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Henricksen: Seeding the Chicago area sectionals

The annual City/Suburban Hoops Report’s sectional seeds are here, just as the Chicago area high school coaches are ready to seed their respective sectionals this week.

Go ahead and use this as a cheat sheet for your seeding preparation as the Hoops Report looks at a number of things to seed the top eight in each Class 4A sectional: overall wins, quality wins, strength of schedule, how they are currently playing, head-to-head play with sectional opponents and the look test.

The following are the top eight seeds for each Class 4A sectional, along with the reasons for and defense of each respective sectional seed.

East Aurora Sectional

1. Benet Academy

2. Naperville North

3. Glenbard West

4. Hinsdale South

5. Downers Grove South

6. Wheaton North

7. Naperville Central

8. Wheaton-Warrenville South

Overview: No one in the sectional has played an overall tougher schedule than Benet, who with a 22-3 record has won more than its share of quality games. Coach Gene Heidkamp’s team has earned the No. 1 seed.

Whether you’re a No. 2 or No. 3 seed doesn’t really matter a whole lot here, and it’s Glenbard West and Naperville North firmly entrenched in those two spots. It really is a toss-up.

A Saturday night defeat to Hinsdale Central was a zinger of a loss for Glenbard West, even if it was a trap game for the Hilltopppers who clinched a conference title for the first time in 43 years the night before. But North played a good chunk of its season without its best player, Mitch Lewis. Since he’s fully returned to action, the Huskies are 10-1 with the lone loss coming in a two-point defeat to talented Bloomington.

That’s a lot of explanation for a seed –– 2 vs. 3 –– that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

West Suburban Gold foes Downers South and Hinsdale South have identical 18-8 records. Hinsdale South has won two of three meetings between the two, including the last two –– 71-54 at Christmas and 54-49 earlier this month.

The DuPage Valley Conference schools round out the top eight. And it’s tricky because Wheaton North has the most impressive wins on the résumé, having beaten two of the top three seeds in the sectional (both Glenbard West and Naperville North), but the Falcons have recent double-digit defeats to Naperville Central and Wheaton-Warrenville South.

Lockport Sectional

1. Lincoln-Way Central

2. Minooka

3. Oswego

4. Joliet West

5. Stagg

6. Plainfield North

7. Joliet Central

8. Bolingbrook

Overview: Without question the most difficult Class 4A sectional to seed, though Lincoln-Way Central’s win this past weekend over Thornton alleviated the debate of who is No. 1. Coach Bob Curran’s 16-win team deserves the top seed.

Minooka hasn’t played the toughest schedule, but the Indians are poised to win the Southwest Prairie and sit 18-8 heading into seeding week. That should be enough to earn themselves the No. 2 seed.

A cluster of teams –– Oswego, Joliet West, Stagg and Plainfield North –– all are sitting there with 14, 15 and 16 wins. Oswego did lose to Joliet West in mid-January, but the Panthers did play without three of its top six players, including leading scorer Malique Ross (18 ppg). Oswego has persevered through some tough injuries this season and earns the third seed with a 16-6 record.

Where to put a stumbling Joliet West team is the biggest question in this seeding process. The Tigers pass the look test with their personnel and have played arguably the best schedule in the sectional. But after looking so good in beating Benet and falling to 3A power Peoria Manual in a heartbreaker at Pontiac, Joliet West is just 5-8 in its last 13 games.

Some will question Bolingbrook as the No. 8 seed with its so-so overall record, but this is a young team making strides at the right time of the year. The Raiders have played a competitive schedule and coach Rob Brost’s team has played well the past three weeks, including wins over higher seeds Joliet West and Stagg.

Bloom Sectional

1. Simeon

2. Thornton

3. Homewood-Flossmoor

4. Marian Catholic

5. Crete-Monee

6. Marist

7. Bloom

8. T.F. North

Overview: Simeon is the most talented team, has the best résumé and gets the No. 1 seed over surprising Thornton, which suffered its first Chicago area loss this past weekend to Lincoln-Way Central.

Although it was early in the year, H-F knocked off Marian Catholic and is playing very well with six straight wins and an overall record of 18-5. If these seeds hold true, it would set up nicely for one heck of a regional final between Crete-Monee and Marian Catholic.

