One of the fun things our friends at WisSports.net do is put together a list of media members picking state winners and participants ahead of the playoffs. I joined in this year although I am notoriously terrible at these things. Here is the first in a few articles projecting who will win state for high school girls' basketball.
NOTE: They are re-seeding the state finals this year in basketball, so in addition to picking the four teams to make it to state, you had to also pick seeds #1-#4 as well. That wasn't laid out but I gave it a shot (the numbers are the projected seeds).
Jimmie's picks: #1 Mukwonago over #3 Arrowhead; #2 Appleton North, #4 Milwaukee King
Sectional 1: I eliminated any teams from where I grew up from the outset--the Fox Valley was absolutely loaded this year and had tons of talent. Appleton North and East meet each other after having quiet paths to the sectional semis, while Kimberly breezed through its two games to face SPASH on the other side of the bracket. I'm still alive here.
Sectional 2: Arrowhead seemed like a clear favorite, based on record and strength of schedule. They've allowed just 55 points in two playoff games, albeit against the #16 and #9 seeds. Waukesha South is up next and then they'll get a 20-game winner in Hamilton or Bay Port (20th win would come with a victory in the semis) for the right to a trip to state.
Sectional 3: At the outset of this, I was probably weighing my picks heavily on Mukwonago's win over Arrowhead just before making the selections. Sun Prairie fans have been quick to respond to picking them to not win the sectional. However, the Cardinals will meet Madison East in an absolute battle for the sectional semifinal at Madison La Follette on Thursday night. That should be an outstanding game. Mukwonago's path has lacked that intrigue. They beat #16 Madison West and #8 Oconomowoc handily, and will get upstart #13 Janesville Parker for a sectional semifinal. The Vikings met #12 Watertown in the regional final, so the opposite half of the bracket for Mukwonago played out perfectly with the #4 and #5 teams in the sectional going down right away.
Sectional 4: I didn't have much of a background on the Milwaukee area making the picks so I went with the top line, Milwaukee King. Seeds #1-3 and #5 are still left so that tells me that the teams were seeded appropriately here.
Jimmie's picks: #1 Beaver Dam over #3 Monroe; #2 New Berlin Eisenhower, #4 Onalaska
Sectional 1: The top seeds will face double-digit loss teams in the sectional semifinals, so there's a solid chance it's Onalaska vs Hortonville for the sectional title and a trip to state. Onalaska has been in the rankings all year and has only two losses. Still in good shape.
Sectional 2: I didn't really have to look too much past Beaver Dam here. They are a fun team to watch and will have two outstanding sectional opponents. I feel like BD is the best team I've seen this year. Seymour in the sectional final could be a better game than anyone they might play at state.
Sectional 3: Monroe lost big to Beaver Dam this year but is still an outstanding team. They will have to get through two really good defenses (potentially) to advance to Madison. First up is Stoughton on Thursday night, and if they can win against their Badger South rival, they'd get possibly Jefferson in the sectional final. Without looking it up, I want to say Jefferson has allowed more than 50 points only two or three times this season. This sectional is pretty balanced, although Monroe is still the favorite. Stoughton coach Brad Pickett will be on The Prep Report Wednesday night on The Big 1070.
Sectional 4: I thought New Berlin Eisenhower was a pretty clear-cut favorite in this sectional, and they remain with a big game against New Berlin West up next. On the other side of the bracket, Milwaukee Washington (#7) has advanced to take on top-seeded Pius XI.
Jimmie's picks: #2 Wrightstown over #1 Laconia; #4 Hawyard,
#3 Dodgeville (re-pick: Marshall)
Sectional 1: Division 3 was the hardest division for me to look through. The brackets are fairly balanced at the top and there aren't many schools from the Madison area, so I haven't seen most of of the teams that remain. I picked Hayward initially, but man, Wisconsin Dells and G-E-T is an impressive match-up. I can't change picks mid-stream but I finally had a chance to see Wisconsin Dells (not in person) and they looked good in the first two playoff games. That sectional semifinal should be great.
Sectional 2: Chalk in a sectional with the four teams remaining having nine combined losses. Wrightstown will face Amherst in a battle of one-loss teams in the sectional semifinal. That winner is probably the favorite to emerge and advance to Green Bay.
Sectional 3: So many area teams had played Dodgeville and they seemed very impressive--that's why I picked them, based on strength of schedule. Platteville won by 13 in the regional final. Marshall has one loss, and it came right before the playoffs. Maybe that's a win that galvanizes the Cardinals, who beat two Capitol North teams on their way to the sectional semifinal against Platteville Thursday night in Oregon. On the other side, Lakeside Lutheran has looked impressive all year. They'll get Big Foot after dominating a Clinton squad in the regional final that was without their best player, so it'll be a third straight playoff game against a Rock Valley team for the Warriors. Marshall was always the favorite in this bracket, but they have their hands full with Platteville. (Re-pick with Dodgeville out: Marshall).
