By Joe Henricksen
High school coaches around the state will be entering their electronic seeds this week in Class 4A and Class 3A as they set up the brackets for state tournament play this March. By the end of the week every sectional and regional will be set in stone. The City/Suburban Hoops Report forecasts how those sectional seeds could shake out.
The Hoops Report breaks down each Chicago area sectional in Class 4A and Class 3A and seeds the top eight teams in each sectional. As the coaches must do (hopefully they do as there is no longer a seeding meeting), the Hoops Report took a look at everything from won-loss records to strength of schedule, how the team has played in recent weeks and head-to-head matchups. While the research is exhausting, here is how the sectional seeds shape up in the Hoops Report’s eyes.
1. De La Salle
2. Proviso East
4. Whitney Young
5. St. Ignatius
8. Proviso West
Breaking it down: Arguably the state’s toughest sectional, headed by De La Salle, will provide some entertaining regional championship games.
Farragut’s recent loss to Riverside-Brookfield may have cost them a shot at the No. 2 seed, while Proviso East’s schedule has clearly been a cut above Farragut’s schedule this season in terms of overall strength. Proviso East has beaten Morgan Park, Hillcrest and Glenbard East.
Whitney Young is the tough one to seed as the Dolphins have played without its point guard all season (Derrick Randolph did return last week) and has played the toughest schedule of any team in the sectional.
Although St. Ignatius lost to Proviso West back in November, the Hoops Report gives the edge to St. Ignatius over Morton, York and Proviso West as the Wolfpack have played top teams very tough (lost to highly-ranked Lyons, De La Salle, Hales and Peoria Notre Dame by total of 13 points). In fact, St. Ignatius and Whitney Young could easily be flip-flopped but at No. 4 and No. 5 it really doesn’t matter. York beat Proviso West Jan. 29 and has won 9 of its last 11, while Proviso West is 5-6 in its last 11 games.
2. Lyons Twp.
4. Mt. Carmel
6. Brother Rice
8. Hinsdale South
Breaking it down: The goal is to secure the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in this sectional to avoid having to play powerful Simeon any time before the sectional final. Lyons Twp. gets the edge over Curie in the Hoops Report’s mind due to overall strength of schedule. Lyons has won 14 of 15, with its lone loss coming at the buzzer to a ranked Downers South team.
The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds are interchangeable between Mt. Carmel and Bogan, but the Caravan have won 10 straight. Brother Rice, which started the season 9-1, has gone just 4-5 since late December. However, the Crusaders did knock off Marist in mid-January to earn the No. 6 seed.
8. Buffalo Grove
Breaking it down: After awarding Warren the No. 1 seed, this is about as tricky of sectional as there is to seed. First, schedule difficulty varies greatly among several teams in this sectional. And there are several teams who have knocked one another off over the course of the season, complicating the head-to-head arguments.
Mundelein, which has had its problems with Warren, did beat Zion-Benton. Barrington, which beat Mundelein early in the year, has played well of late, picking up a big 74-61 win over Fremd this past weekend. That pushes the Broncos into the top four. Meanwhile, Fremd (15-8) has played a slightly tougher schedule than a year ago and gets the No. 5 seed.
Where Waukegan gets seeded will be interesting. The Hoops Report plugs Waukegan in as the No. 6 seed despite its 8-10 record. The Bulldogs have played, without question, the toughest schedule of any team that will be seeded between 2 and 8. Coach Ron Ashlaw’s team has beaten Evanston, New Trier, Maine South and Rockford Auburn. Prospect has played well of late and owns a mid-January win over Buffalo Grove, which keeps them out of the No. 8 seed and the unenviable task of having to beat Warren for a regional championship.
But where does that leave Buffalo Grove? The Bison have lost to both Prospect and Fremd but beat Zion-Benton over the weekend and also knocked off Barrington earlier in the year.
New Trier Sectional
1. Niles Notre Dame
3. Maine South
4. Niles North
5. Loyola Academy
6. Glenbrook North
7. New Trier
Breaking it down: Despite an upset loss to Carmel over the weekend, Niles Notre Dame is the choice at No. 1 in a sectional that isn’t as strong as it’s been in recent years but does offer some depth. While Notre Dame is on the fringe of Top 25 status, when was the last time this sectional didn’t have a single team ranked? Evanston’s recent win over Maine South vaults the Wildkits into the No. 2 spot.
Niles North has won 16 games, including 11 of its last 13, and beat league foe Glenbrook North Jan. 21. There is a real possibility these two Central Suburban League North teams, who are tied for first, could meet for a regional championship.
A few weeks ago it looked as if Glenbrook North would be vying for the top seed or “settling” for the No. 2 seed. The Spartans, though, have their issues. They don’t appear to be on the same page and have really scuffled the past few weeks, losing four of its last five, and drop to No. 6.
Loyola Academy has played a brutally tough schedule, probably the toughest of any team in the sectional. The Ramblers beat New Trier early in the year and owns wins over Glenbrook North and Evanston in January.
New Trier is starting to put it together. Junior Austin Angel has returned and the Trevians have won five straight. St. Patrick does have a win over top-seeded Niles Notre Dame on the résumé but is just 11-10 overall.
Conant (14-7), which beat Schaumburg at the buzzer this past weekend, secures the No. 7 seed over St. Patrick and Mather.
The depth of the sectional includes having St. Patrick, Mather and Schaumburg all outside the top eight. St. Patrick may be only 11-10, but the Shamrocks have played a terrific slate and do own a win over No. 1 seed Niles Notre Dame. Mather will be a formidable lower seed. And Schaumburg has played some of the top teams (Simeon, Downers Grove South, Proviso East and Lockport) very tough in defeat.
