The coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 WIAA boys and girls state basketball tournaments, denying a trio of area teams their chance to play for a state title.
COVID-19’s own brand of March Madness also cancelled the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for all divisions. The NBA regular season was postponed and left in limbo, and the start of Major League Baseball’s season has been delayed, leaving millions sports fans nothing to watch but reruns of classic games from the past.
The new coronavirus disease’s rapid spread across the globe has been down right scary. At the same time, it has shown a bright light on those things in life more important than sports, family, love and health to name a few.
But, the loss of all sports has been a devastating blow for many. The void has been vast and difficult to fill, especially while social distancing rules apply.
A couple weeks ago, I came up with an idea to put a little bit of sports back into all our lives, while providing athletic content in our local newspapers for the next couple months during this strange absence of all sports.
A 68-team March Madness-style high school basketball tournament (for both boys and girls), consisting of the greatest teams in Southwest Wisconsin history, aptly named the SWNews4U.com Southwest Wisconsin Dream Tournament.
HOW DOES THE TOURNAMENT WORK?
A three-man selection committee, consisting of myself (The Platteville Journal and Fennimore Times sports editor), A.J. Gates (Lancaster’s Herald Independent sports editor and Tri-County Press) and Tom Gunnell (Darlington’s Republican Journal sports editor and Tri-Country Press), researched hundreds of area boys and girls teams to create a preliminary list.
We were aided in the research with help from Richland Observer sports editor Erik Olson, and the Dodgeville Chronicle’s Mike and Pat Reilly, as well as a host of area coaches and former players. We whittled the lists down 68 for each tournament. We couldn’t pick just 64 teams, 68 was hard enough!
This week, and next, we are introducing the boys’ bracket and team capsules of the 68 selected teams. Then, we will unveil our girls’ bracket and the 68 selected teams during the weeks of April 22 and 29.
Each subsequent week (beginning with first-round games May 6–7) we will pick the winners for each round right hear in this newspaper, until we crown the All-Time champions the final week of May. At least that’s the plan right now.
Any team from the current SWC, SWAL, Six Rivers West, Six Rivers East and the Ridge & Valley conferences was eligible for selection. We tried to choose the most deserving teams from each school’s history. We are aware we may have missed a few. We apologize in advance.
We settled on 1960 as the starting point for the boys’ tourney simply because the last half decade seemed like a nice even number. There are a couple of pretty classic local teams from the 1960s you may or may not heard about that have to be included in any all-time bracket. Going back any further than the early 60s proved very difficult to research.
We picked 1976 as the first year of eligibility for the girls because that was the first year of the WIAA girls state basketball tournament. Information on non-state qualifying girls’ teams from the 1970s and 1980s proved scarce.
THE RULES OF SELECTION
All state tournament qualifiers automatically made our tournament field.
However, we limited dynasties of consecutive state appearances by the same school to a single entry, to make room for other teams. For example, Sam Okey’s four straight state tournament appearances with Cassville from 1992–95 is represented by the 1995 Comets, his senior year. But the 1991 Comets, with Mike Uppena and Chad Infield, who was a three-year teammate of Okey, are also entered in the tournament as a separate entry.
The 1989 and 1991 Cuba City boys’ teams, and 1993 and 1995 Dodgeville boys’ teams, were also lumped together as a single entry for each dynasty. We are trying to avoid a situation where Okey (Wisconsin’s 1995 Mr. Basketball) or Cuba City’s Greg Timmerman, future Wisconsin Badger and 1992 Mr. Basketball, would face off against themselves. We chose ’91 Cuba City (state champion) and ’93 Dodgeville (beginning of the three-year run)
Second rule, each high school in our coverage area is represented by at least one team. Think about the Cuba City boys’ program like the ACC and Cassville like the Big 10, and Dodgeville like the run-and-gun Pac 10. All three schools are getting multiple entries (like those conference), but all three schools also have historical teams deserving entry in this field, but get bumped by greater teams from their own school’s legacy.
Schools with less than stellar basketball history deserve their one shinning moment too, like single-entry D1 college conferences such as the Ivy League, Missouri Valley, Horizon League or the Mid-American Conference.
