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Friday, February 25, 2011

Wooster District Preview - Thoughts and Round 1 Predictions

So you've read a snippet about each team, now let's get down to the overall thoughts on this year's district tournament and the matchups for round one.

Once more, here's the tournament bracket full of dates and times.

Thoughts from Andrew at
It is going to be another exciting series of games in the DIII Wooster District Tournament at Wooster High School. The parity and competitiveness in the district are pretty high this year, in my opinion, which should make for plenty of intriguing matchups and thrilling finishes. However, there are very, very few marquee or dominant teams that could make a threat anywhere outside of the district.

So this year the tournament could either be very exciting or very boring – it just depends on what you want. If you are a person that goes to basketball games in hopes of seeing top-tier talent, competitive, state-ranked teams, and some foresight to the future rounds of the tournament, the 2011 version of the DIII Wooster District Tournament is not for you.

But if you want to watch country boys get after it and play the game “the right way”, as well as experience the intensity of some of the backyard rivalries this tournament could provide, then you could very well enjoy what will be going on in Wooster High School. So, what are the specifics?

Favorites: There is one and only one clear-cut favorite in my opinion – the Hillsdale Falcons. They are 15-2 with losses to preseason co-favorite Dalton by 3 and at co-WCAL leader Northwestern by 10. They are led by a duo of frontcourt players who are not only big but run the floor and do all the little things for the Falcons. Surrounding them are several key role players who all seem to be disciplined and get the job done. They are my pick to win the district. This should come as no surprise.

After Hillsdale, there is only one other team with less than 6 losses – the Northwestern Huskies. They may have the best player in the tournament in sharp-shooter Brennan McKean; however, the Huskies potentially have a 2nd round game against Triway, which beat them by 8 on their home court in the season opener.

Although Orrville is the reigning district champion and DIII State Runner-up, the Red Riders’ Wasson and company have only been able to muster 6 wins at the time of this report. Their schedule strength is definitely impressive, though, having played 5 DI and 8 DII opponents, more than any other team in the district by a
good margin.

Upset Alerts (not necessarily first round, but teams that could make a run):
A few teams come to mind right away when I think of the teams with sub-par records who I think could cause fits for the statistical “favorites” in the district.

1) Norwayne – Their two losses to Hillsdale were by a combined 5 points. They lost to DIII state-ranked Manchester only by 4. Their latest loss to Northwestern was by 4, as well. Add to that their 2 wins over Dalton, and they can cause any team problems on any given night.

2) Orrville – Yes, they’re the #4 seed. As I mentioned earlier, though, the Red Riders faced probably the toughest schedule of any team in the tournament. Their big man Zach Wasson returns from last year but has had a younger supporting cast around him than what he’s used to, I think. The Red Riders’ depth has been an issue, in my opinion, but seems to be getting more in tune with expectations over in the sports town. Nobody, except for maybe Hillsdale who controlled their game against Orrville earlier in the season on a neutral court, will want to play Orrville – very dangerous!

3) Triway – Playing a disciplined team like CVCA, state-ranked Manchester, and DI Timken all twice in PAC-7 play along with Wooster, Northewstern, and Hiland in their non-conference games, the Titans have definitely played a very tough schedule, as well. Like the other upset alert teams, Triway might not have many wins, but historically they have been a team to play their best basketball of the season at tournament time. I can’t imagine this year being any different.

 Thoughts from Tim at
I'm of similar opinion as that of Andrew.  This seems like a pretty cut-and-dry tournament.  Northwestern and Hillsdale are clearly the two best teams in the district, and they've pretty much proven that during the regular season.  I think there will be some mild upsets, and a lot of close, low-scoring games, but in the end,  I think the best teams will rise to the top.

I got a text from a county basketball fan, that summed it up pretty nicely.  He said that Hillsdale has the best balance, Northwesterm the best player (McKean), Orrville the best front-court (Wasson, Winters, Pirman) and Smithville the best guard play (Frizell & Bates).

I think it's going to come down to coaching and matchups more than anything else.

My pick to win it all.  This is tough.  I think it's Hillsdale's to lose, and to be different, I'd like to pick Northwestern, but they only beat a down Orrville team by 2 points and it took Brennan McKean scoring 48 points for it to happen.  I think Orrville has a shot, but Hillsdale made them look pretty bad at the Smitty Classic back in December.  Norwayne get up for big games, but can they get past the average teams to get there?  And what about Smithville?  They had two close losses to Northwestern and Hillsdale each.  Not really a bad loss on their schedule.

See what I mean?  It's all going to be about who matches up the best and what team is playing the best on any given night.

Ok, my pick is the powerhouse team from Smith-Orr-West-Hills-burg.

Seriously....I'm going to go with Northwestern.  I think they have the best player, and the best clutch team in the tournament.  Their foul shooting as a team is a huge advantage, and McKean is this year's version of Jake Bolyard in terms of a player who can single-handedly change the outcome of the game.  Mark Alberts is no slouch of a coach either.  He knows how to win the close games.

If Andrew hadn't picked Hillsdale, I probably would've went with them....but we picked the same teams last year and that was boring.

On to the picks.....Andrew and I didn't compare notes, so any coincidences in score are just that.

#11 Columbia vs #12 Loudonville - Monday February 28th, 6:00pm
Tim's Pick: Loudonville has trouble scoring points.  That's a problem.  Columbia has been on a mini roll late in the season.  I like the  Raiders to advance.  Columbia 59 - Loudonville 53.

