Seeding the IHSA State Tournaments A Most Difficult Task
By Roy and Harv Schmidt Now that the Illinois High School Association has gone to four classes for its boys basketball state tournaments, seeding those tournaments has become that more difficult. Looking into our crystal ball, we decided to provide our own seedings which hopefully reduce the problems the IHSA will run into with geographical rivalries, analysis of strength of schedules, and a host of other issues that often make the seedings meetings a most political process. Consequently, and without further adieu, Illinois Prep Bullseye provides our seedings for most of the top Class 4A and Class 3A sectionals, and offers some other news on happenings around the State of Illinois pertaining to high school basketball and recruiting.
It is common knowledge that most fans, coaches, and media experts felt that the IHSA's first year of using a four class system for its boys basketball state tournaments was disappointing. Arguments were varied, but they concentrated around the following themes: 1) Traditional geographical rivalries were non-existent or lost as schools were placed into different classes; 2) Most of the top teams in each class were put into the same sectional complexes as they were geographically bunched together, which left other sectionals in a very watered-down situation; 3) By the time super-sectionals and the state finals came around, most of the state's top teams had knocked each other off. The IHSA has always had a huge problem with seeding the tournament sectionals and the regionals that feed into them. This is because it cannot be determined if it is better to go with a "straight seeding" format like the NCAA tournament, or if it is better to ignore seeds and put at least the top two teams in a geographically concise area into the same regional. For example, put East and West Aurora in the same regional regardless of whether they may be two of the top four seeds in the sectional. Well, it looks like the IHSA is trying to have its cake and eat it to by going with a hybrid of these two systems, but that makes life hell on earth for all those involved with seeding. None of the coaches want straight seeding whereby schools can be traveling great distances to play week night games. However, nobody wants the sectional and later rounds to be watered down because of a geographical emphasis that could eliminate top flight teams as early as the regional championships. With that being said, here is how we would seed some of the top Class 4A and 3A sectionals, along with our own logic of how we reached our decisions, with the full intent of keeping the "hybrid system" of seeding in place. This is because we do not think that a purely geographical seeding nor a purely performance or record-based seeding is the answer. Waukegan Class 4A Sectional In a blog which we published on January 21, 2009, we stated that this is undoubtedly the top sectional in the state. The Class 4A state champion could very well come out of this sectional. We think Waukegan has earned the top seed unless they lose to Zion-Benton next Tuesday at home. However, Lake Forest has been terrific all year, and they are a strong #2. Zion-Benton beat Warren, and despite a worse record, deserves the #3 seed. The Zee Bees are a much better team when 6'7 Markus Yarbrough is on the floor. When he is not, that affects 5'10 point guard Ronald Steward's game. Warren will be the #4 seed. The problem with seeding this sectional will be where to put the host of Mid-Suburban conference teams that now funnel into this sectional. Until Cully Payne got injured, Schaumburg was a lock for a Top 4 seed. Now, they do not deserve a higher seed than Conant. Conant is a #5 and Schaumburg is a #6. We have no idea which Top 4 seed will go to Hoffman Estates, but our best bet is Lake Forest, as Zion-Benton hosts their own regional. We look for regional championships being #1 Waukegan vs. #8 Stevenson at Stevenson, #2 Lake Forest vs. #5 Conant at Hoffman Estates, #3 Zion-Benton vs. #6 Schaumburg at Zion-Benton (the Saxons will have to be moved to this regional), and #4 Warren gets #9 Lake Zurich on the Bears' home floor. Morton Sectional This may be the toughest Class 4A sectional in the state to seed. So many teams have been playing at an inconsistent level, and the strength of competition which the various teams in this sectional play is all over the map. Also, throw out the records. Most of Whitney Young's losses have been to national