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.
We're already there. On Feb. 10, coaches will gather to hash out the seeds for the WIAA boys basketball postseason, charting out the path for five more state champions, soon to be crowned at the Kohl Center in Madison.
A look at what local teams could expect in the process ahead:
Oconomowoc (6-13) is a strong candidate to end up with either the eighth or ninth seed in its pod, which would result in a matchup Feb. 19 for the right to see the top seed, surely either Sun Prairie (16-3) or Madison Memorial (15-3). My guess would be Memorial.
Cooney (6-13) has some very good teams on its nonconference docket, like Mukwonago, Brookfield Central and Lodi, though the Raccoons haven't registered any wins against teams that are thriving in their respective conferences. They could argue they deserve a better seed than Watertown (13-6), having defeated the Goslings handily once and falling in overtime in their other meeting, but Watertown's record is probably too strong to bypass. Not only that, the Raccoons have the disadvantage of nestling in a pod with a ton of Big Eight schools, and it'll be interesting to see if those programs favor their bretheren, having seen them play up close. For example, Madison West (7-11) has a similar record but has defeated LaFollette (9-10) and Middleton (11-8) and played Sun Prairie tough twice, leading in the second half both times. You could see how Big Eight schools would appreciate that.
Others in the region: Madison East (8-10), Verona (5-13).
Mukwonago (16-3) has a fairly predictable destiny coming up Sunday. The Indians are likely to get the top seed and face either Janesville Parker (3-16) or Kenosha Bradford (3-15) after the two teams meet Feb. 19. Only two other teams have a strong record -- Burlington (14-4), a team Mukwonago defeated fairly easily this year by 50-41 score, and Kenosha Tremper (13-7), which lost to Burlington and just fell back into a tie for third place in its own conference.
It's no secret that this is a quadrant ripe for the picking, as it was last year when Mukwonago took advantage and surged to the sectional final. It seems a strong possibility that Mukwonago would have to defeat both Tremper and Burlington to get back.
Others in the region: Janesville Craig (10-9), Muskego (6-13), Beloit (6-13), Badger (7-11).
Arrowhead (15-3) is one of the area's best teams, but it has an uphill battle to get anything greater than a three seed. They have the misfortune of being in the same pool of teams as Sussex Hamilton (18-1) and Germantown (19-0), which looks like the unstoppable tour de force it was last year.
If anyone beats Germantown, it's going to be a shocker. Not only that, but it would probably have to come in a sectional final two days after the semifinal -- meaning a team wouldn't exactly have the luxury of full preparation for the Warhawks. Hamilton has its best team, maybe ever, and it would probably have to replicate its win over Arrowhead (which came on a dramatic last-second shot and insane final sequence of events) accomplished in the playoffs last year. Arrowhead will have to make it past fourth-seeded Homestead (13-7), which is a quality team that has played a number of top-flight foes this year.
Solid teams like Waukesha West (12-7) and Kettle Moraine (10-9) are likely headed for the back half of the draw and will thus have to face one of those juggernauts in the first round. At this rate, Hamilton would probably meet Menomonee Falls (6-13) in the first round as a 2-7 matchup ... and Hamilton's not going to want any part of that after the Indians gave the Chargers everything they could handle both times. The Lasers have improved over the past year, but it would still be making a big statement if it topped Arrowhead in the 3-6 battle.
Others in the region: Hartford (3-15), Waukesha South (2-16)
Pewaukee has run into Wisconsin Lutheran in the playoffs on previous occasions, but not right away this year. Wisco has been moved to the other half of the bracket, and there is a chance the Pirates could make it all the way to the sectional final with some good fortune.
The key for Pewaukee (14-6) is getting a top-five seed and netting a first round bye, with more teams in this quadrant than in Division 1 and six teams playing Tuesday. That's a slam dunk, as really only New Berlin Eisenhower (16-3) is a surefire higher-seeded team, though Catholic Memorial (14-5) probably will be, as well. The Pirates' recent loss to New Berlin West (6-14) does a little damage with a record so close to teams such as Bay View (12-7) and Whitnall (12-7). Even if the Pirates are fifth, they'd still get a bye.
With the third seed, the Pirates would meet either the sixth seed or the 11th seed in the Feb. 22 opener, with a dangerous South Milwaukee (7-11) team that defeated the Pirates earlier this year as one of the candidates for that 6. However, Greendale (8-12) won the head-to-head with the Rockets and will probably get the nod there. Pewaukee defeated Greendale earlier this year, 69-60. Cudahy (2-18) seems like the best candidate to have the 11th seed, a team Pewaukee defeated 95-39.
Others in the region: Indian Trail (6-14), Waukesha North (6-13)
Records through Tuesday, Feb. 5.