This season marks the 11th annual Wisconsin vs Minnesota Border Battle and the 7th straight one that I'll be attending. Minnesota with a 34-23 edge in the all-time series thanks to winning 11 straight before SPASH knocked off Minnetonka in the finale last year. Minnesota has won 16 straight games at home in the series going back to the 3rd game in 2011. Wisconsin brings arguably their most talented field ever. Minnesota may have its best senior class ever but the majority of the Minnesota stars in the event this year are not seniors which is interesting.
Game 1 (10:00): #3 D5 Marshfield Columbus Dons (13-0) vs #10A Springfield Tigers (13-1)
The Dons have lost the early game the last 2 years in this event. They feature the high scoring guard duo of Hunter Schultz (26 PPG) and Tyler Fuerlinger (almost 22 PPG). Fuerlinger went off in the 2nd half had a career high 32 vs Spring Grove in the Border Battle last year. Springfield soph Isaac Fink has already passed the 1000 career points mark and is one of the top 2019 Minnesota kids not in the metro area.
Czar's Pick: Marshfield Columbus with too much firepower.
Game 2 (11:30): #7 D3 Prescott Cardinals (13-2) vs #1AA Minnehaha Redhawks (10-5)
7 foot Northern Illinois commit Owen Hamilton mans the middle for Prescott. He averages 26, 13 and over 3 blocks a night. Petey Brookshaw runs the point with 14 PPG. 1 of their 2 losses was a blowout to Farmington in the Hastings holiday tourney. Minnehaha is loaded with young guards and its not just all-world PG Jalen Suggs (24.2 PPG). Freshmen Kaden Johnson and Terry Lockett plus Johnson transfer Lorenzo Smith give them a ton of scoring on the wings. But the Redhawks don't have a matchup for Hamilton in the middle. Its a classic size vs speed matchup. Suggs will definitely attack the rim looking to take bumps off Hamilton. Look for forward Jovanni Bickham to also attack him off the bounce from the elbow area.
Czar's Pick: Minnehaha. No answer for Jalen Suggs and they'll hit enough 3s. But expect a big game from Hamilton as long as he stays out of foul trouble.
Game 3 (1:15): Whitefish Bay Blue Dukes (7-5) vs #10AAAA Tartan Titans (13-1)
The Blue Dukes are led by the duo of Xavier Johnson (18 PPG) and soph Demetrius Johnson (14.2 PPG). They've played 2 good guard laden teams and lost those by 20 and 25 points respectively. Siena commit Jordan Horn leads a senior laden Tartan lineup with 17.4 PPG. Three other Titans average double figures including shooter Noah Whalen (12.2 PPG) and forward Joevon Walker (11.2 PPG). Quality guard play on display should make for some fun plays.
Czar's Pick: Least compelling game of the day. Tartan by double figures.
Game 4 (2:45): #3 D1 Stevens Point Panthers (11-1) vs #7AAAA Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (9-4)
When these teams met at CDH in the Border Battle 2 years ago, SPASH suffered their only loss of their season in that game. SPASH star Joey Hauser played in that game and is a top 50 junior nationally. He just returned to the lineup last Friday after missing all season with a football injury. His brother Sam is at Marquette. Joey is a versatile big man who can handle and shoot while also taking over inside. Fellow junior Drew Blair (22.1 PPG) has picked up the slack in his absence. Hauser, a Michigan St target, going up against Gopher commit Daniel Oturu is a matchup to salivate over. Oturu coming off a huge 33 pt, 15 rb, 7 blk performance vs Woodbury in front of coach Pitino last Friday. He's listed at 18.5 PPG and a staggering 18.2 RPG. 3 other Raiders also average double figures.
Czar's Pick: SPASH in a fairly close one.
Game 5 (4:15): HM Kaukauna Ghosts (7-5) vs #1 3A De La Salle Islanders (11-2)
Don't be fooled by the fact that the Galloping Ghosts are unranked. Kaukauna is the defending Division 2 state champion with star PG Jordan McCabe (returning. He's committed to West Virginia and if there's 1 player to see all day, he may be it. He averages 25.1 PPG and is an electric passer with a flare to his game. Sniper Adam Smith is out again with a foot injury and that changes the team dramatically. A definite contrast of styles as the Islanders will try to keep the Ghosts from galloping up and down the floor. George Mason commit Goanar Mar (23.1 PPG) is having a great season for De La Salle. The Islanders will need a big game from Gabe Kalscheur (16.5 PPG) as well. While De La Salle does switch a ton, it will be interesting to see how much Mar has to guard McCabe.
Czar's Pick: De La Salle. Too much defense and its easier to slow tempo than it is to speed it up.
Game 6 (6:00): #1 D2 La Crosse Central Red Raiders (11-1) vs #3AAAA Lakeville North Panthers (11-1)
Its the Wisconsin recruit showdown between Kobe King and Nate Reuvers. The Czar's alma mater is rolling right now as one of the best teams regardless of class in Wisconsin. While they lost both games badly to Kaukauna last year including the state semifinal, they beat the Ghosts 92-81 over Christmas. They also beat previous #1 Waunakee 10 days ago. Plus a 26 point win over ranked Onalaska who knocked off Minnehaha. But Central is more than the 26.6 PPG from King. Lefty guard Bailey Kale (18.2 PPG) is committed to Minnesota-Duluth and can fill it up as well. Freshman twins Jonathon and Jordan Davis are the highly regarded sons of former La Crosse Catbird Mark Davis when Flip Saunders was there.
Meanwhile Lakeville North continues to be an elite level team. Nate Reuvers is having another huge season (27.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG) and Central doesn't really have a good matchup for him. I expect to see King on him and I think he can handle that matchup. Ethan Igbanugo (12 PPG) should see plenty of time guarding King and Kale. Soph Tyler Wahl is a secondary key to this one. If he plays well I like Lakeville North's chances.
Czar's Pick: Is there a question on this one? Its my alma mater so I can't go against them. Most compelling and best game of the day. The chess match of who guards Reuvers and King will be very interesting to watch.
Game 7 (7:30): #10 D1 Milwaukee Riverside Tigers (9-4) vs #5AAAA Apple Valley Eagles (11-2)
The preseason #1 in Wisconsin gets the night game. Riverside is the 2 man band of Iowa State commit Terrence Lewis (almost 29 PPG) and strong guard Carlos Curtis (18.4 PPG). Lewis is a top 150 nationally ranked kid committed to Iowa State and put on a show with 44 points in the season opener that I saw. Woodbury took them to the woodshed 10 days ago in La Crosse but Lewis was out due to suspension. They are very unwilling to take outside shots (except Lewis) and would rather attack the rim. I would expect to see some Curtis vs Tre Jones. Jones averaging 21 pts, 9 rbs, 8 ast per game. The 2nd guy could be a different guy on any given night. Apple Valley without a good matchup to guard Lewis but they'll be able to give help off of other guys.
Czar's Pick: Lewis goes for 25 points or more. Apple Valley hits at least 10 triples and wins by double figures as Riverside continues their bad stretch the last 2 years vs Minnesota teams.
FINAL PREDICTION: Minnesota wins the Border Battle 4-3