and regional powers, so they clearly deserve the #1 seed. De La Salle has been pathetically inconsistent all season, but if they get the job done against Mt. Carmel at home tomorrow night, they deserve the #2 seed. The issue then becomes what do you do with Morton? The Mustangs have been struggling, but have been without top player Luke Scarlata. He is due back in a couple of weeks, and the Mustangs have barely lost to quality teams without him. Plus, Morton won the Proviso West tournament and beat Whitney Young. It is a crapshoot for the #3 spot between Morton, St. Ignatius, Foreman, and Proviso West. As great of a job as Tommie Miller has done with Proviso West, playing in the West Suburban Silver does not earn them a #3 seed in our view. St. Ignatius beat a loaded Marshall team and has been playing well all year in a loaded Chicago Catholic League. Foreman has the most talent and perhaps the best record, but we question the number of high profile wins they have had this year. Thus, we would keep Morton at #3, place St. Ignatius at #4, Foreman at #5, and Proviso West at #6. Wait a minute! We have not even mentioned St. Patrick and Lincoln Park. Ouch! Well, the Shamrocks lost to Joliet Catholic, so there is no way they deserve any higher than a #7. Tom Livatino has Lincoln Park playing well right now, but their schedule does not match up against some of the top dogs in this sectional, plus they also suffer from the "few high profile wins" syndrome. Once again, looking at what some regional contests could be and what makes sense geographically, combined with the aforementioned issues and difficulties, here is how we would seed this sectional. #1 Whitney Young hosts #5 Foreman and #9 Farragut (as strong as a #9 you will find anywhere) in their regional. #2 De La Salle gets "rewarded" by having to prove themselves against #7 St. Patrick on their home floor. We look for #10 Fenwick to go here as well. #3 Morton should face #8 Lincoln Park at York, and #4 St. Ignatius should tangle with #5 Proviso West on their home floor. What a game that should be! Oswego East Sectional This is going to be a very underrated sectional, and one which after the top two seeds, will be most difficult to seed. The top seed clearly goes to Neuqua Valley. Todd Sutton's team is a threat to win a state championship. Naperville Central with sleeper Player of the Year candidate Drew Crawford is a lock for the #2 seed. However, what do you do with the #3-8 seeds? We know the IHSA would love to get a East Aurora vs. West Aurora showdown in the regional final at East Aurora. Well, that could happen if one of these two teams is seeded in the Top 4 seeds. West Aurora defeated East Aurora by two, so the Blackhawks are in, right? Not so fast! Gordie Kerkman would be the first to tell you that while the Blackhawks have improved, they are not really a Top 4 team in this sectional, and that they stunk the first two months. You also have to consider that Plainfield North and Bolingbrook are in this sectional. Plainfield North is 18-4 and did great at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, but should more emphasis be placed on a recent loss to crosstown rival Plainfield Central? That is always something that generates much debate. In our opinion, it is so close that we would side with the geographical cravings and place West Aurora #4, so that they could play East Aurora on their floor for a regional championship, which would be a sure sell out! We would seed the rapidly rising Raiders from Bolingbrook #3, Plainfield North #5, East Aurora #6, and a very underrated Glenbard East team #7. Take your pick from among Wheaton-Warrenville South, Batavia, Geneva, and Bartlett for #8. We will go with Wheaton. Therefore, we would seed #1 Neuqua vs. #7 Glenbard East at Glenbard West, #2 Naperville Central hosting their own regional final against #5 Plainfield North, #3 Bolingbrook having to beat #8 Wheaton-Warrenville South or Batavia on their home floor, and #4 West Aurora tangling with the #6 Tomcats on their home floor. Hinsdale Central Sectional This sectional looks to be pretty easy. Hyde Park will be the top seed, and it is a well-deserved one. Coach Donnie Kirksey has done a great job there. We would seed Mt.Carmel #2, Curie #3, and the winner of the CPS playoff game between Simeon and Chicago Vocational #4, with the loser being seeded #5. Surprising Downers Grove South should be seeded at #6, and we would seed St. Rita #7. Lincoln-Way North Sectional The south suburbs