The big week is finally here. Sectionals around the state begin in earnest Tuesday night. While there were a couple larger sites hosting first round games on Monday, Tuesday is the "traditional" first night of the IHSAA Boys basketball post-season.
While the 100th year of the boys basketball state tournament is very different than the one many old-timers experienced, there will still be many packed gymnasiums and intense atmospheres as the state tournament officially gets underway. Even though I haven't provided weekly high school basketball picks like I did during the football season, I guess it is time for my best Jimmy Chitwood impersonation.
"I don't know if it'll make a difference, but I figured it's time for me to start playing ball."
Actually, I know it won't make a difference. The IHSAA "Class" Tournament will still be exciting and filled all kinds of drama and magical moments whether I make predictions prior to each of the four weekends or not.
However, it is about time I start picking some games again and this is the perfect time.
Some of my first memories of the state tournament were watching the IHSAA tournament draw show on WTTV-4, nine days before the first games. I usually recorded the show, and watched a few times while pausing between sectionals. I would listen to any analysis the "broadcasting greats" could provide that would possibly I help my dad and I with a "friendly" teachers-pool in which people picked 63 sectional winners (abstaining from the local site, Logansport) from around the state.
This "competition" was a great way to learn about school geography and nicknames and gave great reason to run to the newspaper in the morning to check out the scores. While I was clearly not an expert on most of the schools, the fact that every team was in the SAME tournament gave everyone a reason to pay attention to EVERY single site.
Once the 64 sectional winners were determined, I always checked the enrollments of the regional participants to see how many cinderella schools were still playing and which ones had a chance to possibly advance to semi-state.
While many things have chanced in the 100 years of the IHSAA state tournament, some things are the same.
Indiana will still crown 64 teams, sectional champions.The players will still celebrate by cutting down the nets following a championship.Teams that advance to the regionals still get to experience that one-of-a-kind week when they are "kings" in their communities.
This is not the time nor place to debate the merits of class basketball. There are 11 other months a year for that. During March, we need to embrace the current system and appreciate what we have. Starting Tuesday and continuing through Saturday night, we will see a sense of urgency on Indiana high school basketball courts everywhere. New stars will be born, while small towns will jump off the map and embrace their day in the spotlight.
It is impossible to predict what will happen this week, but I'll do my best to make a selection for a champion in each of the 16 sectionals in each of the 4 classes.
A variety of factors will go into these picks, some of which include: overall record, home-court advantage, draw, Sagarin ratings, star players, and eyewitness accounts. I will admit that there is no way I've been able to see all of the teams in the state play this season and if I don't pick your school to win, it should not be taken as a slight or used for bullitin board material. Fact of the matter, I just want to see some sold-out gymnasiums, a few upsets, and every game go down to the final seconds. (Unless up against a deadline, I always root for overtime)
EAST CHICAGO CENTRAL: East Chicago Central.
MICHIGAN CITY: Valparaiso
SOUTH BEND RILEY: South Bend Riley
ELKHART CENTRAL: Concord
FORT WAYNE NORTHROP: FW Northrop
KOKOMO: Lafayette Jeff
NEW CASTLE: Pendleton Heights
LAWRENCE CENTRAL: North Central
GREENWOOD: Center Grove
INDIANAPOLIS TECH: Avon
PLAINFIELD: Terre Haute North
COLUMBUS NORTH: Bloomington South
SEYMOUR: New Albany
EVANSVILLE HARRISON: Evansville Reitz
JJ's Analysis: All eyes will be on Bloomington South as the Panthers try to break the state record for consecutive victories and win their second consecutive class 4A championship. It looks like J.R. Holmes' crew should advance to the South Semi-State and take on surivior from the Hinkle Regional.
I'm not exactly going out on a limb by prediction a North Central - Bloomington South match-up at Southport High School in three weeks; a game that will likely decide the 4A Champion.
