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Preps Alcove

Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.

Here come seeding meetings: Bracketeering time!

The boys basketball seeding meetings will take place this weekend, meaning we're mere inches away from the WIAA basketball postseason, for my money the best playoff journey of any sport during the calendar year. Coaches will gather and attempt to hash out a layout for their pools of 9 to 12 teams, and one team from each pod will appear in the sectional final with a chance to appear at state. Those finals games will take place March 10 for boys and March 17 for girls.

Boys games begin Feb. 28 with some opening-round matchups. These pairings represent the regional semifinals, held March 2. A look into the crystal ball:

BOYS

Division 1, Sectional 2 (lower bracket)

(8) Hartford (5-14) or (9) Waukesha South (1-19) at (1) Germantown (20-0)
(5) Waukesha West (12-8) at (4) Menomonee Falls (11-8)
(6) Waukesha North (12-8) at (3) Arrowhead (11-9)
(7) Sussex Hamilton (10-10) at (2) Homestead (18-2)

Friday's game between Arrowhead and Waukesha West will pay huge dividends. With Arrowhead, Falls, West and North possessing very similar records, the Warhawks currently have the edge thanks to a 3-0 record vs. West and North, but that can get thrown into jeopardy if West wins at AHS on Friday. Falls is one of the hottest teams in the area right now and would see a boost in profile if they can bring their win over West Allis Central into the discussion -- a blowout victory that turned into a forfeit loss because of an ineligible player. Sussex Hamilton is a hard-luck seventh seed as a team with a .500 record. At 20-0, Germantown may be the class of the state, let alone this particular pod of teams. On the other side of the sectional, four teams have five losses or fewer heading into the week, headlined by De Pere (18-1), whose only loss came to Germantown. Bay Port (17-2) could also be a sectional finalist.

Division 1, sectional 3 (lower bracket)

(8) Janesville Craig (4-15) or (9) Janesville Parker (6-14) at (1) Mukwonago (15-5)
(5) Kenosha Tremper (7-12) at (4) Beloit Memorial (7-12)
(6) Muskego (6-14) at (3) Franklin (9-11)
(7) Kenosha Bradford (5-15) or (10) Badger (4-15) at (2) Burlington (13-7)

A remarkably forgiving region for Mukwonago, one of only two teams with a winning record in the field. The one cause for pause -- Tremper actually beat Mukwonago earlier in the year, and that quality win is one reason why it gets the nod over Muskego and Bradford (and could see Mukwonago in the second round). Craig, which just shocked Middleton, is also dangerous. Plenty of battles remain on the docket to solidify where everyone stands, especially Franklin's game with Tremper on Friday. Beloit will argue it has the tougher conference schedule compared to the schools from the Southeast and could wind up as high as the three seed. Mukwonago and Burlington are essentially locks for the top slots at this point.

Division 1, sectional 3 (upper bracket)


(8) Madison East (6-14) or (9) Kettle Moraine (5-14) at (1) Madison Memorial (17-1)
(5) Madison LaFollette (10-7) at (4) Madison West (10-9)
(6) Watertown (13-7) at (3) Middleton (14-5)
(7) Oconomowoc (10-10) or (10) Verona (13-9) at (2) Sun Prairie (14-6)

Watertown has a better record than some of the middle seeds, and Oconomowoc is right there with them in conference play, but two things work against the Wisconsin Little Ten schools -- they'll be outnumbered at the seeding meeting by Big Eight schools, and the Big Eight is seemingly a much tougher conference. West gets the nod over LaFollette because of head-to-head results -- the same reason why Sun Prairie gets the nod over Middleton. Oconomowoc will have to pull an upset in the first round most likely. The Big Eight bloc is also likely to work against Kettle Moraine in its quest to host a first round game Feb. 28.

Division 2, sectional 4 (lower bracket)

(8) Catholic Memorial (11-8) or (9) Union Grove (11-8) at (1) Whitnall (17-2)
(5) Wisconsin Lutheran (12-8) at (4) New Berlin West (16-5)
(6) Pewaukee (15-5) or (11) Cudahy (5-15) at (3) New Berlin Eisenhower (16-4)
(7) Waterford (13-6) or (10) Greendale (7-13) at (2) Milwaukee Pius (17-3)

A lot of the profiles here are razor thin, and Pewaukee will be fighting for a first-round bye. On the one hand, the Pirates are 2-1 against West and Eisenhower, though the Lions have a win over Whitnall this year and a better record overall with an identical mark in league play. West is playing white hot basketball and recently took down Pewaukee, but it's conceivable the Pirates could wind up passing both. A scare against Cudahy on Wednesday might give voters pause, however. Whitnall and Pius can both make arguments for the top seed, and Wisconsin Lutheran has endured a blitz of a schedule but still owns just an 11-8 record, with recent struggles. This one could get juggled a lot, especially after Friday's rematch between Eisenhower and Whitnall. The other side of the bracket doesn't have nearly the firepower this region does, with Milwaukee Morse-Marshall (15-4) as perhaps the best of the lot.