are very competitively balanced this season, with Thornton being the only dominating team. Thus, the Wildcats are a clear-cut #1 seed in this sectional. We would take Bloom #2 over Thornton Fractional North on the basis of a higher number of quality wins and a tougher schedule. The job that Jasper Williams has done with a roster-depleted team has made him a top candidate for our Coach of the Year. Watch out for the emerging Vikings from Homewood-Flossmoor, who get our nod as the #4 seed. We would seed Joliet Township #5, Lincoln-Way East #6, Plainfield Central #7 (why they go to a different sectional than Plainfield North is beyond us), and Lockport #8. Riverside-Brookfield Class 3A Sectional This is clearly the top Class 3A Sectional in Illinois. It will be most difficult even seeding the #1 seed here. St. Joseph beat North Lawndale, so the Chargers get the nod there. But what about Marshall? Well, they lost to North Lawndale. St. Joseph is playing the best ball right now, and we think their win over North Lawndale earns them the top seed. We would give North Lawndale #2 and Marshall #3. We know that our friends at Riverside-Brookfield may not like a #4 seed given their 20-1 record, but we argue that as long as you get a Top 4 seed, does it matter? You are going to have to play those top 3 seeds regardless in the sectional, and if you can get a #4 seed and avoid a regional championship against them, you are fine. The issue then becomes whether R-B is forced to play Crane in a regional championship. We say appeasing R-B, and playing the geographical card by placing Crane with either Marshall or North Lawndale in a regional is the way to go. Marshall hosts a regional, so it makes more sense to place the #5 seed Crane there. We understand this is a tough match-up for Marshall, but we think it will happen. #6 Wheaton St. Francis is a major sleeper, and should get St. Joseph at their regional, while North Lawndale will get #7 Glenbard South on their (Glenbard South's) home floor. That means that R-B gets a break playing Nazareth or Orr , although Nazareth would be on their home floor. Rock Island Class 3A Sectional Arguably, this sectional should feature the best basketball that downstate Illinois has to offer. We do not need to place teams into regionals, as the IHSA has decided to do with many downstate sectionals. With that being said, two of the top 3 teams in this sectional, and 4 of the top 7 or 8 may all be in the loaded Peoria Richwoods Regional. We really cannot make a strong argument as to who deserves the #1 seed between Washington and Peoria Richwoods, but it will be one of them. #3 looks to be Limestone. Take your pick for the remaining Top 8 seeds, but we like Peoria Woodruff, Peoria Notre Dame, Rock Island, Peoria Central and Morton to round out those spots. We find it unfathomable that La Salle-Peru or Kankakee get a ride to the sectionals, while Peoria Richwoods, Limestone, Peoria Notre Dame, Peoria Woodruff, and Peoria Central beat each other up in a regional. Decatur Eisenhower Class 3A Sectional Arguably the second best downstate regional this year. Again, teams have already been placed into regionals, and it looks like two regionals are stong while the other two are modest at best. Champaign Centennial should be the #1 seed, but a strong case can be made for Lincoln, whom we would give the #2 seed to. #3 should be surprising Decatur Mac Arthur with unheralded junior Kendall Kennison or Springfield Southeast with the underrated Lawrence Thomas. Springfield Lanphier, Decatur Eisenhower, Bloomington, Mt. Zion, and Mahomet-Seymour should all battle for Top 8 seeds. Richards Class 3A Sectional The Bulldogs catch a huge break hosting this sectional after it was originally scheduled to be hosted by Illiana Christian. This sectional is going to be almost impossible to seed due to the inconsistency of all of its teams, and the lack of a truly dominating team. However, there are many solid and capable teams in this sectional, which should make for competitive and exciting basketball. We think that the #1 seed has to be either Rich East or Brooks. We are not sure about either of them as a #1 seed, so does it matter? If Brooks can topple North Chicago on the road Saturday, maybe the Eagles deserve a #1 seed. Chris Head is a tremendous coach, but we do not see that happening. Consequently, we would seed this sectional more on potential and reputation. We cannot seed Richards #1 after their loss to Evergreen Park, and would go with Rich