Sectional notebook: Insights and observations on the IHSA state playoff bracket

As soon as the sectional seeds are announced and the brackets follow the very next day, the season’s focus immediately and dramatically shifts.

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Curie’s Christian Brockett (5) maintains possession of the ball against Simeon’s Wes Rubin (10) and Michael Ratliff (3).

Curie’s Christian Brockett (5) maintains possession of the ball against Simeon’s Wes Rubin (10) and Michael Ratliff (3).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

As soon as the sectional seeds are announced and the brackets follow the very next day, the season’s focus immediately and dramatically shifts.

After scouring over those seeds and brackets over the weekend, here are some quick, initial thoughts.

No. 5 ranked Curie a No. 3 seed

The very first ’brow-raising sectional note has to come from the Hinsdale Central Sectional.

First, the sectional is loaded. With four teams ranked in the top 10, five ranked among the top 17 and a Riverside-Brookfield team with 24 wins, it’s the toughest sectional in the state.

But Curie appeared to be in great shape heading into seeding week. The Condors were fresh off a win over Young, which gave coach Mike Oliver’s team wins over Oswego East, New Trier, Joliet West, Simeon and Young. With the schedule Curie played, an argument could easily have been made that Curie was the No. 1 seed.

However, coaches in the sectional have indicated not every coach even submitted seeds. There were three coaches who didn’t vote, which is really a shame for all of those involved.

Instead, Curie ends up with the No. 3 seed. The Condors are behind Young and were just edged out by Hinsdale Central. As a result, Curie likely has the toughest tournament road in the state.

Because the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the sectional are both regional hosts, there won’t be a 4 vs. 5 regional final. Other teams are jumbled and moved to make it work, and it’s Curie, a No. 3 seed, that will now have to go play the No. 5 seed, a 22-win Lyons team, on the road in LaGrange.

The Simeon bracket

After the grind of playing five overtimes to win a pair of Public League playoff games and claim city championship, the early state tournament road for No. 1 Simeon doesn’t exactly look daunting.

Simeon will play the winner of the Kennedy-Englewood matchup in the regional championship. Then the Wolverines would play either Lindblom, which it beat 90-48 in January, or St. Laurence in the sectional semifinal.

Waiting for Simeon in the final of the Glenbard South Sectional will likely be Mount Carmel or Hyde Park. The Caravan have lost four of their last six games, while Simeon beat Hyde Park 68-50 earlier this season.

Barrington Sectional vs. New Trier Sectional

The winners of the Barrington and New Trier sectionals will meet in the Hoffman Estates Super. However, the depth and quality of the two sectionals couldn’t be more different.

Libertyville, the No. 1 seed at Barrington, is an impressive 24-5 on the season. But several of the five losses came to teams in the New Trier Sectional, including a 69-43 late-season dismantling at the hands of Rolling Meadows, the No. 3 seed at New Trier.

More of a concern is the fact top-seeded Libertyville may have to play on the road in the regional final and face a team it lost to earlier this season. If it can take care of Mundelein in the regional semifinals, Warren, the No. 8 seed, would host Libertyville in the title game. Warren beat Libertyville back in January.

The good news? No one believed Barrington, last year’s winner of this sectional, would be able to beat whatever team came out of the opposite sectional. But the Broncos upset Glenbrook South in the super-sectional and headed to Champaign.

Injury upends New Trier Sectional

Getting out of the New Trier Sectional, where there are multiple ranked teams and a whopping seven teams with 21 or more wins, was never going to be easy.

But Glenbrook North had to like its chances after the regular season the Spartans put together. GBN has beaten each of the other top five seeds at least once already this season.

Those hopes took a massive hit, however, with a season-ending injury to junior point guard Josh Fridman. The engine of this 24-win team suffered a devastating injury in a win over Rolling Meadows last week.

The longest regional ride

Yorkville has had a breakthrough season. The Foxes have won 24 games and even entered the Sun-Times Super 25 rankings the past two weeks. But they haven’t won a regional championship since 2005.

Yorkville will need to travel 120 miles a couple of times next week to end that drought.

While nearly every team in its conference will be playing in the Bolingbrook Sectional, the Foxes will travel 120 miles to play the host school, Pekin, next Wednesday night. With a win next Wednesday, they would return for a regional championship in Pekin two nights later to face the Normal-East Moline United winner.

The reward would be a sectional semifinal date with Class 4A power Moline — in Moline. Yes, another 120-mile trip.

That’s a tough situation for a team that’s enjoyed so much success and had such a good fan following this year. Playing in front of an abundance of their own fans and students in the postseason will unfortunately be lost due to the travel.

Speaking of excessive travel …

As noted, Moline will be hosting its own sectional. But the Maroons, who have legitimate hopes of playing in the State Finals in Champaign, must first trek across the state for two regional wins.

Moline will travel two and a half hours — 166 miles one way — to play in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional.

Best tournament roads

Looking at the big picture — and we mean the entire state tournament road — there are a few highly-ranked teams that really have a favorable path in getting to Champaign.

In Class 3A, Metamora is 26-2 and hasn’t lost since falling to Joliet West back in November. The Redbirds have beaten defending Class 3A state champ Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin during the 24-game win streak and have the state tournament experience of a year ago in their back pocket.

Metamora will be heavily favored to win the Galesburg Sectional and then could face either Burlington Central, Marmion, Crystal Lake South or Rockford Boylan in the Ottawa Super. That screams a repeat for the Redbirds.

This isn’t to jinx Benet, but the Redwings are the one ranked team playing in a sectional without another ranked team in it. Benet is 27-1, ranked No. 2 in the Super 25 and is an overwhelming favorite in the Bartlett Sectional.

The Bartlett Sectional winner then faces the Rockford Jefferson Sectional winner, where DeKalb, Huntley, Rockford Guilford and Rockford Auburn are the teams to watch.

Higher seeds in tough road environments

The amount of higher-seeded teams having to play regional games on their opponent’s home floor is an endless list. It remains one of the biggest gripes I hear from high school coaches each year at this time — and deservedly so.

Coaches and their teams work so hard to put together the best résumé as possible to earn a top four seed. Then they’re rewarded with a true road game in regional championships.

Once upon a time in high school basketball, the highest-seeded team hosted the regional. It’s time to revisit.

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