Sectional 4: Laconia is undefeated so this was a pick I didn't really sweat too much. Waupun is up next for Laconia. On the other side, Kettle Moraine Lutheran and St. Thomas More battle it out.You could make a solid argument for either to advance. Again picked the undefeated team.
Jimmie's picks: #1 Aquinas over #3 Melrose-Mindoro; #2 Marathon, #4 Manitowoc Lutheran
Sectional 1: It's a really interesting final four in this sectional. Cameron took down top-seeded St. Croix Falls and Colfax rolled on its half of the bracket for a sectional semifinal showdown. Colfax would be my pick there. And on the other side, Durand has made it to the sectional semis against top-seeded Melrose-Mindoro, who I picked at the outset of the pick-em. Colfax and Durand, should they meet for a third time, split their two prior meetings. So really it's anyone's game with Melorse-Mindoro surviving Regis on Monday night in the regional final. My pick is M-M but I am also pretty happy with a third Colfax-Durand meeting to decide who goes to state.
Sectional 2: Mostly chalk so far here and I took Marathon to start. This is largely the northern and northeastern part of the state, where I don't call many games, especially at the small-school level. I know Colby's turn through the Eau Claire-area schools has them largely tested as a two-seed, but Marathon has dominated two opponents so far in the playoffs. Shiocton-Crandon is on the other side of the bracket.
Sectional 3: Aquinas is a HEAVY favorite to win state. They've smoked teams that are two divisions higher than them. Darlington has had a nice season, but... Aquinas is extremely good. On the other side, it's St. Mary's Springs third straight Capitol South opponent when they meet Cambridge. Expect a battle down low. Cambridge coach Mike Jeffery will be a guest on Wednesday night's Prep Report.
Sectional 4: I think a re-draft of this bracket of mostly eastern Wisconsin schools would have Milwaukee Academy of Science on the fast track to a state semifinal berth, but I'll stick with Manitowoc Lutheran (also because I have to) as they take on Mishicot and keep 'er movin.
Flambeau over Black Hawk; Bangor, Newman Catholic
Re-pick with Flambeau out: #1 Black Hawk over #2 Bangor; #3 Newman Catholic, #4 Clayton
[Ed. Note: Jimmie is a Flambeau graduate.]
Sectional 1: I'm having a hard time coping with the regional final loss for the Flambeau Falcons (hence the massive re-write up top). It wasn't so much blind faith in my alma mater as much as it was having an established scoring combo and top-flight talent in D5 would help propel them on a deep run in the playoffs. Alas, Clayton ends the dream of at least one former Falcon, so here we are. Of the teams remaining, McDonell battled Flambeau to a close loss in the past month... Clayton just beat Flambeau by 18. I am really intrigued at that semifinal match-up and the winner of that should have a decent, but winnable game against the victor of Northwood or Shell Lake. I am picking Clayton to emerge from this group on the re-draw with my high school out of the mix. (Re-pick with Flambeau out: Clayton).
Sectional 2: Maybe it's the name recognition factor, but any time I see Newman Catholic, I envision other teams having a problem facing them, especially in the tournament. They've got a good one with Tri-County in the sectional semifinal. Tri-County is the top seed and 23-2 on the year. The other side of the bracket is a rare #5 vs #6 match-up, and both won their regional finals by single digits. That makes me a tiny bit more confident in at least the winner of Tri-County vs Newman. Division 5 is weird most of the time.
Sectional 3: Southwestern Wisconsin is a notoriously difficult part of the state for small-school sports regardless of what sport is actually being played. The biggest upset here is that the bracket went chalk with only one exception, #3 River Ridge taking down #2 Potosi in a regional final. Bangor remains the favorite in this sectional, but regardless of who emerges, it's really more about surviving here.
Sectional 4: I called Black Hawk's dominating regional final win over Argyle, the second-place finisher in their conference. Argyle is not a bad team either, with a handful of legitimate scoring threats, and Black Hawk blew them out, allowing 39 points to the Orioles' leading two scorers but just eight points to the rest of the team after jumping out to a 22-4 start. They'll have a rock fight with Central Wisconsin Christian next, but it is really hard to see a D5 team overcoming the shooting from top to bottom that Black Hawk has at its disposal. Three of their players are in the top ten in the division in three-point shooting percentage. So, Black Hawk, everyone's state favorite heading in, is now my new favorite in D5. And probably would have been my old favorite, but hey, when your high school diploma says Flambeau High School, it's kind of easy to pick them for a title run, you know?