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The Madness Begins

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The calendar has flipped to the greatest month. And, so, we are back and here to give a little preview of the upcoming girls state basketball tournament.

And, also, to discuss post season basketball.

I have written on this topic extensively. I have shared way too many thoughts on this topic via Twitter. I have spoken with coaches and administrators on the topic. There no answer to the post season that will make everyone happy.

My tune has changed a little bit as I talk to others. But it always comes back to a few main thoughts for Classes C-1 to D-2.

  1. Call it the state tournament from the beginning.
  2. Create a “no-lose” post season that rewards teams for winning all their games.
  3. Seed the tournament from the beginning.
  4. This can (and will) create geographic inconsistencies. It will also eliminate having to beat teams twice in the post season. This is the biggest hurdle to our postseason.
  5. For more on how exactly I’d propose this click on the link above.

Hoosier History Lesson

They made a movie in 1986 about the greatest high school sporting event in the nation — the Indiana State Basketball tournament.

Check this out. They play DOUBLEHEADERS. They play every game until the finals in high school gyms (disclaimer, I think think they have 15 HS gyms in Indiana that seat more than 10,000).

For years, it was a one class tournament. Over 900 schools. We have 54 in a class. They now have four classes. (Nebraska still has too many.)

They start this week with 64 sectionals — 16 in each class. Winners advance to next weekends Regionals. Win a regional and it’s semi-states the following week. And they close in final weekend of March with the four class finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Imagine #nebpreps Twitter if we did the sectionals like Indiana. I had to hit up Kyle Neddenriep to clarify a few things and he gladly messaged me back. A former Mid-Star basketball camper with me when his dad coached at Bradshaw and a Lincoln High standout, Kyle is the lead prep writer for the Indianapolis Star.

“Sectional week is amazing here,” he messaged me.

He’s getting ready for — wait for it — a first round sectional game this week between No. 2 Lawrence North and No. 3 Lawrence Central. It will be preceded by Cathederal and Crispus Attucks, two powers who played for a “county championship” still a big deal in Indiana.

“Sectional 10 is always a bit crazy,” he said. It’s also a sellout. The teams are paired by blind draw.

Yeah. #nebpreps Twitter would go batty.

Just, remember, though, when ALL the games are important we create such a  great atmosphere for all the games.For the fans, the coaches, the kids. They could make a movie about it. Or this Damon Bailey miracle. You real Huskers fans will recognize someone else if you click.

Back Home

While partial to the format above, I don’t mind the current improved small class format that involves the “sub-state” format. And, let’s be real. Why did they change it to district finals. Silly.

But, let’s do a few more things to make this an even better experience for the players and coaches.

  1. Call it sub-state. Bracket 16 teams. Stop re-seeding them. We don’t re-seed after the quarterfinals at state, do we? Play it out.
  2. Location. Location. Location. Spreading these games out all over the state is a crime. It reduces the media coverage for some. And because you are only having single games in single locations, you don’ t have enough resources to give them their due. A few ways to fix this in our next points.
  3. A few locations, Part I. One way to do this would be to have each class go to a single city and play their sub-state games over two days. Four games each on Friday and Saturday.
  4. A few locations, Part II. Select four sites. Have multiple classes at each site. NSAA places games nearest to their mid-point at each location. Again, four games each on Friday and Saturday.
  5. A few locations, Part III. Grand Island hosts every single game. Four games each on Friday and Saturday. Class C-1 at Heartland Events Center. Class C-2 at GISH. Class D-1 at Northwest. Class D-2 at GICC. Rotate C and D sites annually.

Beatrice’s Mackenzie Hatcliff (12) dribbles around dribbles around Norris’ Molly Ramsey in a Class B sub-district game. Should we set up the postseason so you don’t have to beat a team twice?

Calendar

Working the calendar is the hardest endeavor of this whole scenario. And, even in the current format it’s brutal. Look at the miles the past few days for Ogallala, Falls City Sacred Heart and others.

The best way to do this would be to give breaks between district finals and the state tournament. But, is two weeks too much? Again a question for coaches and administrators and not hack writers.

In the no wild card format, you can make a clean case for games to be played Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday in opening round, round of 32 and sub-state round. But, with current format and wild card, you have to add Monday. That’s a bunch of basketball.

The fun thing this would create is each gender getting their own week. Girls districts, boys districts, girls state, boys state. This could increase attendance for all events.

Class A would operate on a slightly different calendar, keeping their Monday, Tuesday, Thursday format for girls (would overlap with small class boys) and Friday, Saturday, Monday for boys.

Seriously, if you are an adminstrator or coach and want to chat about a proposal this week or next, let’s do it. Or, you can also stop telling me to stay out of your game. I am easy like that and I’ll keep telling prep stories no matter what. They are still the best game in town.