Admittedly, there is no foolproof way to seed a bracket that features 61 regional champions, 37 state qualifiers and 12 state championship teams. It really is splitting hairs when it comes to that kind of success. But here’s how we did it.
We broke down the list of qualifying teams into groups based on their WIAA tournament finishes. Then, we seeded those smaller groups based on objective opinion while looking at overall record, conference titles, multiple years of success with the same core of players, level of conference and playoff opponents played, and star players.
The first 37 spots in our bracket are filled by the 37 state qualifiers (seeds 1 through 9 in each region). The 12 state championship teams in the boys’ tournament filled the top 12 spots in the bracket (seeds 1 through 3 in each region). Then, the 11 state runners-up come next, followed by the other 14 state semifinalist teams.
The 11 sectional finalists come next, followed by 13 regional champions. The last seven slots in the tournament go to at-large teams that didn’t make it out of regional competition.
The directional region names don’t really mean anything. They are just a way to label each bracket.
We decided to break up the play-in games and not just make the bottom eight teams fight for those 16 seeds. The last four teams in our bracket will be paired up for two 16-seed play-in games. The other two play-in games will pit sectional finalist teams that didn’t win outright conference titles in 12-seed play-in games.
HOW WILL WINNERS BE DETERMINED?
We aren’t really sure at this point, but most likely a vote between the selection committee members. For now, fill out your bracket. Make your predictions and stay tuned in the coming weeks to see how it all plays out. Come on this journey over the next eight weeks and relive some of the greatest prep basketball teams this area has ever produced.
Here are the top seeds in each region
1) 1995 Cassville1995 Division 4 state champion
Coach: Dennis Uppena
Record: 27-0, 16-0 Blackhawk champion
Tournament run: The #1-ranked Comets defeated Potosi 72-36, Wauzeka 86-44, and Seneca 82-29, in regionals, then Kickapoo 85-59, and Necedah 53-35, at sectionals to advance to state for the fifth-straight year. Cassville defeated Prentice 78-64 and Oakfield 56-43 to win a second-straight D4 state championship.
Sam Okey (Sr.) 31 ppg, 14 rpg, 5.5 apg, 7 bpg, 1st-team All-Blackhawk, Wisconsin’s 1995 “Mr. Basketball”, McDonald’s All-American. Member of WBCA Hall of Fame. Played college basketball at Wisconsin and Iowa, and professionally overseas and in the CBA. Cassville’s all-time leading scorer with 2,539 points.
Scott Uppena (Sr.) 10 ppg, 3 rpg, 1st-team All-Blackhawk, son of coach Dennis Uppena
John Koopman (Sr.) 8 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.3 apg, honorable mention AC
Tim Ackerman (Jr.) 9.8 ppg, 4 rpg, honorable mention AC
Todd Ackerman (Jr.) 6 ppg, 3 rpg
Dynasty Note: Coach Uppena, along with Okey, Chad Infield, Scott Uppena and Cory Sauser led Cassville to a conference title and D4 State championship during the 1993-94 season. Okey and Infield were also members of Cassville’s state runner-up teams in 1992-93 and 1991-92, along with Brian Koopman.
1) 1964 Dodgeville1964 single class state champion
Coach: John “Weeine” Wilson
Record: 26-0, 13-0 SWAL champion
Tournament run: The Dodgers defeated Darlington 71-47, Fennimore 77-46 and Bloomington 88-46 to win the regional title, then defeated Soldiers Grove 85-42 and Monroe 59-48 in sectional play to advance to a second staight single class state tournament. The Dodgers opened the state tournament with a 48-43 win over Merrill, then beat Waukesha 60-40 in the semis before knocking off Milwaukee North 59-45 to win the single class state championship, Hoosiers style.
