Playoffs won’t be the same

Let’s try to shed some positive light on the separate playoff system that is just weeks away from becoming a grim reality when the high school basketball season comes to an end.
 
For the boys’ teams that make it as far as the select Division I semifinal round of competition, they won’t have to worry about facing 2016 Class 5A champion Natchitoches Central with a current 16-3 record; nor will they think about taking on runner-up Ouachita and its 14-5 success rate.
 
The Division II selects will be spared the possibility of a long ride back from Lake Charles after having opposed the reigning 4A champion Bossier (13-4) or runner-up Washington-Marion (14-5).
 
And the biggest beneficiary of the LHSAA’s concocted dual playoff system will be the Division IV semifinalist, which will avoid having to jump center against 2016 champ Madison Prep (13-1), which hasn’t lost a game since Nov. 23, 2016.
 
All of these bad boys are public schools assigned to the non-select playoffs.
 
On the other hand, the defending champions of Class 5A and 4A on the girls’ side are hardly as imposing as they were last season, when Mount Carmel handily defeated Denham Springs for the state title in the highest class, and Ursuline Academy shocked Rayne to claim the 4A crown with a team laden with freshmen and sophomores.
 
Today, Mount Carmel is one of nine private or Catholic schools that comprise select Division I. The Cubs are still trying to break away from a slow start and a 5-11 record.

 
Ursuline’s prospects faded greatly when its standout player, Kourtney Weber, suffered a season-ending knee injury just a few weeks into play.
 
The Lions do return their four other starting players, but the loss of the Outstanding Player award recipient in the 4A championship game takes the team’s top scoring and rebounding threat away. As a result, Ursuline’s record entering the week is 10-7.

Smaller brackets
Under the two-playoff system, which does little to affect the state’s hundreds of public schools, the brackets for select teams are greatly reduced.

Combined public and non-public school brackets are a thing of the past. Division I has just 13 boys’ teams and nine girls’ teams. But that’s fine, since every school qualifies for the playoffs.

The top five girls’ teams currently have a combined record of 74 wins, 26 losses. Their records are as follows: John Curtis, 15-2; McKinley, 12-4; Evangel, 18-5; Dominican, 18-5; and Archbishop Chapelle, 11-10.

The bottom four (Scotlandville, St. Joseph Academy, Byrd and Mount Carmel) are 21 wins, 46 losses, as a group.

Should they even be in a playoff? They are, because the two-tiered playoff system is so diluted.

To their credit, 12 of the 13 boys’ Division I teams have winning records.

Among the top seeds are St. Augustine at 16-2; Scotlandville (17-1); John Curtis (17-4); and St. Paul’s (14-4).

Quite impressive, and it should make for an interesting playoff, because behind them are Brother Martin (14-5), Byrd (12-5), Catholic (12-7), McKinley (12-7), Holy Cross (13-5), Archbishop Rummel (13-6), Jesuit (12-6) and Evangel (10-5). The unlucky No. 13 team is Archbishop Shaw, whose 7-13 record is partly due to an early-season injury.

De La Salle is a prime candidate for a trip to the select championship tournament. The Cavaliers, who lost to eventual champion University Lab in the 2016 quarterfinals, is currently a No. 2 seed. They carry a 15-4 record into the week and have key wins over St. Paul’s, Chalmette, Curtis, Riverside Academy and St. Augustine.

But the No. 1 seed among the 10 teams that comprise Division II is their nemesis, U-Lab, with a 15-1 record.

How the rest shake out
Watch Archbishop Hannan in its district run to the Division III playoffs. The Hawks carry a 16-2 record, and could be a No. 5 seed behind Dunham (15-3), Riverside (11-4), Country Day (8-5) and Episcopal (20-1). That’s hefty company. And Newman (11-6) is also in the mix.

Curtis is no surprise as the top seed in girls’ Division I play, but the surprise team for now is No. 4-seed Dominican, which has won eight of its last 10 games.

The attention has shifted from Ursuline in Division II to the top five seeds – Parkview Baptist, University Lab, St. Thomas More, Ben Franklin and E.D. White. Those teams have a combined 78-16 record. Parkview has won nine straight games since Dec. 17.

There are 18 teams in this division. Ursuline enters its district at No. 7 and Cabrini (9-11) is No. 9.

Academy of Our Lady, St. Katharine Drexel and St. Scholastica are bunched in the middle of the bracket.

Among the Division III participants will be St. Charles Catholic, Hannan, St. Mary’s and Pope John Paul II.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.  

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