GARY ROOSEVELT: Hammond
PLYMOUTH: John Glenn
COLUMBIA CITY: Tippecanoe Valley
HARDING: FW Harding
MUNCIE SOUTH: Mississinewa
BEECH GROVE: Indianapolis Howe
MOUNT VERNON: Mount Vernon
OWEN VALLEY: South Vermillion
CORYDON CENTRAL: Corydon Central
WASHINGTON: Vincennes Lincoln
BOONVILLE: Evansville Memorial
JJ's Analysis: The Class 3A Tournament should be HIGHLY entertaining. A year ago, I thought that Princeton would repeat as champion based upon all of the talent and experience they had returning. The Tigers, however, have encountered some problems. Princeton was embarrassed at the Hall of Fame Classic in late December and the Tigers enter the post-season with a 16-8 record.
Don't count out Princeton, but Danville is your pre-tournament favorite. Second-ranked Peru (19-1) is favored to come out of the North, but the Tigers from Miami County would have their hands full with (#1 Danville/#3 Mt. Vernon/#6 Washington) the South representative.
LAKE STATION: Hanover Central
BOONE GROVE: North Judson
BLUFFTON: FW Luers
LEWIS CASS: Southwood
HAGERSTOWN: Eastern Hancock
INDIANAPOLIS WASHINGTON: Heritage Christian
SOUTH RIPLEY: Switzerland County
NORTH KNOX: Eastern Greene
SOUTH PUTNAM: Monrovia
PAOLI: Brownstown Central
FOREST PARK: Forest Park
JJ's Analysis: Much like I thought Princeton would repeat as Class 3A champion, I fully expected Ft. Wayne Luers to repeat in 2A. Mr. Basketball favorite Deshaun Thomas is back and still has a chance to claim the career scoring record from Damon Bailey. Neither will be easy, however, as the Knights (11-9) will have to beat host Bluffton (18-1) to advance out of sectionals. Luers also drew a sectional bye, giving Thomas one less game to fill up the scorebook in his quest to pass Bailey.
Something tells me Luers will make a return appearance to Conseco Fieldhouse and Thomas will need a 50 or 60 point game to pass Damon. I say Damon keeps his crown, but battle-tested Luers could very well win the 2A title. Brownstown Central (21-0) is the only team other than Bloomington South finish the regular season with a perfect record, the Braves should make a return trip to the 2A Championship as well.
MORGAN TOWNSHIP: Bowman Academy
HAMILTON: FW Blackhawk
TRI-CENTRAL: Lafayette Central Catholic
SOUTHERN WELLS: Southern Wells
BLUE RIVER: Monroe Central
NORTH VERMILLION: Covington
WHITE RIVER VALLEY: White River Valley
EDINBURGH: Southwestern (Shelbyville)
INDIANPOLIS ATTUCKS: Indianapolis Lutheran
SOUTH DECATUR: Shawe Memorial
SPRINGS VALLEY: Orleans
WOOD MEMORIAL: Wood Memorial
JJ's Analysis: Some of my best "Hoosier Hysteria" memories come from covering Class A sectionals during 2001-04 while working at WTWO in Terre Haute. The Loogootee sectional is an EVENT I rarely missed, especially when the host school met arch-rival Barr-Reeve. Trust me when I say everything else stops in those two communities when the Lions and Vikings played each other.
The White River Valley sectional is also always very entertaining (many classic A.J. Graves games) and is another classic IHSAA atmosphere. I enjoy seeing who can come out of the South to play at the Class A State Finals. Unfortunately, I think those schools are playing for 2nd place this year. Many are calling Bowman Academy one of the best teams in the state, regardless of class. While I don't pretend to know much about Bowman or how they got so good, so fast, I don't think they are what Bob Gardner (then IHSAA Commisioner) had in mind when he implemented class basketball.
Bowman Academy will likely hoist the Class A crown in four weeks, but I'm guessing the Eagles from Northwest Indiana will not be a warm and cuddly Class A champion for small school basketball fans to wrap their arms around.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun