger North Conference, going 10-4. Mount Horeb fell to Monona Grove, 75-67, in a regional final to close its season.
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 just two seniors from last year’s team in the pair of Travis Klassy and Tyler Crubaugh. Klassy was the team’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 9.3 points per game to earn second team All-Badger North honors while Crubaugh added 5.5 ppg.
Key returning players: Senior Gunnar Nortman (11.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game), senior Jason Larson (11.9, 4.5), senior Dustin Zenz (9.1, 3.3) and senior Bryce Farnsworth (8.3, 3.5).
Breakout candidate: On a very young team last season, Owen Ziegler made an impact as a sophomore, averaging 4.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. The 5-foot-10 junior should take on an even larger role this year.
The skinny: Following their back-to-back conference titles, the Vikings have finished runner-up two out of the last three years. Mount Horeb will again be in the mix for the Badger North crown as it returns four starters from last year’s team, including a trio of All-Badger North honorees in Nortman, who was a second team selection, and Larson and Zenz, who earned honorable mention status. The trio, along with Farnsworth, provides plenty of scoring depth. Nesheim said that the Vikings will lean on that scoring, experience and team chemistry to contend for the conference title. The one thing that could trip them up is a lack of size. “Lacking a true big man both in terms of height and strength so we will see how much that hinders us,” he said.
Head coach: Ron Olson, sixth season (49-68).
Last season: The Warriors went 8-15 overall and finished tied for fifth in the Badger North with Sauk Prairie at 6-8. Portage’s season came to a close with an 80-75 loss to Reedsburg in a Division 2 regional quarterfinal.
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: The Warriors graduated seven seniors from last year’s team, including four starters. The biggest loss comes in the form of Craig Steele. The now UW-La Crosse Eagle earned second team All-Badger North honors last year, averaging a team-high 18.8 points per game.
Key returning players: Senior forward Eli Considine, senior guard Connor Levander and junior forward Mathew Miles. Considine scored a career-high 39 points in Portage's 57-52 loss to Randolph on Nov. 24.
Breakout candidate: After spending last season on the junior varsity, Kendal Thomson has been impressive in the team’s opening practices according to Olson. He believes the junior guard will be a key contributor this season.
The skinny: If Portage wants to post its second winning season in three years, and in turn move up the Badger North leaderboard, it will have to do so with a lot of new faces, having graduated seven seniors. Portage does bring back one returning starter from last year’s team however in Considine. The 6-foot-4 forward/guard earned honorable mention All-Badger North honors last year after averaging 13.1 points per game and will be vital to the Warriors’ success in his fourth varsity season. Levander and Miles are also back, while rest of the varsity unit will be newcomers.
Head coach: Josh Rupnow, fifth year (36-58).
Last season: Reedsburg went 12-12 overall, taking seventh in the Badger North Conference at 5-9. The Beavers ended the year with a 95-61 loss to Monona Grove in a Division 2 regional final.
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 tournament six times but have never won a title. The most recent state trip came in 1975, when Reedsburg fell 61-47 to Racine Horlick in the quarterfinal.
Key departures: Reedsburg graduated six seniors, including starters Tyson Tully (22.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.8 apg) and Ben Fuhrmann (10.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.5 apg).
Key returning players: Will Fuhrmann, 6-0, jr., PG (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg); Max Tully, 6-1, so., G (5.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg); Carter Daniels, 6-1, jr., PG (6.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Jacob Dregney (3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.4 apg).
Breakout candidates: Sophomore Zach Bestor played in four games during his freshman year last season and will likely be a bigger contributor this winter.
The skinny: The Beavers not only lose unanimous first team all-conference pick Tyson Tully to graduation, they also lose five other seniors who all provided height to last year’s team. The 6-foot-4 Tully was a monumental piece of Reedsburg’s offense. The Beavers averaged 62 points per game, a big increase from the 2016-17 season which saw an average of 50 points per game. Tully finished his senior year as one of the top 3-point shooters in the Badger North Conference with 542 made 3-pointers. While Reedsburg loses two of its top three scorers, the Beavers still return five letter winners who Rupnow believes can fill some shoes. “Our team has a lot of talent, but little size, so we will need to be scrappy and fight for everything. We make up for our size with speed and quickness.”
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES
Head coach: Sean McGann, first year.
