• Let The Playoffs Begin

    All the games of the boys regular basketball season are complete, and now it's time for the "second season." This one, like every year, is always different because if your team wins, it's on to the next game. If your team loses, then the season is over.

    And so it goes for the WIAA playoffs, which starts this week. In the first full week of March, five champions in five divisions will be crowned. There will be some jubilation and some sadness and crying on the bench because there will be plenty of that.

    I don't put any weight on the area or state rankings around this time of the year, especialy since March Madness starts two weeks early in the state of Wisconsin. The boys start the postseason this week and the girls will get it on next week.

    Let us go to my predictions of how things will shake out in some of the sectionals. The hot sectional to keep an eye on out of the four in Division 1 is, well, I will save that for last. In the Homestead sectional, I see Sussex Hamilton, Sheboygan North, Germantown and De Pere being the final four teams there. Germantown and De Pere have a pretty good chance to meeting again like they did last year. The Cardinals haven't forgotten the defeat that the Warhawks put on them in Manitowoc.

    Sheboygan North could be the surprise team that would upset De Pere because it looks like they would meet in the semifinals. That is, if both teams run the tables and get past the regional rounds. On the other side, Germantown and Sussex could square off in a rematch from last year when they met at Waukesha North. The Warhawks have been the top dog in the area and the state rankings, and they have a more balanced team.

    I feel sorry for the Chargers. Outside of their guards, they have no size in the post. They certainly don't have a 7-footer on their team as Germantown boasts. If they meet, the pressure of Germantown will be too much to handle, which could result in a 50-point blowout loss. I'm just saying.

    I think Sun Prairie, Mukwonago, Madison Memorial or Madison LaFollette will be one of the final four teams in the Sun Prairie sectional. It would be nice for the Cardinals to play the game in their own gym with the short trip to Madison on the line if they win.

    Madison LaFollette appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth. I haven't heard much from them at state since the 1980s when Rick Olson led them to a state title. Madison Memorial is always there at state and has won the championship almost every other year. Mukwonago is the darkhorse team with an outside chance to go to Madison.

    Oshkosh North got a taste of the state experience last year. They liked it so much that I can see them returning to Madison this year. Appleton North should be one the favorites along with Superior and Neenah to punch their ticket to Mad Town. Superior would have preferred to play a little closer if the state tournament was in Green Bay. But since the boys tournament will remain in Madison, they will have to travel a lot further. If they win the Stevens Point sectional, then the trip will be worth it.

    And last, but not least, the toughest sectional in Division 1, the Racine Horlick sectional. Oh boy, where do I start on this one? This sectional is one where it's a dog-eat-dog world. Whoever survives this sectional will be bruised up and probably end up limping to Madison.

    Either Milwaukee Hamilton, Racine Case, Milwaukee Vincent, Brookfield Central or Milwaukee King will take this sectional. I say that because I saw all these teams in the regular season. Case had a rough time against the Generals when they met in a Thanksgiving weekend game, but the Eagles came back strong and will be ready for the co-City champions this time if they meet in the sectional finals.

    Hamilton wants a piece of King to avenge their loss to them last week, denying the Wildcats a share of the conference title with Milwaukee Washington. But bygones can't be bygones. Both of those teams have players who know each other off the court and Jim Gosz and Tom Diener, the coaches, certainly aren't going out for dinner before the playoffs. They're both intense bench generals and are usually at each others throat as they have been for years.

    The Vikings, under Marquis Hines, aren't playoff ready, so the conversation with them being in the sectional semifinals stops right here. Star senior Deonte Burton was hesitant to score at times when his coach wanted him to take over the game. He wanted to pass the ball to his teammates more. He will need to take over. Without his farewell party before he moves on to Marquette, Vincent doesn't have a wing or a prayer and are a longshot to make state.

    If either of those teams play Brookfield Central, they will have to be ready for a slower game where the final score may be in the 40 to 50-point range. They play a 1-3-1 zone, and if whoever they play doesn't have penetrating guards that will break the zone or consistent outside shooters, then it will play into the hands of the Lancers.

    In Division 2, four City schools will make it interesting in the West Allis Central sectional. Morse-Marshall, Bay View, Bradley Tech and Washington were in the upper division. Enrollment among the playoff qualifiers pushed them down a division. There is an outside chance that one of those schools could backdoor their way to Madison.

    The bracket setup in Division 1 allows only one City school to qualify for state from the Horlick sectional. Another City school could emerge from the WAC sectional. I think New Berlin Eisenhower, Wisconsin Lutheran, Catholic Memorial and Pius will also have a say of who will represent the area in Madison.

    Either Onalaska or Rhinelander, in my opinion, will make it to state in the Marshfield sectional. I see a Waunakee and Stoughton matchup in the Janesville Craig sectional with a visit to the Kohl Center on the line. Seymour and Pulaski are the favorites to square up in the Fond du Lac sectional final.

    The teams I'll look out for as the favorites in Division 3-5 are Racine St. Catherines, Whitefish Bay Dominican, Burlington, Kaukauna, LaCrosse Aquinas and Cuba City. Fasten your seatbelts because the road to Madison starts Feb. 19.