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Michigan's top teams and players to watch in 2019-20 boys basketball

MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo logo MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo 12/9/2019 By Jared Purcell, mlive.com

Ypsilanti Lincoln celebrates the win during the MHSAA Division 1 boys basketball championship game at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Ypsilanti Lincoln won the game with a last second shot to beat Detroit U-D Jesuit, 64-62. J. Scott Park 5/8 MLive.com

High school basketball games begin this week and there will be so many great and surprising moments between now and the state championships on March 28 at the Breslin Center.

Here is a look into who the defending champions are and a few teams you should keep an eye on in each division this winter. Plus, a few names for you to keep an eye on are listed as well.

DIVISION 1

Ypsilanti Lincoln players get together during the MHSAA Division 1 boys basketball championship game at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Ypsilanti Lincoln won the game with a last second shot to beat Detroit U-D Jesuit, 64-62. J. Scott Park 5/8 MLive.com

2019 defending champion

Everyone knew about Emoni Bates' abilities when he joined Ypsilanti Lincoln as a freshman. However, not many people thought it would carry Lincoln all the way to a state championship. The Railsplitters went from 11-10 two years ago to 23-4 Division 1 state champions last year. They won four of their seven state tournament games by four points or less, including a buzzer-beating win against Detroit U-D Jesuit for a 64-62 victory in the title game.

Clarkston's Fletcher Loyer (5) goes for a layup against Oak Park's Marcel Carter (0) and Bryan Mackey (11) during the high school basketball game between Clarkston and Oak Park at Clarkston High School, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 in Clarkston. Clarkston defeated Oak Park, 77-43. (Ben Allan Smith 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D1 Teams

Lincoln may have graduated the four starters surrounding Bates but it welcome's in new talent to make Lincoln a favorite this year. Point guard Simon Wheeler joins Lincoln after playing at East English as a freshman and then sitting out at Ferndale as a sophomore due to transfer rules. Wheeler has good slashing ability and should be able to be a nice compliment to Bates' superior skill. Also, freshman Braelon Green joins the fold after looking strong in the middle school and AAU circuits. He played middle school ball at Novi Christian Academy.

Outside of Lincoln, there are a couple of teams looking primed for big years, including Orchard Lake St. Mary's. The Eaglets were lost in a competitive Catholic League that included very strong Detroit Catholic Central and Jesuit last year. Now, St. Mary's looks primed for a Catholic League title and more with Wisonsin signee Lorn Bowman leading the way at point guard. Guard Julian Roper transferred into St. Mary's from County Day last January but didn't play. He'll instantly elevate St. Mary's to another level. As if St. Mary's didn't need anymore guard talent, Kareem Rozier is back after an impressive freshman season for the Eaglets.

Also, Clarkston will be in shape to improve upon the great season it had last year. The guard tandem of Fletcher Loyer and Keegan Wasilk were great as freshman and are looking to come back with a vengance after last year's early and unexpected exit from the playoffs. Of course, there is 7-foot Northwestern signee Matt Nicholson who has put on more muscle and will once again be a huge force near the basket at both ends of the court. There is skill and toughness all throughout this lineup.

Grand Blancs Ty Rodgers (23) takes a free throw in the match up between U of D Jesuit and Grand Blanc Tuesday night at U of D Jesuit, Dec. 11, 2018. U of D Jesuit would go on to win 57-44 against Grand Blanc. (Tanya Moutzalias 5/8 MLive.com)

More Top D1 Players

There are many great players to watch in Division 1, including 5-star senior forward Isaiah Jackson who is going to bolster an experienced lineup a Waterford Mott. Jackson transferred in from SPIRE in Ohio after spending his sophomore season at Detroit Old Redford and his freshman year at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.

Grand Blanc sophomore Ty Rodgers is another great young talent and will continue to draw attention of NCAA Division I schools.

More players to watch include Tyson Acuff of Detroit Cass Tech, Jaden Akins of Farmington, Maliq Carr of Oak Park, Jamoni Jones of East Kentwood, Julian Lewis of Ann Arbor Huron, Brody Parker of Troy, Ryan Rollins of Macomb Dakota, Sir'Real Smith of Saginaw, Trey Townsend of Oxford, Jarvis Walker of Muskegon, Griffin Yaklich of Saline and Omar Zeigler of Detroit King.

DIVISION 2

Hudsonville Unity Christian's T.J. VanKoevering (32) shouts out in celebration as he holds the trophy on his head after Hudsonville Unity Christian defeated River Rouge 58-55 in the MHSAA Division 2 boys basketball state championship on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Jake May 5/8 MLive.com)

2019 defending champion

Hudsonville Unity Christian took its senior-laden team the distance last season, upsetting 2018 Class B champion Benton Harbor in the region finals and topping River Rouge in the finals. The title was the first for Unity Christian as they beat opponents by an average of 67.7-47.8 during the season.

