As was expected, the Coulee Conference has been a very tight race from start to finish. Looking back at my preview from November, I was pretty far off from what has actually happened, but I had the general idea: On any given night, it seems anybody can beat anybody. I definitely slept on Viroqua and West Salem while giving too much praise to Arcadia and G-E-T.

Overall Coulee Summary:

Early on, Viroqua was catching everyone by surprise and was running away with the conference. That ended with a loss to Luther, and West Salem started to get hot late in December. January would be much different, however, as G-E-T, despite starting 0-2 in conference, would dominate West Salem and take over the conference. After a somewhat close win over Arcadia, G-E-T lost its magic and dropped two straight conference games in February to Luther and West Salem, who was fresh off of a come-from-behind win over Black River Falls. Luther would be on top, but not for long as they, too, dropped a couple games. After a nail-biting win over Westby, we now see West Salem and Black River Falls sitting atop the Coulee with a 7-3 conference record. Luther and Viroqua sit just behind them at 6-4, then G-E-T at 5-4, Westby at 3-7, and Arcadia at 0-9.

Breaking Down Each Team:

Arcadia has continued their struggles from last season as they have yet to really get things going consistently. They do own one win over a much smaller Eleva-Strum, and they have been pretty close in a couple of their games, too. Right now, they are looking at the bottom seed for the playoffs, and there isn't much they can do to improve their stock unless they can upset West Salem, G-E-T, and/or Luther. Even if they do, I don't see them getting higher than the 11-seed.

Black River Falls has had a very solid season. Despite being a pretty young team, they have been able to compete with the best the Coulee has to offer, and they have been rewarded with a tie for first place. Among the teams in the conference, this team has probably been one of the most consistent teams. Unlike the other teams, there hasn't been a game for BRF where they have completely fallen apart, except for a couple non-con games. If BRF can beat both Viroqua and G-E-T, they are guaranteed at least a share of the Coulee Conference title. This sectional seeding meeting is going to be a dogfight, so BRF could finish anywhere from a 4-seed to an 8-seed.

For G-E-T, it seems like they change when the months do. For much of December, it looked like G-E-T would be a mid-tier to lower team in the conference. In January, this team exploded and went 5-1, including 4-0 in conference. The Red Hawks had a very shaky start to February with losses to Luther and West Salem. They have seemed to rebound and are playing much better. They made it an exciting game in the second half against Prescott, and they had a great win over a very good Altoona team. In a back-and-forth game against Mauston, they found themselves in control with a couple minutes left until they took some questionable shots and had some untimely turnovers. While they are technically not out of the Coulee race, it will be tough for them. They need to beat Arcadia, Westby, and BRF, and they need either Arcadia or Viroqua to upset West Salem. Again, this seeding meeting is going to be rough, so G-E-T could find themselves with a 3-seed, a 7-seed, or anywhere in between.

Luther has had similar inconsistencies to G-E-T, though much more sporadic. Up until the second week of January, Luther's only win was against G-E-T. Finally they upset Viroqua and strung together a couple good wins to find themselves on top of the conference, but it has seemed since then that they were a different team each night. One night they played quite well against a team that should have beat them. The next, they would lose a game that they should have won. If Luther wants to become conference champions for a second season in a row, they need to win out and count on West Salem and BRF losing at least one game each. I'm not too familiar with a lot of the teams in Luther's sectional, but expect Luther to have around a 5- through 8-seed come playoff time.

Viroqua has also been quite inconsistent; they started out hot in December and lost six of their seven games in January. February has brought mixed results with good wins over Westby and Luther and a very bad loss to Richland Center at home. While they have struggled recently, they are not out of the Coulee Conference race just yet. If they can beat their final two conference opponents, BRF and West Salem, they will be guaranteed at least a share of the Coulee crown. Viroqua will likely finish with the 6-, 7-, or 8-seed depending on whether or not they can beat BRF.

Westby has played quite well against their non-conference opponents, but in the Coulee, Westby has seemed lack-luster. During West Salem's struggles in January, Westby was able to steal a win. While they have had a couple opportunities since, they haven't been able to come away with consistent wins. Westby seems destined for the 9-seed, and I don't think anything can change that before the seeding meeting.