(NOTE: The Hoops Report revised this sectional from Sunday after taking a closer look at some head-to-head play. Hoops Report regrets the error.)
7. Plainfield South
Breaking it down: This shakes out nicely as Thornton, Crete-Monee and H-F are all ranked among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area. Thornton beat Crete-Monee and Crete-Monee beat Homewood-Flossmoor. With the top three set, Lockport and Bloom fit in easily as No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
Then things get fuzzy. There is a group of five or six teams –Stagg, Plainfield South, Plainfield Central, Sandburg, Thornwood and Lincoln-Way East — that you could comfortably plug anywhere between No. 6 and No. 11. Stagg has the best record of the bunch and has played a competitive schedule. Thornwood played top-seed Thornton this past weekend and put a scare into the Wildcats, losing 60-59 in double overtime.
East Aurora Sectional
1. Benet Academy
2. Downers Grove South
3. Glenbard East
4. East Aurora
5. Neuqua Valley
6. Waubonsie Valley
7. West Aurora
Breaking it down: The top three seeds are virtually locked in with Benet as No. 1 and then a fight for No. 2 between Downers Grove South and Glenbard East. DGS gets the edge as they’ve been on a role. Then things get tricky.
The schedule East Aurora has played, combined with the 16-5 record, pushes the Tomcats to the No. 4 seed, despite scuffling in late January. Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley have split, but Neuqua has played a more competitive schedule and has won 20 games.
Oswego likely lost its shot at a No. 6 seed with two losses this past weekend, falling in close ones to Plainfield Central (at the buzzer) and to rival Oswego East. West Aurora inches up to No. 7 as a result of the schedule it has played (losses to Rock Island, Bogan, Simeon, Glenbard East) and an impressive mid-January win over state-ranked Crete-Monee.
4. Wheaton Academy
6. North Lawndale
7. St. Joseph
8. Nazareth Academy
9. Wheaton St. Francis
Breaking it down: Riverside-Brookfield has done its job. The Bulldogs took care of Farragut in late January and also owns a 79-55 win over a highly-ranked Lyons Township. Now its a matter of whether the dozen-plus Chicago Public League coaches in this sectional take notice.
Crane is highly ranked, but Crane’s two losses this season have come to its Red-West rival — Farragut. With R-B and Crane as the top two, the favorites will have their hands full regardless of where they are seeded as regional hosts — Wheaton Academy, Marshall, Nazareth Academy and St. Joseph — could all be dangerous in a one-game regional matchup on their home floor.
The argument will be for Wheaton Academy to be seeded higher than the Hoops Report has them projected. And records often times win out in seeding sectionals. But the schedule, in comparison to the other teams in the sectional, is considerably weaker. Wheaton Academy has played and beaten only one team with more than 11 victories, which makes the win over Nazareth Academy (14-6) the most impressive victory on the schedule.
Marshall has played a very strong schedule (Peoria Manual, Bogan, Waukegan and Mt. Carmel outside the Red-West battles) and owns a win over Orr.
Orr is back in the mix after the IHSA lifted its suspension on Monday. Although Orr has struggled, this is a team that features one of the state’s elite players, 6-6 Illinois-bound Mycheal Henry, and is capable of competing for regional and sectional titles.
1. North Chicago
3. Grayslake Central
4. Grayslake North
5. Vernon Hills
6. Gordon Tech
Breaking it down: This is a sectional that hardly matches up to the ones that will be played at Riverside-Brookfield and Rich South. There is no clear-cut favorite, though North Chicago gets the slight edge due to owning a win over Grayslake Central and having played the most competitive schedule.
Ridgewood, which has struggled of late, will host the sectional and hopes it can win two regional games to get back to its own gym. The recent losses may have cost them a top seed.
After a slow start to the season, Grayslake Central has played well since early January. Although Grayslake North may have the better record, Grayslake Central owns a 14-point win over North and has played a tougher schedule (Barrington, Mundelein, Glenbard East).
Piecing together the 5-8 seeds takes some guesswork. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Vernon Hills, which started the season 10-0 but has gone 4-7 since, including a loss to North Chicago. In this sectional, that 14-7 record will get them the No. 5 seed, because …
Other hopefuls and candidates for the No. 6, 7 and 8 seeds include:
• Gordon Tech is just 6-11 but has played a tough Catholic League schedule.
• Lakes is 8-15 but 3-6 in its last nine games.
• Fenton is 7-16 but is on a two-game winning streak.
• Senn has also won fewer than five games but played in the Public League’s Red-North.
• Elmwood Park is 3-15 and has lost seven in a row.
• Wauconda is 6-17 and has lost four straight.
Rich South Sectional
1. Morgan Park
5. T.F. North
6. Rich South
8. Rich Central
Breaking it down: Morgan Park is the team to beat and gets the edge over both Brooks and Hillcrest, a pair of worthy No. 1 seeds in any other sectional in the state.
Carver is an easy choice as the No. 4 seed. The Challengers played in the toughest conference in the state — the Public League’s Red-South — and has beaten Rockford Boylan and Seton in non-conference play (and lost to state-ranked Peoria Central). And T.F. North, which hasn’t been able to get that signature win just yet (losses to Hillcrest, Glenbrook North and New Trier) is penciled in as the No. 5 seed.
8. Perspectives MSA
Breaking it down: Arguably the state’s weakest sectional is wide open. Of the top eight teams listed here, four of those eight have losing records. Lindblom, which lost to Hope early in the year, is the only team that has won more than 13 games up to this point in the season. Harper may be well below the .500 mark but has played a competitive schedule in comparison to the teams in this sectional.