Seeding the Class 4A sectionals

A look at the playoff picture in Class 4A.

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Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas (5) as the Scouts play Oak Park.

Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas (5) as the Scouts play Oak Park.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Doesn’t it feel good again to be looking at sectional seeds and potential state tournament matchups? 

After Covid wiped out last year’s state tournament, there are regional and sectional championships to be won. But first come the all-important seeds. And as usual, I’m here to help with the process, breaking down each sectional by seed and providing the research and reasons why. 

These seeds are based on all that has transpired over the past two-plus months. Again, these were researched and a lot is taken into consideration, including head-to-head play, strength of schedule and how a team is currently playing. 

Here is a look at how I see the sectional seeds that will be submitted by high school coaches later this week. 

Proviso West Sectional 

1. Young (18-9)
2. Curie (24-5)
3. Lyons (20-5)
4. Riverside-Brookfield (19-4)
5. Proviso East (19-5)
6. Oak Park (13-9) 
7. Downers Grove North (13-8)
8. Hinsdale Central (16-9)

Overview: There is certainly going to be a lot of debate in this sectional, starting right at the top with Young and Curie. While Curie has the better record, Young’s schedule includes six out-of-state losses to some national powerhouses. Young, in fact, has two in-state losses –– to top-ranked Glenbard West and No. 4 Kenwood. 

Plus, after watching both teams, I will take a Young team that is getting healthier with the return of Daniel Johnson. Curie slides into the No. 2 seed. 

The third seed is also a debate between Lyons and Riverside-Brookfield. 

Although R-B beat Lyons two months ago, Lyons has played a tougher schedule, boasts more quality wins and has played pretty well down the stretch. 

The Lions have lost to Glenbard West three times. After getting blown out of the first two meetings, Lyons played the state’s No. 1 team tough recently. Plus, it owns wins over Bolingbrook, Burlington Central, Proviso East and a split with Oak Park. 

The recent losses to small school Aurora Christian and struggling Fenwick cost Riverside-Brookfield the No. 3 seed here. 

Aside from a November win over Benet, Proviso East just doesn’t have enough on the résumé to move up past the fifth seed. 

Oak Park has been up and down all season, but it did earn a split with LT with a win last week and also knocked off Downers Grove North.

Downers Grove North hasn’t fared well against the top of this sectional but it did beat Hinsdale Central to nab the No. 7 seed. 

Thornwood Sectional

1. Kenwood (22-6)
2. Homewood-Flossmoor (17-7)
3. St. Rita (18-9)
4. Brother Rice (21-5)
5. Bloom (17-5)
6. Oak Lawn (20-5)
7. Morgan Park (11-10)
8. Thornwood (13-11)

Overview: Following Kenwood as the obvious choice at No. 1, it’s an impressive list of teams with high win totals and big wins. 

Homewood-Flossmoor has earned the No. 2 seed with wins over both Bloom and St. Rita earlier this year and, most importantly, a Sunday win over Brother Rice. That was a sectional seed-changing matchup. Plus, the Vikings handed Oswego East its only loss of the season. 

The 3-4-5 spots are tricky. But St. Rita has played a killer schedule and has done enough damage to distance itself just enough from Brother Rice and Bloom. 

Brother Rice was rolling along and just a week ago was the clear No. 2 seed. Then it lost to Leo and, more importantly, fell to H-F over the weekend. Then a third straight loss Tuesday night, falling to DePaul, leaves the Crusaders holding on to the No. 4 seed. 

Oak Lawn is a tough one. This has been a terrific season for the Spartans as they pile up wins, yet they don’t have the type of wins or schedule strength to leapfrog the likes of St. Rita or Bloom. But the 19 wins are enough to hold off the rest. 

Morgan Park may not have the best record, but it has played a rugged schedule –– and played some of the very best teams extremely tough, particularly of late. 

Just recently Morgan Park took Kenwood to double overtime in a loss, played Simeon tough in a 64-57 defeat and lost earlier this season to Mount Carmel in double overtime. There is ranked team after ranked team on the Morgan Park schedule, and when you are comparing teams in this sectional with similar records, these are the type of results that win out. 

Thornwood is the best of the rest and grabs the No. 8 seed over Marist.