River Rouge players get together during the MHSAA Division 2 boys basketball semifinal at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University on Friday, March 15, 2019. River Rouge won the game, 72-66, in overtime over Harper Woods Chandler Park to advance to the championship game. J. Scott Park 5/8 MLive.com

Top D2 Teams

Unity Christian loses a ton of talent and experience and will need to rebuild quick in order to contend. While River Rouge lost four of its top five scorers, rising junior Legend Geeter showed flashes of greatness all throughout last season and should be in for a big year at River Rouge. Also, senior forward Brent Darby Jr. transferred in from Garfied Heights in the Cleveland area to play for the same school and coach that his dad played for year back in the late 90's. River Rouge will be great again and will look to copy the success of its football team with a state title.

Benton Harbor is going to be great once again with Mr. Basketball contender Carlos "Scooby" Johnson. Johnson helped lead Benton Harbor to the Class B title in 2018.

Grand Rapids Christian's Kobe Bufkin dunks in the district semifinal against Catholic Central at Forest Hills Eastern in Ada on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Catholic Central won 71-63. (Neil Blake 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D2 Players

Other players to watch for in Division 2 include Pierre Brooks of Detroit Douglass, Kobe Bufkin of Grand Rapids Christian, Mason Docks of Williamston and Charlie Woodhams of Otsego.

DIVISION 3

Iron Mountain was called for a traveling violation on a breakaway layup and for an intentional foul with 0.07 seconds left to allow Pewamo-Westphalia to escape with a 53-52 win in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals.

2019 defending champion

The Pirates of Pewamo-Westphalia captured the program's first state title last season, doing so in thrilling but controversial fashion with a 53-52 victory over Iron Mountain. Pewamo-Westphalia had a senior-laden team and finished 28-0 and was the state's only undefeated team across all divisions.

Pewamo-Westphalia head coach Luke Pohl speaks to his players in a huddle in the final minute of the MHSAA Division 3 state final boys basketball game between Iron Mountain and Pewamo-Westphalia, Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center in East Lansing. Pewamo-Westphalia defeated Iron Mountain, 53-52, to clinch the Division 3 state championship title. (Ben Allan Smith 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D3 Teams

Although Iron Mountain lost a heartbreaker in the championship game, the Mountaineers have a good chance at returning to the Breslin Center for another shot at it as top scorers Foster Wonders (23.9 points) and Marcus Johnson (23.3 points) return.

Also, Flint Beecher should be a contender once again as the Bucs have Jalen Terry and Earnest Sanders back to lead the way. Terry was the Associated Press Division 3 Player of the Year.

Detroit Edison was a semifinalist last season and returns four of its five starters from last season. The Pioneers will once again be challenging for a title thanks to its returning skill and experience as Andre Smith, Aaron Bearss and Ralph Johnson were a handful of players that could fill the bucket for Edison.

Calvin Christian's Brock Stevens (10) looks for an opening to pass the ball while Pewamo-Westphalia's Nathan Martin (42) blocks during the Division 3 regional final at NorthPointe Christian High School, in Grand Rapids, on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Kayla Renie 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D3 Players

More players to watch in Division 3 include William Dunn of Quincy, Joe Liedel of Erie-Mason, Jeffery Carrier of Mason County Central and Brock Stevens of Calvin Christian.

DIVISION 4

Southfield Christian celebrates at the final horn during the MHSAA boys basketball Class D championship game at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University on Saturday, March 24, 2018. Southfield Christian won the game over Buckley, 64-54. (J. Scott Park 5/8 MLive.com)

2019 defending champion

Southfield Christian's dominance at the Class D/Division 4 level continued last year as the Eagles captured their fifth state championship in eight seasons. After starting the season 2-5, Christian went on to win 19 of its final 20 games to take the title, dominating opponents along the way. In the semifinals and finals combined, Christian outscored its opponents, 118-67, including a 63-39 win over Frankfort in the title game.

Southfield Christian's Da'Jion Humphrey gets air as he shoots a jump shot during the first half of the Division 4 boys basketball state semifinal on Thursday, Marc 14, 2019 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Jake May 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D4 Teams

Of course, Southfield Christian remains a favorite this year. The Eagles return three key starters from last year's team, including most of its main reserves. Da’Jion Humphrey is the top returner for the Eagles and he averaged 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds as a junior.

Dollar Bay returns two of its top three scorers in Conner LeClaire and Davin Hill and will look to return to the Breslin Center again.

Dollar Bay's Ashton Janke (11) drives to the basket during a Dollar Bay vs Southfield Christian Division 4 MHSSA state semifinal game at the Breslin Center on Thursday, March 14, 2019. Southfield Christian defeated Dollar Bay 55-28 and will advance to the finals. (Mary Lewandowski 5/8 MLive.com)

Top D4 Players

More players to watch in Division 4 include Jared Dugener of Muskegon Catholic Central, Andrew Blanchard of Engadine, Blake Cassidy of Pellston, Ashton Janke of Dollar Bay and Brady Titus of Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian.

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