Eastt #1. We would seed Brooks #2 and Richards #3, just a nod ahead of Evergreen Park at #4, Hillcrest at #5, Rich South at #6, and then a battle between an underrated Tinley Park team and an overrated Crete-Monee team for the #7 spot. *************************************************************************************************************** OTHER NOTES: ... When is somebody going to give 6'0 junior Hollis Hill at Chicago Vocational some love? He has been scoring 23 ppg on a 23-4 team and has numerous D1 coaches interested in him, including many schools from the Horizon, Summit, Mid-Continent, and Ohio valley Conferences. He is explosive and can shoot it from way out. ... When we wrote a web article on the recent performance of De Kalb's Jordan Threloff against Batavia, we should have also noticed the strong performance turned in by Batavia's 6'4 David Bryant. He scored 29, drilled his usual 6 threes, but also took the basket a few more times than we are used to seeing. David has had William and Mary, Lehigh, Penn, and other East Coast schools in hard on him. ... We still think that Waukegan's 6'7 junior Jereme Richmond is the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball, and after his 35 point, 13 rebound performance against North Chicago, who can disagree? However, if Marshall's 6'2 Darius Smith gets the Commandoes back in Peoria, he could be a lock. There is nobody who has done what Smith has done game in and game out. As much as we like Warren's 6'4 Brandon Paul, he has had too many shaky games this year, and defenses are totally geared towards stopping him. No other juniors, and no sophomores (regardless of how talented that class is) are deserving. Our other top choices would be our three top sleepers, those being 6'5 Drew Crawford at Naperville Central, 6'4 Matt Vogrich at Lake Forest, or 6'7 Aaron Nelson at Bloom. Whitney Young's 6'2 Chris Colvin would also be deserving, but we know he will not get the downstate vote needed. ... It has been noted by many experts and media members that perhaps this has been the year of the "stock-raiser" or low Division I/small college "sleeper." We hinted at that with our articles on the holiday tournaments, and it seems like almost every game that we cover, we come away with another player that we feel has earned either small college scholarship offers or at least low DI interest. We believe that Illinois offers one of the most competitive and deepest crop of small college prospects every season, and it is with no wonder that we find the Great Lakes Valley Conference and CCIW among the top conferences in Division II and III. We see Augustana, North Central, Millikin, Carthage, and Illinois Wesleyan everywhere. Nobody works harder at any level than Lewis University's Scott Trost and Harley Piercy. There are too many other small schools to possibly list here, but NAIA power Robert Morris is everywhere, and nobody has picked up the intensity of their recruiting efforts more than local NAIA St. Francis University in Joliet and Division 3 Lake Forest College with the dynamic duo of head coach Chris Conger and assistant coach Ken Davis, who is a class guy with an unbelievable grasp of recruiting reality. Nobody has seen more of an individual recruit's games this season than University of Chicago head coach Mike Mc Grath has with 6'7 recruit Luke Scarlata from Morton. The effort very well could pay off for the Maroons. There is not a bigger class act in all of basketball than Mc Grath. Division 2 Hillsdale College has a great staff with Illinois connections, and Coach John Tharp is on the verge of turning them into a power. Finally, schools in Wisconsin like Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Lawrence University have done a great job recruiting Illinois. There may not be a better program in D3 than Stevens Point, and Joel De Pagter is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in small college basketball at Lawrence. ... Finally, some players that have caught the eye of many of the schools mentioned above, as well as some low DI schools, include (in no particular order) 6'7 Brandon Kunz and 5'10 Connor Mooney at Lake Zurich, 6'2 Kedrick Williams at Normal Community, 6'6 Kevin Reed at Prospect, Scarlata, 6'5 Raul Guzman, and 6'2 Joe Belcaster at Morton, 6'4 Tony Rizzo at Conant, 6'5 Derek Raridon at Neuqua Valley, 5'10 Marc Little at Bartlett, and 6'4 Andrew Galow at Oswego. This list is hardly all-inclusive!
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