By Joe Henricksen
The way the seeds for state tournament play are conducted will change this year. The City/Suburban Hoops Report could be wrong, but just how this is a better plan remains to be seen. In conversations with the Hoops Report, several coaches in recent weeks have voiced their concern about the new process. Instead of 18-20 coaches hammering it out all together in a room as has been done for years, those coaches will be submitting their seeds electronically. The IHSA's switch is to help avoid travel.
Coaches put in hours in summer camps, travel to team camps around the state, play in two and three-day shootouts throughout June and July, and travel each week all winter long to go scout future opponents. And now, after countless hours of work in and out of season, those coaches don't have the opportunity to state their case for their team in person. And all to avoid one night of travel on a weeknight in February? Brilliant.
The Hoops Report is calling this the "Lazy Coach Clause." A night off from traveling? Lazy coach gets to stay home and is happy about it? Great! Thank you, IHSA!
There have been some horror stories from seeding meetings in the past, with coaches giving erroneous seeds. But there is something to be said about making foolish seeds and having to look the other coaches in the eye after making those seeds as opposed to hiding behind a send button behind a computer at home. The results of how coaches seeded teams will apparently be available when it's all said and done, but it will be after the fact. Now the coaches don't have to see the coach minutes after they shafted them in the seeding process.
Also, will every coach, even those that are mired in a 4-16 season, do their homework? In a seeding meeting every coach can hear how the season has gone for the other teams. The information is verbally presented to them. They can hear from a coach how a team lost four games but three were without its best player playing. They can hear how a team has five losses but four of them came to ranked teams with a combined record of 71-9. They can hear how a team is 14-8 but has won 10 of its last 11 games heading into the seeding meeting. Will every coach look up and down at other team's schedules and notes? I don't think so.
Building a seeding resumé
In this past week's issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, each sectional was broken down and seeded. But as has been the case time and time again this season, so much can happen and change in a matter of a week. The year of parity will do that.
But of all the sectionals that will be seeded this week, one stands out as the biggest mess in terms of trying to figure it all out: Oswego East. There are 11 teams with at least 14 wins heading into Tuesday's action. The top two seeds are locked in with Neuqua Valley No. 1 and Naperville Central No. 2. Then it gets dicey. There are schools that have dropped in recent weeks, while others have added nicely to their seeding resumé.
Plainfield North looked like a lock for a top four seed just a little over two weeks ago after performing brilliantly at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and sporting a 16-2 record. However, recent losses to Oswego East and Plainfield Central will certainly drop Plainfield North, probably out of the top four. Geneva was pushing for a top eight seed just a month ago when they were an impressive 14-1, which included a win over Chicago Vocational. But after going 3-4 in the last month those hopes are looking dimmer. Even Wheaton-Warrenville South, which no one realizes has won 14 games this season, had an opportunity to make a push into the top eight, but a loss to Glenbard East last Friday night ended that.
Batavia, on the other hand, has made a huge push. Following the Elgin Holiday Tournament the Bulldogs were 7-5. Since the calendar turned to 2009 the Bulldogs are 8-1, which included big wins over a strong Glenbard South team and West Aurora this past weekend. Bolingbrook is also hot, winning 8 of its last 10 games to improve to 14-6.
So how will it all shake out? The Hoops Report has its own thoughts, but it will probably go down differently for various reasons. Here is how the Hoops Report sees the top 10 seeds in the Oswego East Sectional.
1. Neuqua Valley .... A no-brainer here as the top seed.
2. Naperville Central .... Drew Crawford & Company, sitting at 20-2, deserve the No. 2 seed.
3. Bolingbrook .... The Raiders (14-6) likely won't get this seed due to the fact they just won't have enough "friends" on their side. Garnering a high seed is a lot easier when you have conference buddies and neighboring schools seeding you. Bolingbrook has none in this sectional. But coaches need to take into account the Raiders are playing well, winning 8 of their last 10. Plus, four of their six losses have come to the state's top-ranked team in Thornton, Neuqua Valley (by 3 points), St. Ignatius (by 3 points) and Homewood-Flossmoor (in overtime). Those four teams were all ranked in the Top 25 and are a combined 73-13.
4. West Aurora .... This is the wildcard. The Hoops Report could see the Blackhawks (15-7), who are 10-3 since losing to Simeon in the opening game at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5. West Aurora does own a big road win over East Aurora.
5. East Aurora .... The Tomcats could argue for a top four seed. Remember, they are unbeaten and in first place in the same league Neuqua Valley is in. Several of their losses have come without leading scorer Will Brown. And they do hold an ace card being the only team to have beaten Neuqua Valley, one of the state's elite teams. But that overtime home loss to West Aurora hurts.
6. Glenbard East .... Say this about Glenbard East: they have taken care of their business. The Rams are 15-5 with four of the five losses coming to teams that have a combined record of 56-8, including Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central. The fifth loss came to a strong 15-7 West Aurora team. The Rams don't have a single bad loss and own a win over Downers Grove South (17-4), which has won 12 straight since losing to Glenbard East.
7. Plainfield North .... Unfortunately, the bad losses outweigh the great two days of basketball the Tigers played at Pontiac. Yes, Plainfield North beat Waukegan and Curie, but they have also lost to Joliet -- by 25 points -- and fell to both Oswego East and Plainfield Central.
8. Batavia .... The Bulldogs are hot, fresh off wins over Glenbard South and West Aurora, and climb into the top eight.
9. Geneva .... Despite the great start to the season, the recent losses and soft schedule have to be taken into consideration. The Vikings do hold off Wheaton South for the No. 9 seed due to wins over Vocational, Glenbard South and Batavia earlier in the year.
10. Wheaton-Warrensville South .... The Tigers do have a win over West Aurora and have played well of late. But a 15-point loss to West Chicago, a team Geneva handled, keeps them at No. 10.
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