Rick Brown (Sr.) 15.7 ppg, 14 rpg in three state tourney games, 1st-team All-SWAL, team’s leading scorer, had 20 points, 9 rebounds in state championship game, went on to play at D1 Arizona State and later Ripon College
Bob Rock (Sr.) 13 ppg at state, 1st-team All-SWAL, scored 14 in state title game, went on to play at St. Norbert
Carlos “Corky” Evans (Sr.) 11 ppg at state, honorable mention All-SWAL, finished with 12 points in state championship,went on to play D1 college baseball at Dodgeville and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the 1966 MLB draft
Pat Flynn (Sr.) 10 ppg at state, went on to play at Ripon College
Bruce Harrison (Sr.) 5.3 ppg at state
Dynasty Note: The 1963 Dodgers, with seniors Pat Reilly, Duane Honerbaum, Dennis Morgan and Bill Polkinghorn, along with Flynn, Evans, Brown, Harrison and Rock went 23-2 and advanced to the single class state championship game a year earlier, falling to Manitowoc 74-52. The 1963 Dodgers survived a triple-overtime scare from Lancaster 37-33 in the first regional playoff game.
1) 2000 Cassville2000 Division 4 state champion
Coach: Dennis Uppena
Record: 26-1, 12-0 Six Rivers West champion
Tournament run: The Comets defeated Potosi 66-64, De Soto 60-44, and Highland 51-48 in regionals, then Cashton 51-37, and Greenwood 70-44 at sectionals to earn a second-straight trip to state. The Coments defeated Fall River 51-43, and Wausaukee 59-48 to win the D4 state championship.
Tom Uppena (Sr.) 16.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1st-team All-SRW, honorable mention All-State, son of coach Dennis Uppena
Andy Hulst (Sr.) 11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1st-team All-SRW
Jared Junk (Sr.) 4.2 ppg, 2nd-team All-SRW
Jeff Glass (Sr.) 7.0 ppg, honorable mention SRW
Clint Nemitz (Sr.) 5.5 ppg, honorable mention SRW
Ned Schauff (Jr.) 6.8 ppg, honorable mention SRW
Dynasty Note: Coach Uppena, along with Tom Uppena, Hulst, Junk, Glass and Nemitz went 20-6, won a conference title and led Cassville to a D4 state runner-up finish in 1999.
1) 1981 Cuba City1981 Class B state champion
Coach: Jerry Petitgoue
Record: 24-1, 14-0 Southern 8 champion
Tournament run: The #5-ranked Cubans defeated Darlington 61-42, Platteville 58-48 and Prairie du Chien 74-54 in the regional final at UW–Platteville, then defeated McFarland 72-49, Portage 40-33 at sectionals, defeated Shorewood 61-44 in a state semifinal and Ladysmith 52-47 to capture the Class B state crown.
Bill Wagner (Sr.) 16.6 ppg, Southern 8 MVP, 1st-team All-Southern 8, Class B All-State Tournament team; scored 23 points and tallied a Class B best 17 rebounds and seven assists in helping the Cubans earn their first-ever state title.
John Tranel (Sr.) 10.7 ppg, 1st-team All-Southern 8, Class B All-State Tournament team; 1980 Southern 8 MVP, scored a Class B best 42 points and matched his teammate with 17 rebounds during the state tournament
Greg Timmerman (Sr.) 9.4 ppg, 1st-team All-Southern 8 pick, Class B All-State Tournament team, had 16 points, 16 rebounds at state
Jeff Shaffer (Sr.) 4 ppg, 1st-team All-Southern 8
Casey Beinborn (Jr.) honorable mention Southern 8
Dynasty Note: Cuba City went 16-4 and 13-1 to win the 1980 Southern 8 conference title; lost on a buzzer beater to Prairie du Chien 45-43 in a regional semifinal.
For more coverage and team capsules of all boys teams in the West and South regions, get your copy of this week Platteville Journal, Herald Independent, Republican Journal, Fennimore Times and Tri-County Press.
NEXT WEEK: Capsules of boys teams in the North and East regions will be printed in next week's local SW Wisconsin newspapers.
WEEK OF APRIL 22-23: Introduction of the girls' Dream Tournament bracket and West and South region teams
WEEK OF APRIL 29-30: Capsules of girls teams in the North and East regions
WEEK OF MAY 6-7: First-round results will be printed in your local SW Wisconsin newspapers.
WEEK OF MAY 13-14: Second-round results will be printed in your local SW Wisconsin newspapers.