Barrington Sectional 

1. Libertyville (22-7)
2. Barrington (21-4) 
3. Prospect (14-11)
4. Stevenson (17-7)
5. Fremd (16-8)
6. Palatine (19-9)
7. Warren (14-12)
8. Buffalo Grove (13-15)

Overview: This one will be a challenge to seed at the top, and it’s always a debate between two leagues: North Suburban Conference teams vs. Mid-Suburban League teams. 

The top seed should come down to Libertyville or Barrington. 

But Libertyville has beaten Stevenson, owns two 20-plus point wins over Prospect and has won 11 of its last 13 games. Barrington could argue for a top seed, however, with their only two losses since early December coming to ranked Larkin and a 20-win Hoffman Estates. We’re giving Libertyville the edge, but it’s really a flip of the coin. 

Taking a close look at Prospect’s double-digit losses may lead you to believe it’s a team that’s not deserving of the No. 3 seed. However, those losses have come to mostly ranked teams. And most importantly, the Knights beat Stevenson by double digits a couple of weeks ago. 

While Fremd has struggled a bit of late, the Vikings did beat Warren back in December and recently beat Palatine.

Glenbrook South Sectional 

1. New Trier (25-3)
2. Glenbrook South (26-2)
3. Rolling Meadows (24-4)
4. Glenbrook North (20-6)
5. Evanston (17-9)
6. Loyola (17-11)
7. Hoffman Estates (22-5)
8. Niles North (15-7)

Overview: Overall, this is likely the most challenging sectional to seed while also being one of the tougher sectionals in the state. We will break it down here. 

There is a whole lot of Central Suburban League flavor here in this sectional with a dash of a couple of Mid-Suburban League teams trying to claw their way up the seeding ladder. 

The first debate: Glenbrook South vs. New Trier for the No. 1 seed. The win totals between the two CSL South rivals are very similar. They’ve played one another and also have several common opponents. 

Both recently beat the biggest challenger in the sectional, Rolling Meadows, in pretty close games. Both played Simeon. Glenbrook South beat Simeon 57-54; New Trier controlled the game against Simeon, leading by 15 points in the second half, before a furious Simeon rally sent it to overtime where New Trier lost, 69-66. 

Then there is the head-to-head. It was two months ago when Glenbrook South beat up a depleted New Trier team with no starting point guard, backup point guard or coach. New Trier coach Scott Fricke was out of practice leading up to the game and wasn’t on the bench in the lopsided loss.

But just two weeks ago New Trier was in control throughout the fourth quarter and beat Glenbrook South 51-45. That most recent head-to-head battle, which was played at Glenbrook South, is enough to give the edge to the Trevians in what really is a top-seed toss-up. 

Rolling Meadows is a talented and dangerous No. 3 seed. 

Glenbrook North and Evanston should meet a third time in the regional final in what should be a 4-5 seeded game. These two split this season. 

GBN is back in the picture as a regional title contender after knocking off Evanston a couple of weeks ago. GBN, which also just recently lost to New Trier by only three points, gets the five seed due to that most recent win over Evanston. 

Evanston is a yo-yo. In the past two weeks the Wildkits have lost to quality teams in Glenbrook North and Lake Forest but also picked up a win over New Trier. The Wildkits also handled one Mid-Suburban League team in Prospect, a team that beat Hoffman Estates. 

Then it’s Hoffman Estates and Loyola duking it out on paper for the sixth seed. 

It’s been a heck of a season for a rejuvenated Hoffman Estates. The Hawks have piled up wins but are lacking the one win to set them apart from the rest of the pack. The most impressive win of the season came over Barrington. 

The other contender for the No. 6 seed, Loyola, has really struggled down the stretch, albeit against ranked team after ranked team. In fact, the Ramblers have played 11 ranked teams this season.

Hoffman, meanwhile, has played only one ranked team all season –– splitting with Barrington. 

Yes, Loyola has clearly played a much stronger schedule than Hoffman Estates. More importantly, though, the Ramblers pushed ahead with a win over No. 19 Mount Carmel Tuesday night and earn the No. 6 seed. 

Hoffman Estates slides in at No. 7. 

Maine South and Niles North all have their blemishes, both with personnel and results, but they’ve both found ways to win 15 games thus far. Throw them together in the 8-9 slots and let them go at it in a regional semifinal.

Oswego Sectional

1. Oswego East (28-1)
2. Bolingbrook (23-6)
3. Joliet West (15-11)
4. Andrew (17-6)
5. Neuqua Valley (18-9) 
6. East Aurora (15-9)
7. West Aurora (14-13)
8. Lockport (16-11)

Overview: Oswego East is the clear No. 1 seed and both Bolingbrook and Andrew figure into the next two slots after having split their two matchups. But Bolingbrook’s strength of schedule, which includes a current six-game win streak, pushes the Raiders to No. 2. 

