Thoughts and observations on the IHSA state playoff brackets

With seeds announced and brackets released, it’s never too early to start projecting and forecasting future matchups.

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Joliet West’s Toby Onyekonwu (4) dribbles around Curie’s Mason Minor (30).

Joliet West’s Toby Onyekonwu (4) dribbles around Curie’s Mason Minor (30).

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

With seeds announced and brackets released, it’s never too early to start projecting and forecasting future matchups. 

The IHSA revealed state tournament brackets for all four classes last Friday, so let’s get right to it. 

If the top seeds prevail in sectional play, the Class 4A super-sectional matchups would look like this:

UIC: Young vs. Kenwood

Forest View: Barrington vs. Glenbrook South

ISU: Oswego East vs. Normal

NIU: Glenbard West vs. Larkin

If the favored, highest-ranked teams win those super-sectional showdowns, here are the Class 4A semifinal pairings when the IHSA State Finals return to Champaign the weekend of March 10-12: Young vs. Glenbrook South and Glenbard West vs. Normal.

In Class 3A, if the No. 1 seeds were to all win their respective sectionals, the super-sectional matchups would be as follows: 

Springfield: Centralia vs. Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin

Hoffman Estates: Lake Forest vs. St. Ignatius

UIC: Hillcrest vs. Simeon

Ottawa: Rock Island vs. Burlington Central 

With the highest ranked teams moving on to Champaign, the Class 3A state semifinals would include: Sacred Heart-Griffin vs. Lake Forest and Simeon vs. Burlington Central.

Other state pairings thoughts and observations

➤This will sound like a broken record but at this time of the year it needs to be repeated. It’s time to go back to the top four seeds hosting regionals — if that school is capable of hosting and if it meets simple requirements such as a minimum capacity for fans. That could be a small, reasonable number for a regional game. 

Top teams working all year to earn a top seed only to be rewarded with a regional game on the road, and in some cases difficult ones, makes zero sense. 

This year is no different with many higher-seeded teams forced to go on the road and play top eight seeds on their home floor for a regional championship. 

We could go one step further where there is no longer one, predetermined regional host. All regional games could simply be played at the higher seed. We can see they’ve done this with the regional play-in game already. 

The biggest argument from the IHSA’s perspective is possible excessive travel among downstate teams. The distance can be managed a bit with the predetermined regional host. But when it comes to the Chicago area, it just makes sense to reward the top four seeds with regional home games. 

From the IHSA-makes-no-sense department as it pertains to seeds and regional matchups, we’ll take you to the Glenbrook South Sectional for this learning opportunity. 

Due to pre-determined regional hosts, there had to be some movement with regional matchups that go against the traditional seeds matched up with one another. That’s inevitable.

Thus, Loyola, the No. 6 seed, must play No. 2 seed New Trier in a potential regional championship, while No. 3 Rolling Meadows would get No. 7 Hoffman Estates. Again, the traditional 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6 are thrown out the window due to who hosts the regional. Adjustments need to be made. We get that. 

But what doesn’t make any logical sense — we’re talking none whatsoever, IHSA — is who they matched up No. 6 Loyola and No. 7 Hoffman Estates with in the regional semifinals. Common sense would say No. 6 would face No. 11 and No. 7 would face No. 10. 

Instead, Loyola gets the double-whammy as the No. 6 seed having to play the No. 2 (instead of the No. 3 — again, it’s OK, that’s inevitable) and also playing the No. 10 (instead of the No. 11). 

Some of this is junior high school PE material when it comes to bracketing a tournament.

In fact, what makes even more sense is when you consider this: Conant, the No. 10 seed, should actually be playing in the Hoffman Estates Regional — you know, where Conant is located — against the No. 7 seed instead of playing in the New Trier Regional. 

➤The toughest road for any highly-ranked team to win a sectional title might be New Trier. 

The Trevians will likely play Loyola in a regional championship game. The Ramblers are a No. 6 seed, just beat Mt. Carmel, have won 18 games and play a style no one wants to face. And while New Trier will host the regional, the Northfield campus site where the game will be played is four blocks from Loyola. 

Then New Trier would get 25-win Rolling Meadows and Cam Christie in the semifinals, a team it was seriously challenged by in January, and then top-seed and CSL South foe Glenbrook South. 

