The WPIAL basketball playoffs start tonight - my favorite time of the sports year. By the time we get to the quarterfinals, gyms start to get packed, student sections come out in full force, fans are loud, parents lose their minds, coaches lose their minds, fans complain about everything from officials calls to game sites - and I love it all.
Here are some news, notes and quotes about the playoffs, followed by predictions for games tonight and tomorrow:
The story of three teams from WPIAL Class AAAA Section 3 getting the top three seeds has been well documented. Some other things we learned this week, though:
***** Chartiers Valley got the No. 1 seed over Mars in Class AAA boys because, as WPIAL basketball chairperson Dan O'Neil said, "We didn't know which way to go there and it came down to strength of schedule and the strength of the section. The other thing in Triple-A, we didn't know what to do with was Beaver and Central Valley. Did we want them in the four and five seeds and maybe play in the quarterfinals? Or do we want them split up? We decided they are probably the fourth and fifth best teams, so let's have them maybe play in the quarterfinals."
***** Mars coach Rob Carmody had no problem with Chartiers Valley getting the No. 1 seed: "Just the history and tradition of Chartiers Valley alone, and what they've done this year, obviously factors into it, and it should. They have a great history and we don't. [Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell] is the class of coaches in the WPIAL, too. So it doesn't bother me one bit that they got the No. 1 seed. A 2 seed validates a great regular season. Two is the highest we've ever been, so we're thrilled by it."
***** The WPIAL basketball committee debated whether to make Beaver Falls or Greensburg Central Catholic the No. 1 seed in Class AA. "We thought Beaver Falls had a little tougher schedule than Greensburg Central Catholic did."
***** The WPIAL doesn't take into consideration Monday non-section games at all. For example, Upper St. Clair boys beat Chartiers Valley Monday night, and the Chartiers Valley girls beat North Allegheny. But those games didn't factor into playoff seedings.
"It's all done Monday afternoon at 2 or 3," O'Neil said. "It would be too much to go in Tuesday and re-arrange things. Some coaches approach those Monday games a little differently. Some only play their top guys for a quarter or two. Some go all out. I think most coaches know that those Monday games are not going to matter.
"The only time I ever remember us changing a bracket on Tuesday was one time we learned the bracket had been leaked by someone. Someone knew who they were playing and went out and scouted that team Monday night. So we went in Tuesday and changed it."
Here are my picks for games tonight and tomorrow. I will be at East Allegheny vs. Ambridge tonight and Central Catholic vs. Seneca Valley tomorrow. Let's get to it.
Class AAAA - Upper St. Clair over Norwin; Central Catholic over Seneca Valley; Hampton over Mt. Lebanon; McKeesport over Bethel Park.
Class AAA - Mount Pleasant over Knoch; Elizabeth Forward over Indiana; Kittanning over Yough; Steel Valley over South Park; Ambridge over East Allegheny.
Class AA - Charleroi over Bishop Canevin; California over Brentwood; Deer Lakes over Shady Side Academy; Aliquippa over Avonworth; Neshannock over Apollo-Ridge; Brownsville over Northgate; Burrell over Beth-Center; Washington over Jefferson-Morgan; Serra over Mohawk; Riverside over West Shamokin.
Class A - Leechburg over Mapletown; Union over Quigley; Clairton over St. Joseph; Vincentian over Western Beaver; Monessen over Sewickley Academy; North Catholic over rochester; OLSH over Trinity Christian.
Class AAAA - Franklin Regional over Albert Gallatin; Baldwin over Latrobe; Norwin over Penn Hills; Hempfield over Upper St. Clair; Chartiers Valley over Shaler.
Class AAA - West Mifflin over Kittanning; South Fayette over Freeport; Keystone Oaks over Mount Pleasant; Indiana over Ringgold.
Class AA - Ford City over Washington; Beaver Falls over South Side Beaver; OLSH over Riverview; Steel Valley over Avonworth; Neshannock over West Shamokin; Beaver over Chartiers-Houston; Charleroi over Carlynton; Riverside over Springdale.
Class A - Clairton over West Greene; Eden Christian over Jefferson-Morgan; Quigley over California; St. Joseph over Avella; North Catholic over Frazier; Carmichaels over Cornell.