Planning Lincoln

Let’s chat about the tournament upcoming this week in Lincoln. Great players in all the classes and picks to come. Here is the session plan for Thursday.

Morning. Gotta hit the Vault here. Creighton-bound Morgan Maly and Crete trying to bounce back from a loss to Beatrice in the district final. A game opponent in Norris. It was Crete 52, Norris 32 on January 18. After that the champs — GI Northwest — and Nebraska-bound Whitney Brown get Sidney. Vikings have been shooting the lights out the last two weeks.

Afternoon. Close call here. Thinking it’s North Star for the East Husker match between Oakland-Craig and Clarkson/Leigh followed by what should be a heavyweight bout between Ponca and Grand Island Central Catholic. Two the classes best scorers: O-C’s Kennedy Benne and GICC’s Rylee Rice.

Evening. The small school in us comes out as the D-2 Lincoln Southwest session should be fantastic. Not too often you get to see two players going to play at Nebraska (HSF’s Allison Wiedner) and Nebraska-Kearney (Mullen’s Samantha Moore) in the same Class D-2 session.

On to the rankings (and picks….)

Class A

  1. Millard South (26-1): Patriots could use a late season loss to Lincoln East as a reset into the post season. Have won three games since by 21, 31 and 15 points.
  2. Lincoln Pius X (23-1): Bolts also got to hit the reset button after a loss to Omaha Westside. The downside? If they get by North Platte in round one, they’ll face Millard South in the semis. You might want to find a good seat for that one.
  3. Lincoln East (22-3): Spartans have won five straight — including that decisive win over Millard South — and blitzed Lincoln High in a district final game.
  4. Omaha Westside (22-4): Knocked off defending champion Millard North in the district final and have losses to Millard South (twice) and East and first round opponent Fremont in the tournament field. Bracket set up for a semifinal with the Spartans, if they can avenge early loss to the Tigers.
  5. Papillion-La Vista (20-5): East’s first round opponent and one of their five losses, 60-52 on February 8th.

The picks: Millard South over Lincoln Southwest. Pius over North Platte. Westside over Fremont. East over Papio. Semifinals: Millard South over Pius. East over Westside. Finals: Millard South. Bracket Buster: Taylor McCabe and Fremont.

Crete’s Morgan Maly is one of the top players to watch in the 2020 state tournament.

Class B

  1. Crete (24-1): Concern over Morgan Maly’s high ankle sprain at the top of the list for Crete after losing 39-32 to Beatrice in sub-district final. But, Crete is Crete and with five returning starters from last year’s and an all-time head coach you still put them at the top of the list.
  2. Beatrice (20-3): Good enough to beat Crete. All you need to know about how well the Lady Orange are playing right now.
  3. Northwest (20-5): Moving the champs up a spot after they topped Beatrice to close the regular season, rolled through district play and are playing as well as they have all season. A reminder from 2019. Entered sub-state as the 7-seed. Went to Lincoln and beat seeds 3, 2 and 1 in succession.
  4. Bennington (21-2): Badgers have been solid all season, just have not played any of the top three. Not their fault, but they get a chance this week.
  5. Norris (13-9): Gave York fits in the district final while pulling the only Class B upset. Four players over 100 points and Brianna Stai averages 13.3 points per contest.

The picks: Crete over Norris. Northwest over Sidney. Beatrice over Platteview. Bennington over Scottsbluff. Semifinals: Crete over Northwest. Beatrice over Bennington. Finals: Crete. Bracket Buster: Stai and the Lady Titans.

Class C-1

  1. Lincoln Christian (21-3): Few have been as consistent as Nick Orduna’s crew this season. But, it’s an interesting first round draw. The Crusaders beat Malcolm just 49-42 in the sub-district final.
  2. North Bend Central (24-2): The Tigers almost didn’t make it. But, we present to you a top-10 comeback in #nebpreps history.
  3. St. Paul (23-2): A difficult draw for the Cats in battle-tested Wahoo and do-everything guard Kendal Brigham. Sister act Olivia and Brooke Poppert average 30 points per game for Rick Peters who led the St. Paul boys to the 1995 Class C-1 title.
  4. Chadron (23-2): The Cardinals are the great unknown, but the reports are this. You’ll know about 6-foot sophomore Olivia Reed by the end of the tournament. She’s scoring at a 17-point clip. Another great first round match up with battle-tested Central Conference team Adams Central, who upset Broken Bow in the district final.
  5. West Point-Beemer (23-5): Cadets playing as well as anyone. Gave C-2, No. 1 Oakland-Craig their only loss a few weeks ago. Rolled through sub-district and district play. And, a chance to avenge an early season, 10-point loss to North Bend in the first round.