Then it gets dicey. But we know more about Joliet West than anyone else due to its schedule. 

In the second half of the season the Tigers lost to top-seeded Oswego East by just two points and played highly-ranked Curie tough in a 65-61 loss. They’ve won six of their last seven games and have played a more rigorous schedule than Andrew or Neuqua Valley. Plus, leading scorer Toby Onyekonwu just became eligible in January. 

Andrew has a nice record and an early January win over Bolingbrook to hang its hat on. That’s enough to nab a fourth seed. 

Neuqua Valley’s schedule strength isn’t great but it owns a win over East Aurora to secure the No. 5 seed. East Aurora has beaten West Aurora while West Aurora beat Lockport to settle the 6-7-8 seeds. 

Bartlett Sectional 

1. Glenbard West (26-1)
2. Wheaton Warrenville South (25-2)
3. Benet (22-5)
4. Lake Park (20-5) 
5. Batavia (18-9)
6. Naperville Central (19-6)
7. Bartlett (21-6)
8. Willowbrook (17-9)

Overview: Glenbard West is the one seed. That was easy.

Actually, the top three seeds should be clear and locked in as everyone is trying to find a way to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Wheaton South has put together a terrific season and has lost to two ranked teams by a combined four points. In addition, Wheaton South beat Benet in January. 

Benet is deserving of the No. 3 seed due to the fact it’s playing well –– the Redwings have won seven straight and have gone 13-2 since Pontiac. The schedule is simply stronger than Lake Park’s schedule. Benet has played eight teams that have been ranked at one point this season; Lake Park has played one. 

Then it’s fourth-seeded Lake Park, which just recently beat Batavia and is 19-2 since starting the season 1-2.

Batavia, Bartlett and Naperville Central are all muddled together. Pick these three out of a hat to determine who goes five through seven. 

Batavia, though, has played the slightly tougher schedule and does own wins over Huntley, Lemont and St. Patrick while recently playing highly-ranked Oswego East very tough. The Bulldogs get the No. 5 seed. 

Naperville Central is playing well, winners of six in a row and 10 of its last 11. Plus, the Redhawks beat Willowbrook, another team vying for a top six seed. 

Bartlett would love a chance to play a sectional game on its home floor but will have to do so as a lower-seeded team. Despite the 20 wins the Hawks are just lacking the type of seed-boosting wins it needs.

Go ahead and flip a coin between York and Willowbrook and pencil them in as the 8-9 seeds.

Huntley Sectional 

Sub-Sectional A

1. Larkin (24-3)
2. DeKalb (19-9)
3. St. Charles North (14-12)
4. Dundee-Crown (16-8)

Overview: Larkin will be awarded the top seed while DeKalb has played a nice schedule and has still managed a nice win total. The Barbs get the No. 2 seed. 

St. Charles North and Dundee-Crown go three and four. There is no comparison in the schedule strength between the two –– St. Charles North has played seven ranked teams –– and Dundee-Crown’s loss to a six-win Jacobs team last week hurts. 

Sub-Sectional B

1. Rockford Auburn (21-4)
2. Rockford East (20-7)
3. Huntley (24-4)
4. Rockford Guilford (16-10) 

Overview: Rockford Auburn’s schedule, along with wins over Hononegah, Rockford Guilford and Rockford East earlier this season, makes the Knights the easy choice as the top seed. 

It’s a battle between Rockford East and Huntley for the second seed. East has definitely played a more complex schedule, losing to some very good teams in East St. Louis and Wheaton South. Plus, the E-Rabs beat a strong Larkin team. 

Both Rockford East and Huntley lost to St. Francis –– East lost by five while Huntley lost by 13 points. 

It’s been a terrific season for Huntley. And there will be those who look at the record and likely give Huntley a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. But when it gets to the nitty-gritty of seeding time, who you beat matters. The biggest wins of the year came against Wauconda and DeKalb. While that’s not enough for a top seed, it might not be enough for a two seed, either. 

Rockford East gets the nod. Let these two duke it out for the right to play Rockford Auburn. 

Rockford Guilford beat Rockton-Hononegah twice this season and gets the No. 4 seed.

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