GREEN BAY - The WIAA released the boys basketball brackets for the postseason and Northeastern Wisconsin was well represented with No. 1 seeds.
Among the No. 1 seeds are De Pere, Pulaski, Little Chute, Brillion and N.E.W. Lutheran.
Last season, Oshkosh North, Kaukauna, Brillion, Lourdes Academy and Sheboygan Lutheran all reached the state tournament, with Brillion and Lutheran winning state titles, while Kaukauna placed second.
North and Brillion are once again No. 1 seeds, but have challenging paths to the Kohl Center in Madison. With that in mind, here is a analysis of the local teams in all five divisions, including prediction on which teams will reach the state tournament:
No. 1 seeds: De Pere, Oshkosh North.
- Breakdown: Oshkosh North reached the state semifinals last season, while De Pere reached the 2011 state title game. Both should make deep runs in the postseason, but North has a better chance to make state. De Pere looks poised to make another sectional final, but in that game the Redbirds likely will meet undefeated Germantown, which is the defending state champ, and by some accounts better than last season, which is downright scary. As for North, its big hurdle could be Fox Valley Association rival Neenah, a No. 2 seed. They could meet in a sectional semifinal. North's sectional includes seven FVA schools, and the winner of this side of the bracket could meet Superior or D.C. Everest, the top two seeds on the other side of the bract, respectively, in a sectional final.
- Best potential matchup: North vs. Neenah. North beat the Rockets twice during the regular season and it's why North is a No. 1 seed. But a third matchup in the postseason at North (sectional semifinal host) would be something.
- Prediction: North and its 1-3-1 zone returns to the state tournament, where it could face Germantown, which takes down De Pere in a sectional final again.
No. 1 seeds: Pulaski, Hortonville.
- Breakdown: This sectional is downright crazy. In Sectional 2, the top five seeds in order are: Pulaski, Seymour, West De Pere, Ashwaubenon and Kaukauna – each capable of making a deep run. Whichever team makes it out of this side of the bracket will have earned it. Interestingly, West De Pere beat Seymour and is seeded behind the Thunder and Ashwaubenon beat Pulaski and is seeded No. 4. However, Pulaski is the clear No. 1, having beat De Pere and in second place in the Fox River Classic Conference. The top seed on the other side of the bracket is Slinger. Meanwhile, Hortonville is in good position to make a run to a sectional final where it could meet defending state champion Onalaska, which is led by state player of the year candidate Matt Thomas, who has signed with Iowa State.
- Best potential matchup: Where isn't there one? Pulaski vs. Ashwaubenon (regional final); West De Pere-Seymour (regional final); regional final winners versus each other in sectional semifinal.
- Prediction: So many good teams, so many possibilities. But let's look at Pulaski, which has a Division 1 recruit in Cody Wichmann (UW-Milwaukee) and plays a deliberate style that seems to get the best of the opponent. The Red Raiders are headed to state, where they likely would meet Onalaska, the defending champ.
No. 1 seeds: Little Chute, Brillion.
- Breakdown: This bracket had so many good possibilities and most of them surround Little Chute. The Mustangs are the favorite to reach the state tournament, but the road will not be easy. Little Chute has potential matchups against No. 4 Fox Valley Lutheran (regional final), an Eastern Valley Conference team it beat last season in a sectional semifinal; then a matchup against No. 3 Xavier, another conference foe, in a sectional semifinal; and then Brillion from the other side of the bracket in a rematch of last year's sectional final. Of course, Brillion has to trek through its own sectional that includes No. 2 Roncalli, No. 3 Wrightstown, both Olympian Conference foes, and No. 4 Two Rivers. The bracket has loads of good teams so whichever team survives will have earned it, but it really is Little Chute's to lose. Also, in another bracket Berlin is a No. 2 seed and may have to deal with No. 1 Oostburg in a sectional semifinal. The No. 1 seed on the other side is East Troy.
- Best potential matchup: Plenty to talk about here as they were mentioned above, but to pick one? Let's pick two. Little Chute vs. Xavier. The Hawks beat Little Chute last year in a regional final only to have to forfeit the loss due to an ineligible player. Xavier wants payback. Little Chute vs. Brillion. A rematch of last year's sectional final would be fun.
- Prediction: With the likes of Turner Botz and Kenneth Lowe leading the way, it's the Mustangs heading to Madison for the second time in three seasons.
No. 1 seeds: Crandon, Amherst, Shiocton, Laconia.
- Breakdown: Half the No. 1 seeds in Division 4 are from the area, so what are the chances at least one reaches state? Pretty good,
- because one of the four brackets is loaded with area teams, with Crandon, Amherst and Shiocton involved. If seeds play out, one will reach state. However, No. 3 Lourdes Academy could be a hurdle. The Knights, who reached the state tournament last season, can't be overlooked and could meet No. 2 Algoma and Shiocton. Should be a competitive bracket. As for Laconia, the Spartans are perfect this season, and seem poised for a good postseason. One problem looms in a potential sectional final – Dominican, which most view as the best Division 4 team in the state. Maybe Laconia can change some minds if they meet.
No. 1 seeds: N.E.W. Lutheran, Wausaukee.
- Breakdown: N.E.W. Lutheran is primed for a deep run as the Blazers have yet to taste defeat. One stumbling block the Blazers need to watch early is No. 4 Hilbert, which eliminated N.E.W. last season. That reunion would be in a regional final. If the Blazers get through that, it's possible they meet No. 2 Suring in the sectional semifinal. The Eagles have once again pieced a real good season, losing only to Peshtigo this season, and would not be a walkover for the Blazers. Possibly waiting for N.E.W. or Suring in a sectional final would be No. 1 Wausaukee. The Rangers have five losses this season, two to Peshtigo and one to Suring (they play again this week), so they have played good competition. However, if Wausaukee makes it to the sectional final, it might be tough to pull out a win.
- Best potential matchup: N.E.W. Lutheran vs. Suring. The two best Division 5 teams in the area would be a nice sectional semifinal game.
- Prediction: N.E.W. Lutheran not only reaches state, but makes the state championship game against Randolph. However, Randolph is too much in the state title game.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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