GIRLS

Division 1, sectional 2 (lower bracket)

(8) Waukesha North (9-9) or (9) Germantown (6-11) vs. (1) Nicolet (16-2)
(5) Hartford (13-5) at (4) Menomonee Falls (15-4)
(6) Waukesha West (6-10) at (3) Sussex Hamilton (14-3)
(7) Waukesha South (8-10) or (10) Homestead (2-15) at (2) Arrowhead (14-3)

Nicolet's hold on the top spot has gone from ironclad to tenuous in the last week, and if Arrowhead finishes the year strong with a big nonconference win against Sussex Hamilton, the Warhawks will have a major claim toward the top seed. Arrowhead's loss to Milwaukee King on Tuesday, however, hurt the cause and snapped a 10-game Warhawks winning streak. Hamilton, on the other hand, could score that win over Arrowhead and win that second seed, though in this scenario, it still seems likely the two teams could rematch in the regional final. No. 4-ranked Bay Port (16-4) is one of the key threats in the top half of the bracket.

Division 1, sectional 3 (upper bracket)

(8) Sun Prairie (5-12) or (9) Madison East (5-12) at (1) Middleton (14-4)
(5) Verona (11-5) at (4) Madison LaFollette (11-7)
(6) Kettle Moraine (8-10) at (3) Oconomowoc (12-5)
(7) Watertown (8-7) or (10) Madison Memorial (1-15) at (2) Madison West (15-3)

Middleton only recently re-appeared on the state rankings but still represents one of the state's best programs, coming off a year in which it appeared in the state title game and owning first place in the Big Eight, including two wins over Madison West. Oconomowoc and Kettle Moraine could very well get paired up, the lone non-Madison representatives in the field (depending on how you classify Watertown). The Raccoons have hit some speedbumps lately and have already lost to the Lasers this year.

Division 1, sectional 3 (lower bracket)

(8) Burlington (2-17) or (9) Kenosha Bradford (2-16) at (1) Janesville Parker (12-6)
(5) Janesville Craig (11-6) at (4) Muskego (12-7)
(6) Mukwonago (10-7) at (3) Badger (12-5)
(7) Kenosha Tremper (8-12) or (10) Beloit Memorial (1-16) at (2) Franklin (12-6)

Talk about a wide open bracket. Seeds 1-6 are pretty evenly matched, and the bottom three teams are very dificult to separate simply because they have only five wins between them. With no clear cut power in the lot, someone is going to have a great opportunity to sneak into the sectional final, perhaps a Franklin team that played tremendous hoop down the stretch last year, or perhaps even Mukwonago -- who probably had a seeding edge over Muskego until the Warriors knocked off Pius on Tuesday to seriously boost their resume. None of these teams are state ranked.

Division 2, sectional 4 (lower bracket)


(8) Catholic Memorial (7-11) or (9) Greendale (7-13) at (1) New Berlin Eisenhower (17-0)
(5) Waterford (10-8) at (4) New Berlin West (14-5)
(6) Union Grove (11-8) at (3) Cudahy (15-4)
(7) Whitnall (10-8) or (10) Bay View (7-8) at (2) Pewaukee (15-4)

Whitnall and Waterford are essentially a push (with Union Grove) until the two teams meet Feb. 21, with major seeding implications on the line. Catholic Memorial is also in that mix and will surely lobby for a bye, pointing out the challenges of the Classic 8. Pewaukee may have wrapped up the two seed with their win over Cudahy on Wednesday night, giving the Pirates a season split but also what looks like the division title. With the outcome, New Berlin West (which beat Cudahy twice) will have to get consideration for that three seed. A lot of flux here, though Eisenhower is clearly the favorite, as is Whitefish Bay (16-2) on the other side of the bracket.

(all records and info through Feb. 15.)

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