➤The Barrington Sectional currently has just two teams with 20-plus wins on the season — Barrington and Libertyville with 22 and 23 wins, respectively — and doesn’t have a single team ranked among the top 25. That’s the only sectional in the Chicago area with that distinction. 

There was bound to be a solid team seeded seventh in the Bartlett Sectional. There were a group of sound teams with high win totals all muddled together and one was going to fall. And it ended up being Bartlett. 

Now Wheaton Warrenville South, the No. 2 seed in the sectional, will get a 22-win Bartlett team with 7-3 Conrad Luczynski and some perimeter scorers in a potential regional championship game. That’s a tough draw. 

Fortunately for the Tigers, the regional will be played on its home floor. 

➤Oswego East is a sparkling 28-1 and ranked seventh in this week’s Class 4A state rankings. And rival Oswego is really down with just eight wins. Oswego East has already beaten Oswego twice already, 82-49 early in the season and then 50-38 this past weekend.

But being a heavy favorite and having to play your rival who has nothing to lose in the postseason opener in Joliet on a Wednesday night is not ideal. 

First, though, No. 16 seed Oswego must take care of No. 18 seed Joliet Central in the regional play-in game to set up a third matchup with its rival. 

➤Andrew has just two regional titles in program history — one coming in 1990 and the other in 2012. The Thunderbolts are in position to win a third as the No. 3 seed in the Oswego Sectional. 

Coach Dave Wilson’s team has been one that’s overachieved all season, winning 17 games and earning that No. 3 seed. Thus, playing its way into a top four seed and avoiding having to face the two teams in the sectional you don’t want to play: Oswego East and Bolingbrook. 

It’s also not bad for the T-Bolts that Lockport somehow was awarded the No. 6 seed. The Porters, who have lost to No. 9 seed West Aurora, No. 10 seed Lincoln-Way Central and No. 16 seed Oswego this year, are just 9-12 since starting the season 7-0. 

But …

That win over Andrew way back in early December — the final win in that opening seven-game win streak — went a long way and will spice this potential regional championship game up a little. 

➤Staying in the Oswego Sectional, Joliet West was one of the teams in Chicago area sectionals that was overlooked a bit when it came to seeding. 

The Tigers were 14-11 at seeding time but by far played a tougher schedule than the two teams seeded ahead of them — Andrew and Neuqua Valley. Joliet West played out-of-state power St. Louis Vashon and seven in-state teams that have been ranked this season. 

Last month they lost to highly-ranked Curie, 65-61, and fell to the top seed in the sectional, Oswego East, by just two points. 

Plus, leading scorer Toby Onyekonwu, who recently committed to Division I Stonybrook, didn’t return until midseason. The Tigers have been 9-3 since, losing only to the aforementioned Curie, Oswego East and Bolingbrook.

Toss in the fact that now Joliet West, as a No. 5 seed, will have to go on the road to play Neuqua Valley on its home floor in a possible regional title matchup.

➤If No. 9 seed Lake View beats No. 8 seed Little Village in the regional semifinals, St. Ignatius could reach a Class 3A super-sectional without playing a single team with 15 wins on the season. 

➤Will there be a better Class 3A regional championship in the Chicago area than Lemont vs. Marian Catholic at Morris? Lemont has 22 wins and Marian Catholic is fresh off winning the East Suburban Catholic Conference Tournament. 

➤There is some serious East Suburban Catholic Conference flavor on one side of the bracket in the Class 3A North Chicago Sectional. The regional finals could very well end up being No. 2 St. Patrick vs. No. 9 St. Viator and No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Carmel with the winners meeting in the sectional semifinals. 

➤If the seeds hold up it would be two AAU teammates from Meanstreets squaring off in a sectional semifinal: Thornton’s Ty Rodgers and Oak Forest’s Robbie Avila. 

➤Normal, which is rolling through a tremendous regular season, suffered some bad postseason luck, due mostly to geography. 

The Ironmen are ranked No. 4 in the most recent AP Class 4A poll and have just one loss on the season. But if Normal reaches the sectional final it will have to travel 155 miles and over two hours to Collinsville for the sectional championship game. 

Plus, it would likely have to face the host school, Collinsville, which has 21 wins and is the top seed in its sub-sectional. 

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