Andrew's Pick: If there’s one game you probably won’t want to go to, this is it. The #11 and #12 seeds in this 14-team tournament face off on a Monday night at 6:00 PM to kick things off. Columbia has at least come on strong as of late, winning 4 of their last 5 games. Loudonville, on the other hand, hasn’t really done much lately unless you consider winning 3 of their last 7 a “stretch”. Anyway, both teams play in
historically weak leagues, in my opinion, so that should make their bad records stand out even more. If I had to pick a conference, though, I’d definitely go with the Mid-Buckeye Conference this year with their 4 teams over .500 as opposed to the Patriot Athletic Conference’s… wait for it… none! I like Loudonville, one of our
(Triway’s) MAC rivals, in this one. Loudonville 54 - Columbia 49

#8 Tuslaw vs #10 Black River - Monday February 28th, 7:30pm
Tim's Pick:  Gonna go with the Pirates.  Tuslaw been sliding downhill for the 2nd half of the season.  Black River 62 - Tuslaw 57

Andrew's Pick: Having seen both teams play, although the Black River instance wasn’t a real indication of the team, I’d have to quickly and easily pick the Tuslaw Mustangs. As I already mentioned, the Patriot
Athletic Conference with its zero 10-win teams, is ridiculously weak in my opinion, while Tuslaw has played Timken, Manchester, CVCA, and Tusky Valley twice, all of which have 11+ wins. Although the Mustangs
haven’t gotten many wins, they did beat Dalton in the season opener, which is better than any marquee win on Black River’s schedule. Although Tuslaw has the tendency to complete not show up in games this
year, I find it hard not to pick them.  Tuslaw 64 - Black River 49

#14 Chippewa vs #4 Orrville - Tuesday March 1st, 6:00pm
Tim's Pick: For all the difficulties Orrville has had this year, they shouldn't struggle with Chippewa.  Riders roll.  Orrville 61 - Chippewa 42

Andrew's Pick: This game could get ugly very quickly. Although Orrville only has 1 more win than Chippewa, I see no way that the Chipps can hand the big men or the athleticism on Orrville’s roster. Chippewa has been the cellar dweller the last few years in the district, and this year is no different. Four of Chippewa’s five wins were against Heritage Christian, Lake Center Christian, Kingsway Christian, and Central Christian. See a pattern? If Chippewa can get Wasson in foul trouble early and force Orrville’s guards to beat them, they have a chance. I think that’s the only way they have a chance, though. Good luck!  Orrville is too big and too athletic.  Orrville 66 - Chippewa 39

#7 Triway vs #13 Waynedale - Tuesday March 1st, 7:30pm
Tim's Pick: Similar to Orrville, the Titans have struggled this year, but should get by Waynedale relatively easy.  Triway 62 - Waynedale 49

Andrew's Pick: Triway and Waynedale scrimmaged in the preseason in The Pit, and Waynedale only lost by 5 points. However, during the season their only wins came against Kingsway Chrisitan, Central Christian, and Chippewa. Ouch! Triway, on the other hand, has beaten Wooster and Northwestern and taken a few other good teams to the wire. The Golden Bears and Titans have a long history of playing each other, but it’s been quite lopsided with Triway winning the last 16 or so (something around there). That may be one of the reasons this season was the first in a long time that these two did not meet in the regular season.
Everything points to Triway in this one, and of course I’m going to pick my team!  Triway 58 – Waynedale 45

#3 Smithville vs #9 Wellington - Wednesday March 2nd, 6:00pm
Tim's Pick: I think the Smithies start a surprising tourney run with an easy win over Wellington.  Smithville 65 - Wellington 50

Andrew's Pick: Smithville has surprised me the most this season. They have compiled a decent record (11-6 at the time of this writing) and have had some close losses to very good teams – 2 losses to Northwestern by a total of 10 points, 2 losses to Hillsdale by a combined 6 points. They have proven to be much more consistent than I thought they would be, so I’m giving them some credit now. Drew Frizell is their unquestioned star and can be unstoppable at times. If Wellington can come up with a scheme to slow him down and make the rest of the Smithies’ roster beat them, they could make this interesting. Drew is tough to stop, though.  Wellington is yet another Patriot Athletic Conference member with a sub-.500 record. There’s not much else to say here, in my opinion. Smithville wins. Smithville 62 - Wellington 51

#5 Norwayne vs #6 Oberlin - Wednesday March 2nd, 7:30pm
Tim's Pick:  I think this has the potential to be the best game of this round, but think the Bobcats survive.  Norwayne 52 - Oberlin 50

Andrew's Pick: In my “Upset Alerts” section I listed Norwayne as a team I think could win a few games in the tournament. With only 1 less win, it still shocks me that the Bobcats are a worse seed than Oberlin. However, the Phoenix lead the Patriot Athletic Conference with 9 wins, yet they are only 5-6 inside the conference. I don’t know. I guess I can understand the WCAL coaches giving a little credit to at least one of the Patriot teams. Norwayne’s 2 wins over Dalton (man, Dalton is a “marquee” win for a lot of teams! … maybe it’s not that marquee) and 2 close losses to Hillsdale and 1 to Northwestern give me some encouragement. But in the end, though, you have to win games. Oberlin has won games. Nine of them, which is more wins than 10 of the 14 teams in the district.  Isn’t that crazy!? Anyway, this is a tough one. Norwayne will play tough, and I think Oberlin will play tough, as well. Going back to last year, though, Oberlin was the #14 seed and lost by 36 in the first round to a #4 seed. Norwayne was not as low of a seed (#10) but lost to #9 Black River by 25. Ouch! This is a tough pick.  Norwayne 56 – Oberlin 54

At least we differed on two picks.  More than you could say for last year's tournament.  Check back on Thursday March 4th for results from round 1 and predictions for the sectional championship round.

Good luck to all 14 teams.

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