Marist has 19 wins; Crete-Monee has 17. Both have played pretty similar schedules as far as schedule strength. We’ll give the edge to Crete as it has a win over a good, 17-win Mt. Carmel team and Bloom.

Riverside-Brookfield Sectional

1. Curie

2. Kenwood

3. Young

4. Riverside-Brookfield

5. De La Salle

6. Proviso East

7. Oak Park-River Forest

8. Lincoln Park

Overview: There really isn’t a whole lot to debate in this one. Curie, at full strength, beat Kenwood on the road, owns a win over Simeon and sports a 19-4 record. The Condors are the top seed, with Red-Central rival Kenwood easily in the next spot on the seeding line.

Young and R-B slide in at No. 3 and No. 4 fairly easily, followed by some debate.

There will and should be some debate over the No. 5 and 6 seeds between Proviso East (13-7) and De La Salle (18-6). Proviso East’s record isn’t glitzy, but the Pirates did play the first third of the season without its best player, Antonio Williams. The deciding factor is De La Salle has won seven in a row and 12 of its last 13 games, while Proviso East has dropped two straight.

Glenbrook South Sectional

1. Evanston

2. Stevenson

3. Deerfield

4. Notre Dame

5. New Trier

6. Maine South

7. Lake Forest

8. Niles North

Overview: This sectional does have a clear team to beat and is one of the deeper sectional fields around, where the No. 9, No. 10 and No. 11 seeds will be pretty formidable. Thus, it’s a tad bit difficult seeding this sectional perfectly.

Evanston is a lock as a No. 1 seed and Deerfield has quietly went about its business and earned a top three seed with 22 wins on the year. But Stevenson is playing well, has 19 wins and has played a tougher schedule.

While Notre Dame has certainly been hot and cold, the Dons have played a very competitive schedule and have managed 18 wins.

New Trier is fresh off a big win over Maine South and has been red-hot, losing only to Evanston since the calendar turned to 2016. That’s enough to lock up a top five seed, whether that’s at No. 4 or No. 5.

After the top five seeds this thing gets a little tricky. Niles North has 19 wins but is lacking any of the headline variety, losing two of three to Deerfield. Thus, you can throw Niles North, Maine South, Lake Forest and Libertyville in a hat and, depending on who is doing the seeding, come up with a different way to seed 6 through 9.

Maine South, which has a few quality losses, heads into the week with 18 wins, including a key December seeding-purpose victory over Stevenson.

Although it was early in the year, Maine South did beat Libertyville. Lake Forest and Libertyville have similar records and split this season, but it was Lake Forest winning the most recent meeting in late January, while Libertyville is just 5-6 in its last 11 games. Edge goes to Lake Forest, which pushes Libertyville out of the top eight.

With all that being said, the Hoops Report likes hot teams at seeding time, and both Niles North and Lake Forest are just that –– hot. Lake Forest has won six of its last seven; Niles North has won 10 of its last 12. But Lake Forest’s overall schedule and quality wins are more appealing.

Fremd Sectional

1. Lake Zurich

2. Fremd

3. Conant

4. St. Viator

5. Grayslake North

6. Lake Park

7. Prospect

8. Elk Grove Village

Overview: Lake Zurich is holding on to the No. 1 seed by a thread. The Bears have really scuffled the past three weeks with a 2-5 record after starting the season 16-4. But in a sectional without a single ranked team, Lake Zurich’s quality of schedule and 18 wins –– victories over Stevenson, Lake Forest, Niles North, Libertyville and a runner-up finish at the Pekin Holiday Tournament –– keeps the Bears on the top line, just ahead of Mid-Suburban League West teams Conant and Fremd.

With Fremd’s 18 victories and convincing win over Conant this past weekend, the Vikings secure the No. 2 seed.

St. Viator has played in the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference and owns wins over Lake Forest and sectional foes Elk Grove and Prospect.

Grayslake North (20-3) will be the interesting case as coaches seed this sectional. While it has one of the best records of any sectional team, Grayslake North has played no one, while losing to Washington (Ill.) by 32 points and to Prairie Ridge by 18.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport