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Roundtable: Predicting MIAA State Champs

With the MIAA Boys Basketball State Tournament field set, here are our state championship picks from each of the four divisions from our ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents:

Brendan C. Hall

ESPNBoston High Schools editor

Division 1: Putnam

Losing to St. John's Prep just before the start of the tournament might have been the best thing to happen to the Beavers. After looking damn near invincible the first two months of the season (having seen their Hoophall performance in person, I'm convinced mighty Corona Del Sol would have fallen if Jonathan Garcia suited up), it was a reminder of their mortality, and their biggest weakness -- defending the three. Now, they've got that fire again. Fifty points beats the Beavers, but it's getting to that 50 that so few teams ever accomplish. Like Nolan Richardson's fabled Arkansas Razorbacks of the 1990's, the Beavers' defense is "32 Minutes of Hell". They are not only battle-tested -- they are ready for war. Good luck to whoever comes out of Eastern Mass. -- and the favorite seems to be changing daily, between Newton North, Mansfield, Cambridge, Catholic Memorial and a half-dozen others.

Division 2: Danvers

What John Walsh has done in just five years at the Falcons' helm is nothing short of remarkable. The Danvers head coach is already closing in on the 100-win career mark in his half-decade at Danvers, to just 19 losses, and has had four straight 20-win seasons to go with back-to-back D3 state titles. Perennially long on shooters, the Falcons have size to go with it. I don't see too many teams matching up with Devan Harris down low, and if they do, they also have to worry about hot-handed Vinny Clifford, who has rebounded quite well after injuries wiped out his junior season. A state title would give Walsh his third in just five years as a head coach, to go along with the two he won at Watertown as an assistant for his cousin Steve Harrington. Among active head coaches, only New Mission's Cory McCarthy and BC High's Bill Loughnane (each with four) would have more state hardware. There's plenty of obstacles in D2 North, including potentially troubling matchups with Brighton or Tewksbury, but it's hard to pick against the Falcons. Outside of I-495, look for Marlborough, Shepherd Hill or Longmeadow to make a run to the DCU Center floor.

Division 3: Old Rochester

This one's kind of wide open. We haven't had a D3 team ranked in our poll all season long, which speaks to the statewide parity. Something tells me we'll get a deep run out of Watertown (what else is new?), while Hampshire looks like the team to beat out west. But I'm going with the Bulldogs of Old Rochester here. They pounded their South Coast Conference schedule all year, and their athleticism is going to be a problem for a lot of teams.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham

This might be one of those years where the Generals could legitimately compete in a higher division and play well -- they're that stacked. Bryant football commit Nolan Wilson is going to be a problem underneath the basket, but the biggest problem of all might be sophomores Max and Marcus Zegarowski, the twin brothers of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. They garnered a lot of hype from the summer circuit, and they've more than lived up to it this winter. From the other end of the state, look for Monson to make a run to the DCU Center floor behind electric senior Moody Bey.

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Nate Weitzer

ESPNBoston correspondent

Division 1: Newton North

The South is a minefield this year, but if the Tigers manage to best Catholic Memorial once again, they'll be battle-tested, and capable of taking down the winners of the other regions. Their sole in-state loss to Franklin could serve as motivation, and get Paul Connolly's squad back on a mission.

Division 2: Danvers

The Falcons could be a favorite in the Division 1 bracket, which makes them the prohibitive favorites in Division 2. The front court dominance of Merry and Harris is only the beginning for John Walsh's squad, as sophomore point guard Devonn Allen, senior sharpshooter Vinny Clifford, and swignmen Rashad Francois and Tre Crittendon comprise one of the most talented corps in the state.

Division 3: Hampshire

The Red Raiders are loaded this year, with sharpshooters Brendan Bzdel and Mitch Ouimette leading a tough back court. They also have a matchup nightmare in the form of Conor Cronin, who is making a huge leap as he's averaging 15.4 points per game in his senior season.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham

With six talented seniors, including scoring machine Jimmy Campbell, the Generals have as much experience and talented as anyone in this bracket. They have a good chance to complete an undefeated season.

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Ben Cormier

ESPNBoston correspondent

Division 1: Putnam

While its loss to Prep shows vulnerability, Putnam’s earlier performance at the Hoophall Classic shows Putnam’s power under pressure. With just two losses this season for a total of six points, the Beavers have shown that their defense can hold any team back—and I fully expect that to hold true during playoffs.

Division 2: Danvers

The Falcons, with their 79-78 win over No. 7 Lynn English, completed their first undefeated season in school history. Vinny Clifford and Devan Harris won’t allow a loss of momentum until a championship victory.

Division 3: Old Rochester

The Bulldogs don’t just beat their opponents — they blow them out of the water. Old Rochester has won 7 games this season by more than 25 points, including a 52-point victory over Seekonk. If the Bulldogs can stay consistent, they'll take home the grand prize.

Division 4: Hamilton-Wenham

One of only two undefeated teams in the ESPNBoston.com top-25 poll, Hamilton-Wenham hasn’t come close to losing many games. Even if opponents can slow the Generals down, they certainly can’t stop them.