Sure, Purdue has its own game with high stakes tonight in West Lafayette, but tonight also begins the annual Indiana High School Basketball State Tournament. Sectional play starts tonight at 64 sites across the state, and one of the most competitive sectionals is happening right across town at Lafayette Jeff High School.
Purdue has only one committed player playing in the tournament this year. Sasha Stefanovich leads Crown Point into a tricky sectional played at Michigan City. Crown points is 20-3 and is ranked 10th in Class 4A, but was 4-1 against the teams in its field. On January 6th they lost to Michigan City 56-53. Valparaiso, at 21-3, is also a very strong team. Crown Point will face Hobart tomorrow night at 6pm in a first round game.
Normally I try to do a preview of all 64 sectionals, but that gets quite tedious. Instead, here is a look at each class and who the favorites are:
There is no clear favorite here as the tournament appears to be wide open. In the south, defending state champion New Albany is led by 2018 prospect Romeo Langford. They are 21-3 and ranked No. 2. They should have a pretty clear path until the semi-state, where they would run into the top Indianapolis schools. No. 9 Floyd Central (18-4) could push them in the sectional, however. New Albany beat them by 23, but that was back in December. No. 8 Castle (20-3) with Iowa signee Jack Runge will be a strong team in the regional.
The Indianapolis area regional will be, as always a dogfight. No. 4 Warren Central (21-2) and No. 7 North Central (20-4) are thrown into the same sectional played at North Central. The two played twice during the season with Warren winning in the Marion County tourney 69-65, but North Central winning a few weeks later 63-51. They are expected to meet again in the sectional final Saturday night, and that will be fantastic. The winner of this sectional will be heavily favored in the regional.
Up north the Logansport Regional will once again be an amazing affair. Last season McCutcheon got through all the way to the State Finals, but this year they are playing in the toughest sectional (by record) in the state at Lafayette Jeff. No. 6 McCutcheon (21-2) and No. 3 Logansport (23-1) each drew byes. McCutcheon would likely play Kokomo (17-6) who enters tonight’s game with Lafayette Jeff (14-9) on a nine game winning streak. Logansport would get Zionsville (16-6) who should beat Harrison (13-10). Zionsville has P.J. Thompson’s brother in 2019 Purdue prospect Isaiah Thompson. McCutcheon has 2018 target Robert Phinisee. Logansport’s lone loss was to New Albany in the Hall of Fame Classic and they beat McCutcheon by 5 in the regular season.
The survivor out of that sectional has an arduous regional, too. No. 1 Ft. Wayne North (21-2) and No. 5 Carmel (18-4) should also be in the regional. Homestead (10-3) and Hamilton Southeastern (19-5) are also strong enough to make it.
Honestly, Crown Point and Stefanovich should hang around awhile if they get past Valparaiso. South Bend Riley (19-2) would be the strongest team in their regional.
Last season Marion and Vijay Blackmon (younger brother of James Blackmon Jr.) got past a 14-7 regular season where they played mostly strong 4A schools and rolled through the tournament. They survived a test from Tipton in overtime in the sectional final, but got past it on their way to a record-tying 8th state championship. This year they are 10-12, but because they played a ridiculously tough schedule (Homestead, Lawrence North, Logansport, McCutcheon) they could make another deep run. They are coached by James Blackmon Sr. and, like his son, they play no defense at all. They have given up 100 points three times.
Marion will host its sectional and regional, but No. 2 NorthWood (20-2) is favored to come out of it. They’ll probably have to beat the hosts to do so.
In the Kankakee Valley regional you have the Class 3A No. 1 team in Culver Academy (19-2). No. 5 Twin Lakes (19-3) will also be there and they had a 14 point loss to Culver Academy in the season. No. 7 Griffith (20-3) is strong for a third straight year. Two years ago they made the state title game and last year they lost in a delayed semi-state to Marion after their bus flipped on the highway coming to Lafayette.
In the Indianapolis area No. 4 Indianapolis Crispus Attucks (18-4) has its strongest team in decades, but they have to survive a sectional with Brebeuf (13-8) and No. 10 Indianapolis Manual (17-6). That regional, played at Greencastle, also has No. 8 Tri-West (20-3) and Park Tudor (16-6) feeding into it.
The southern regional, played at the Hatchet House in Washington, has No. 3 Brownstown Central (21-2) and last year’s state runner-up No. 6 Evansville Bosse (15-7) feeding into it. Also keep an eye out for No. 9 Salem (20-2)
The No. 1 team is Providence (20-2) down on the Ohio River near Clarksille, but they open the tournament tonight with No. 9 Henryville in an immediate challenge. No. 7 Linton-Stockton (20-4) should also be a contender in the southern regional played at Paoli. Annual power No. 2 Barr-Reeve (21-2) is playing up in classification for a second straight season and should not bother them. They lost in the sectional last year, so even a state title would move them back to 1A where they were the 2015 state champion and 2014 runner-up.
In the Greenfield Central Regional there are three ranked teams that could come in. No. 4 Northeastern (19-5) should be there, but the sectional battle at Speedway between No. 5 Indianapolis Broad Ripple (17-5) and No. 6 Indianapolis Howe (16-8) should be fantastic. When they met during the season Broad Ripple won 61-59, but last season Howe was the 2A state runner-up.
Last season’s 2A title winner Lapel (15-8) has a tough road this season. Monroe Central (21-2) is a stiff challenge in their sectional as well as No. 10 Wapahani (15-6) and if Lapel makes it to the regional they will host the Oak Hill sectional winner will also be strong. No. 3 Oak Hill (19-3) and No. 8 Southwood (18-4) will battle it out at Oak Hill.
The fourth and final 2A regional at North Judson is wide open. Only Gary Roosevelt (12-8) and Westview (16-6) are even receiving votes in the state poll there.
Lafayette Central Catholic (17-6) has not won a state title since 2003, but they enter the tournament ranked No. 1 and they have won a sectional 15 years in a row, a trend that is nearing the longest such streak ever. Of their 6 losses two were to McCutcheon. No. 5 Clinton Prairie (20-3) is in their sectional, but they already have a 20 point win over them. Once LCC is in the regional they could run into defending state champion Liberty Christian, but the field in front of them before the semi-state is mostly clear.
In the other Northern regional you have No. 2 Tri-County (21-2) and No. 7 Ft. Wayne Blackhawk (15-9). No. 9 South Newton (18-5) is in the same sectional as Tri-County, so only one of them will survive. No. 8 Oregon-Davis (17-6) should also be here.
The South semi-state almost always has a surprise winner, but No. 3 Indianapolis Tindley (17-5) featuring Purdue target Eric Hunter looks strong. Tindley reached a regional final last season and won a sectional in 2015, so they tend to go a little further each year. They should run into No. 4 Oldenburg Academy (20-3) in the regional at Martinsville.
Finally, the southwestern regional being kept warm until Barr-Reeve drops back down looks wide open. No. 6 Wood Memorial (18-5) will see their boys try to match their girl’s feat of winning state this year. Never look past Loogootee (18-7) as one of the best small-school programs in the state.