Now that the calendar has flipped to a new year, three questions have emerged from the first month and a half of local high school basketball.
Who's going to beat West Hancock?
Well, it's unlikely that it's going to happen during the regular season.
The Titans (15-0) just cleared one of their last big hurdles, defeating Abingdon-Avon 45-33 on Saturday to win the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament.
Fourteen games remain on the regular-season schedule, and only three of them are against teams that have winning records today -- Monmouth-Roseville (7-6) on Jan. 19, Danville, Iowa (6-3) on Feb. 3 at the KHQA Country Financial Shootout and Central (7-6) in the last game of the season on Feb. 16.
The Titans needed a blocked shot by Logan Dorethy in the final seconds to preserve a 53-51 victory over Central on Dec. 19.
West Hancock should be the top seed in a Class 2A regional played at either Havana or Knoxville. The other top seeds should be Farmington (13-1), Deer Creek-Mackinaw (11-2) and Tremont (10-2), so the Titans will have to beat one of them to advance to the Farmington Sectional.
Teams from regionals at Auburn and Beardstown also will feed into the sectional at Farmington. QND (8-4) could get one of those top seeds, but a brutal schedule in January and early February might affect that. The other teams who figure to be fighting for a spot in Farmington are Petersburg PORTA (9-2), Riverton (9-5) and Williamsville (10-0).
Will Payson Seymour and Winchester West Central play three times?
There's a good chance.
Payson Seymour (11-1) and Winchester West Central (16-0) are the top two seeds at the Winchester Invitational Tournament, and they could meet for the first time on Jan. 13 in the championship game. They'll meet again in Winchester on Feb. 6.
A third meeting would be in the Class 1A super-sectional at the Bowl in Jacksonville.
Triopia (9-2) looms as a possible semifinal opponent at Winchester. The only team, other than Winchester West Central, with a winning record on the remainder of Payson Seymour's regular season schedule is Central.
Payson Seymour should get a top seed in the regional at Central. Triopia, Brown County (8-3), Bushnell-Prairie City (11-2) and Illini Central (6-3) hope to avoid the Indians and get a chance to win a regional at Triopia.
Five solid teams -- Abingdon-Avon (9-3), Brimfield (9-5), Elmwood (9-4), Illini Bluffs (10-4) and Peoria Quest (11-3) -- hope to emerge from regionals at Brimfield and Lewistown and play in the sectional at Abingdon-Avon.
Okawville (10-4) figures to have the best shot of keeping Winchester West Central from making it to Jacksonville.
Why are the next three weeks so important in northeast Missouri girls basketball?
Three undefeated teams -- Clark County, Highland and Monroe City -- are all in the same district, which will be played at Highland.
Clark County (10-0), ranked No. 10 in Class 3, likely will meet Highland (8-0) on Saturday in the championship of the Highland Tournament. Clark County will then travel to Monroe City (10-0), ranked No. 3 in Class 3, in a regular season game on Jan. 12, and all three teams are in the eight-team bracket for the Tony Lenzini Invitational during the week of Jan. 15 in Palmyra. Highland then plays at Monroe City on Jan. 23.
Clark County is the top seed at both the Highland and Tony Lenzini tournaments.
The team that fares the best in the next three weeks likely will earn the No. 1 seed in the district, while the other two must fight it out in a district semifinal.