Nicolet has been generating most of the pre-tournament buzz and might be the favorite to hoist the gold ball on paper, but, statistically, there are reasons to like (or dislike) all four Division 2 teams that qualified for the WIAA boys state basketball tournament.
Follow along as I sift through the data.
There isn’t really one metric that stands out for the Knights.
We know this: They’re really good.
Nicolet (25-1) is led by a pair of bright stars in 6-foot-9 forwards Jalen Johnson and Jamari Sibley.
Johnson, a five-star recruit who has offers from some of the nation’s biggest Division I college programs, averages 19.9 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting. But he does more than score, also averaging 11.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
Sibley averages 19.7 points per game on 60.2 percent shooting.
Nicolet averages 37.5 rebounds per game, tied with La Crosse Central for the most among Division 2 teams. Johnson and Sibley are key to the Knights’ rebounding prowess.
Still, the Knights are a tough team to gauge just based solely on their numbers. Clearly, they’re talented, but statistically, they’re in the middle of the pack compared to the other Division 2 squads in most meaningful categories.
There are two categories where Nicolet is dead last, however. The Knights have made just 60.7 percent of their free throws this season and commit a strangely high number of turnovers (13.3 per game).
Milwaukee Washington’s profile
The Purgolders (21-5) have an interesting statistical resume.
They have the most explosive offense in the field (80.2 points per game) and protect the ball—a field-leading 2.34 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Washington averages just 6.8 turnovers per game. I would have loved to see the team’s shooting numbers, but they were not provided to the WIAA.
There are two big knocks against the Purolders: They don’t make a ton of 3-pointers (4.3 per game), and they have given up the most points of any team in the Division 2 field (58.2 per game).
Today’s semifinal against La Crosse Central should be a fascinating matchup.
La Crosse Central’s profile
Like I mentioned above, the Red Raiders (24-2) are tied with Nicolet as the best rebounding team in the Division 2 field.
Central also converts the highest percentage of its free throws (71.4).
Jonathan Davis heavily influences both of those stats. The 6-foot-5 junior, who has been offered a scholarship by Wisconsin, shot 79.7 percent at the free-throw line and paced the Red Raiders in scoring (22.7) and rebounding (9.3).
Most important, Central is elite defensively, allowing opponents to score just 48.5 points per game—a hair ahead of Elkhorn (48.6) for Division 2’s best mark.
The Elks (23-3) are great at shooting 3s and are stingy defensively—two attributes that travel well.
Still, they’re heavy underdogs for Friday’s semifinal against Nicolet.
First, the positives: Elkhorn averages 7.1 3s per game and shares the ball better than any team in the field (78.3 percent of the team’s field goals are assisted).
And the Elks are the most balanced offensively, with four players averaging over 10 points per game.
But Elkhorn could struggle on the glass, especially in a Division 2 field crowded with talented forwards. The Elks rank last in rebounding (29.4 per game) and have the smallest roster (average player height is 72.3 inches).