Last season: The Eagles went 13-11, including going 6-8 in Badger North Conference play to tie for fifth out of eight teams. It was the final year under Levi Massey, who went 79-43 in five years as Sauk Prairie’s head coach. Sauk Prairie’s 2017-18 season came to a close with a 55-39 loss at DeForest in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.
Program history: Sauk Prairie’s last Badger North Conference title came in 2005-06, when the Eagles went 18-6 overall, including 10-4 in conference play. The Eagles have reached the state tournament three times -- 1996, 1997 and 2010.
Key departures: Sauk Prairie graduated a talented, experienced group of seniors from last season -- Parker Chrisler, Dawson Evert, Elijah Jorgenson, Spencer Kostroski, Carson Radl, Abe Rothmann and Aidan Young. Evert, Kostroski and Radl each earned all-Badger North Conference recognition during their careers, including a second-team honor for Kostroski and an honorable mention selection for Radl last season. Kostroski was Sauk Prairie’s primary ball-handler the past two seasons and averaged 8.9 points and 6.4 assists per game last year. Radl picked up his first all-conference selection last season after averaging a team-high 12.2 points per game while making 50 3-pointers, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc and 82 percent from the free-throw line.
Key returning players: The graduation of Sauk Prairie’s top-four leading scorers leaves more than 42 points per game that will need to be replaced. Sauk Prairie’s leading returning scorer is Jack Henderson. The 6-foot-7 senior will likely get many more paint touches this winter, as all of the Eagles will need to readjust their roles.
Breakout candidates: Senior Spencer Breunig is back in the fold after missing all but eight games of a junior season in which he scored 6.1 points per game. The 6-foot-4 forward should team up with Henderson to give Sauk Prairie a capable duo up front. With that duo inside, it should free up Trevor Spray to make plays off the wing. The 6-foot-5 junior forward averaged 5.3 points per game last season and should get many more chances this winter -- inside and on the perimeter. Senior Jacob Vieth (4.4 ppg) and juniors Parker Breunig (4.9 ppg) and Garrett Hertzfeldt (1.6 ppg) have also showed ability to replace some of the lost production.
The skinny: There’s a lot of unknowns with Sauk Prairie after an offseason of change in personnel and coaching. McGann is a first-time head coach, but the Baraboo High School alumnus and former UW-Stevens Point guard is familiar with the Sauk Prairie program after serving as an assistant under Massey the last two years. “I know these guys; know their strengths and their weaknesses,” McGann said when he was hired. This should help the transition process, but there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered if Sauk Prairie is going to avoid a rebuilding year and continue to be competitive in the Badger North.
Head coach: Dana MacKenzie, 15th season (245-115)
Last season: The Warriors went 22-3 overall and captured their third-straight Badger North Conference title, going 13-1 in league play. Waunakee came up two games short of a third-straight trip to state, falling to Madison East, 76-71 in a Division 1 sectional semifinal.
Program history: Waunakee has won nine Badger North titles. The Warriors have qualified for the state tournament three times in the last decade, including a runner-up finish in 2016.
Key departures: Unlike years past, the Warriors will have plenty of changes as they graduated 10 seniors from last year’s team, with the biggest losses come from Mitch Listau and Mason Steffen. Listau, the two-time Badger North Player of the Year, averaged a team and league-high 23.3 points per game. Steffen, a three-time All-Badger North pick, added 13.2 ppg.
Key returning players: Senior guard Josh Cash (6.9 points per game), senior forward Zachary Deering (6 ppg) and senior guard Will Knatz (5.6 ppg).
Breakout candidates: With such a deep senior group last season, Trey Fancher and Josh Block weren’t relied upon much in the scoring game. Now after the losses to graduation, expect the senior pair to step up this season.
The skinny: If Waunakee is to capture a fourth consecutive Badger North Conference title, the Warriors are going to have to do so with plenty of new faces after graduating 10 players from last year’s team. The Warriors must replace four All-Badger North selections, including unanimous first team picks Listau and Steffen, who accounted for 65 percent of the team’s scoring. Even with the losses, the Warriors return seven players from last year’s team, a majority of which saw significant time. While varsity experience will come with time, Waunakee will have an advantage with size in pursuit of another league crown. The Warriors have five players that stand at least 6-foot-3.