The picks: Lincoln Christian over Malcolm. St. Paul over Wahoo. Chadron over Adams Central. West Point-Beemer over North Bend Central. Semifinals: Christian over St. Paul. WP-B over Chadron. Finals: Christian. Bracket Buster: The balance of North Bend, who could win the whole thing.

Class C-2

  1. Oakland-Craig (25-1): No penalty for the Knights first loss of the season to West Point-Beemer. They lead the pack of a loaded and talented Class C-2 field where you can make a case for nearly all the seeds down to O-C’s first round opponent Clarkson/Leigh.
  2. Hastings St. Cecilia (23-3): Late season loss to GICC, was avenged in the sub-district final. The defending champions still look the part, too. Possible that HSC and O-C are two of the top-10 teams in the state.
  3. Crofton (23-3): Some impressive wins on the Warriors resume and plenty of tradition. They won’t be spooked by the atmosphere in Lincoln. But, the losses are to D-2 Humphrey St. Francis and non-qualifier GACC which lost to Clarkson/Leigh in the district. Gives you a good idea of the balance in the field.
  4. Grand Island CC (17-7): You have to look at the Crusaders full body of work to appreciate the rating. Of the seven losses five are to qualifiers: one is to Class A qualifier, one to Class B champ Northwest, two to Lincoln Christian and one to HSC.
  5. Superior (21-3): When one of the top athletes in the state is on your side you always have a chance. And Kaylynn Meyer gives that to the Wildcats. The problem? St. Cecilia was a nightmare match up last year and could be the same in the first round again this year.

The picks: Oakland-Craig over Clarkson/Leigh. GICC over Ponca. Hastings St. Cecilia over Superior. Crofton over BRLD. Semifinals: Oakland-Craig over GICC. St. Cecilia over Crofton. Finals: Oakland-Craig. Bracket Buster: Superior and Meyer, the 2,000 point career scorer.

Class D-1

  1. Pleasanton (25-0): Pleasanton has been perfect so they are here, but it’s a brutal first round matchup against Pender, who has 11 losses to 10 district finalists and seven teams in the tournament. The Dawgs are the 3-seed.
  2. Weeping Water (25-1): Indians have the top seed. And in Grace Cave and Peyton Barnett, two nearly 500 point scorers. Also, two wins against C-1 qualifier Malcolm. Will be a tough out. 
  3. Chambers/Wheeler Central (25-1): Battle tested and in Taylor Peter, the top scorer in the field.
  4. Fremont Archbishop Bergan (14-9): The stats won’t jump off the page at you. What will is the Lady Knights are the defending champions and have not lost a game in Class D-1 this season. So, ignore the record.
  5. Pender (17-11): Another record to ignore. The Pendragons have taken on all comers and knocked off one of D-1’s hottest teams in Cambridge in the district final. Great team defense and balanced scoring .

The picks: Weeping Water over Hartington CC. Archbishop Bergan over Maywood-Hayes Center. CWC over Dundy County-Stratton. Pleasanton over Pender. Semifinals: Weeping Water over Bergan. CWC over Pleasanton. Finals: CWC. Bracket Buster: The overall toughness and grit of Pender.

Falls City Sacred Heart and Sterling will both be in the Class D-2 field.

Class D-2

  1. Humphrey St. Francis (23-2): Nebraska recruit Allison Weidner leads the troops. But how about this stat: three postseason games and 38 points. Total. The Flyers are locked in.
  2. Wynot (22-4): A slough of big wins, but a tough first round draw in Lawrence-Nelson, which is 25-1 with that loss to Superior. The Blue Devils have been in this rodeo a time or two.
  3. Lawrence-Nelson (25-1): Slashing guard Taylor Harrington leads a veteran group. But, did the Raiders get the toughest draw possible? We think so.
  4. Falls City Sacred Heart (24-3): The Irish will not be rattled by the state environment and will beat you with balance and defense. Sophomore Erison Vonderschmidt leads the way with a 13.3 points per game average.
  5. Mullen (25-1): Broncos have been the class of the west and in UNK commit Samantha Moore, they have a player who can control the game. Avenged their only loss of the season to Class C-2 district final qualifier South Loup.

The picks: FCSH over Loomis. Wynot over Lawrence-Nelson. St. Francis over Sterling. Mullen over BDS. Semifinals: Wynot over FCSH. St. Francis over Mullen. Finals: Humphrey St. Francis. Bracket Buster: The top four seem clear, so we’ll call a Moore and Mullen a bracket buster in the D-2 semifinals.

The Starting Five: Nebraska Basketball Rankings (02/12)

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