West Salem has been G-E-T's opposite. When West Salem started the season strong, G-E-T looked cold. Throughout January, it was G-E-T who got hot and West Salem who fell apart; however, West Salem is heating up at the right time. While they haven't been the prettiest wins, West Salem has won their last three conference games with a non-con loss to Tomah in between. The ball is in their court for the final two weeks as they only have two games left - Arcadia and Viroqua. Winning out would guarantee at least a share of the conference title, and one loss would require BRF to lose at least one game as well. With a win over Arcadia looking very likely, West Salem will enter the seeding meeting with high hopes. Expect to see West Salem with either the 3-, 4-, or 5-seed.

D3 Seeding Predictions:

As I stated earlier, this sectional seeding meeting is going to be very, very interesting. Wisconsin Dells has already proven they are worthy of the top seed - that much is for sure. All seeds from the 2 to the 8 are far from being decided. The 9-seed will likely go to Westby with Adams-Friendship at 10, Nekoosa at 11, and Arcadia at 12.
With a recent win over G-E-T, I expect Mauston will receive the 2-seed despite losing to Altoona by a dozen in early January. Seeds 3 through 5 will be a toss-up between Altoona, G-E-T, and West Salem. G-E-T just recently beat Altoona by ten, but they also lost a week and a half ago to West Salem by ten. Perhaps G-E-T can argue that they played good enough on defense to beat West Salem, but they couldn't hit a lot of shots they normally make - take their win over Altoona for example. That said, I don't think West Salem should be punished because G-E-T happened to not shoot well against them,but as a biased G-E-T fan, I hope to see G-E-T with the 3-seed. I think the most likely scenario is Altoona at 3, West Salem 4, and G-E-T 5, though it could end up in any order. If BRF beats Viroqua this week, the Tigers will likely earn the 6-seed, and they could fight for G-E-T's 5-seed as well. Viroqua and Elk Mound would fight for the 7- and 8-seeds, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that go either way.

Projections, loosely resembling the form of a bracket:

          1. Wisconsin Dells
9. Westby
8. Elk Mound

5. G-E-T
12. Arcadia
          4. West Salem

          3. Altoona
11. Nekoosa
6. BRF

7. Viroqua
10. A-F
          2. Mauston

Because of how competitive the Coulee teams have been with each other this season, my bracket could be drastically different from what we will actually see. It is almost impossible to predict how the coaches will argue, if each conference boosts their own, etc.


Just for fun, I decided to go through and switch the results of every close game the Coulee teams encountered. I defined a close game as a game that was won or lost by nine points or fewer, and here were the results:
G-E-T: 14-4, 8-1 - Many of G-E-T's losses have been by single digits, and the ones that were not are Bangor by 12, Stratford by 28, Luther by 10, and Prescott by 12. G-E-T did have one 10-point win, but most of the rest were by 14 points or greater.
Westby: 11-8, 5-5 - A majority of Westby's conference games have been very close. The games that had a differential of ten or more points were also not too far from my definition of close at all, similar to G-E-T.
Viroqua: 9-9, 5-5 - Not too far off from the present
Luther: 9-11, 5-5 - Same as Viroqua
Black River Falls: 7-12, 5-5 - While they did have two close losses to West Salem this season, they also had four close conference wins to Luther, Viroqua, Westby, and Arcadia, so their net wins were negative in this model.
West Salem: 9-11, 4-6 - Many of West Salem's recent wins have been very close, so reversing them has had a large impact on their record, similar to BRF.
Arcadia: 7-11, 2-7 - Arcadia has had a lot of chances in their non-con clashes, but they have fallen just short in most of them. In conference, they have played both Westby and BRF close once, so this model shows them stealing those two wins.

Doing this has shown a couple things that aren't too unsurprising this season. It reinforces the idea that the Coulee Conference is very competitive with a lot of parity. It also shows that G-E-T, specifically, has struggled to finish strong and close out when the game is on the line.

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Nice write-up. We missed you around here. - Follow me. Because we all need a bit of sports snark in our lives.

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Awesome stuff here.

To be honest I have no clue how the Coulee will fair come tournament time in a few weeks. This conference has beaten up on itself for the entire league play schedule (outside of Arcadia) and there is always some new team or a multiple teams tied atop the standings every week. Out of conference has not really shined on the league (RIP Midwest Players Classic 2020) and that plus the instability in conference will hurt these teams over the next two days. I'll find it hard to see any of the teams getting higher than a 4 seed in their respective half sectionals. I think maybe one team out of this league could come away with a regional title but that could be a stretch at best. Best of luck to all the Coulee teams in the tournament regardless.
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