2020 'Pick 6' Renegade Boys Basketball Week-8 Poll

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Hammond hasn't won 20 games in a season since 1997 but they will this year and its time they got into this poll. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CHESTERTON (01-23-2020) The long nights and short days of January come to an end with one of Northwest Indiana’s feature events.

The final night of the Porter County Conference (PCC) Tournament will be on the WJOB network Saturday January 25 and you should watch.

I don’t know if Hebron (10-2), Morgan Township (7-4) or Kouts (11-0) will be in the boys' final game (7 p.m.) but I can promise you the stands will be full and both teams will play it like it was Game 7 of the NBA finals. This is one of the great traditional tournaments in Indiana basketball and, even though we’re talking about Class 1A and Class 2A schools, it is worth seeing even if you're not from Porter County.

The championship ‘night’ is a girls boys double-header featuring the final games of the eight-team league championship tournament with the girls game beginning at 5:30 p.m.

By the end of the third quarter of the girls title game, the 2,000-seat Hebron gym will be near capacity. I wouldn’t call it a ‘throwback’ tournament. It's just small school Indiana basketball.

I’m confused. Crown Point beat Michigan City (8-4) but lost to Merrillville (5-7). Bowman (9-5) lost to East Chicago (4-7) but beat Crown Point (7-6).

Crown Point beat East Chicago but East Chicago lost to Merrillville 59-49. I don’t understand.

One thing is clear. Wheeler was 0-11 last weekend when they put the top down on Whiting 50-44. They’re on their way. Hanover Central (13-1) is off to the best start in school history and the night of Feb. 21 may get big as undefeated Kouts (11-0) comes to town.

The Cats, who play in Class 3A Sectional 17, won their first sectional title in 35 years last March and they have never won back-to-back sectional titles. But, with the sectional at home, Hanover will be favored to do just that when March 1st comes around.

The ‘six’ has a shakeup this week, but the top team is still the top team.

1. (4A) Chesterton (13-1)
2019 (19-7), 2018 (21-4), 2017 (16-9)

CHESTERTON: The Trojans crawled up to No. 15 in the state ranking of Class 4A schools after a week when they rolled over Hobart 78-37 and LaPorte 67-44. The lone loss came to Fort Wayne’s Blackhawk Christian (12-2). I got to see the ‘Blackhawk’ on TV out of Fort Wayne last week. Nobody over here would beat them. That's a small college team. The Trojans have a hard January weekend on tap with games at Crown Point (7-6) Friday and a home game with Class 4A No. 7 South Bend Adams (13-1) Saturday. Two wins and the Top-10 awaits.

2. (1A) 21st Century (12-2)
2019 (19-7), 2018 (21-7), 2017 (18-10)

GARY: The 21st Century Cougars rolled over out-manned Harlan 87-53 and the non-IHSAA Indianapolis home school 91-58. They’ve topped Valparaiso (9-6) and Griffith (8-5), both by 24 points. Only Chesterton (13-1) and Mooresville (9-5) have put them in their place. When you see all the Gary public schools closing (looks like Roosevelt is next) and you wonder where the basketball players went, check out Bowman and 21st Century. Class 1A No. 4 Kouts (11-0) says bring it on to 21st Century in a tiny town showdown the night of January 28. A prediction? Kouts has absolutely no chance to beat 21st Century. Am I to vague there?

3.(4A) Munster (12-1)
2019 (22-5), 2018 (17-7), 2017 (13-12)

MUNSTER: The state poll has Lake Central rated in the top 20 and Munster (12-1) is nowhere to be found. That’s confusing because Munster has beaten LC twice 47-38 and 62-43. (That’s also why you need to read local polls and not state polls.) The Mustangs’ 10th consecutive win was 60-42 over Merrillville last Saturday night. The big weekend for the Mustangs appears to be Feb. 14-15 when the wild horses ride to Gary West Side (9-4) on Friday and then gallop back home to take on Chesterton (13-1) on Saturday.

4. (4A) Hammond (11-2)
2019 (18-8), 2018 (19-6), 2017 (15-10)

HAMMOND: I’ve got to get the Wildcats in here as they built their winning streak to eight with a 77-55 runaway win over East Chicago. The ‘Cats' are better than I thought they were. Wins over Park Tudor (6-6) and North Central (5-6) can't be downgraded even though those teams are at the .500 mark. Those are top programs. The losses are to Gary West Side (9-4) and Chicago’s Hyde Park (6-7). The big win was 67-55 over Munster (12-1) and, while I still think Munster is a better team, Hammond seems headed towards a 20-win season.

5. (4A) Valparaiso (9-6)
2019 (21-6), 2018 (20-6), 2017 (21-4)

VALPARAISO: Few teams in this part of the state have played the schedule that Valparaiso has. The Vikings losses are 64-40 loss to 21st Century (12-2), 53-45 to Jeffersonville (8-2), 65-42 to Franklin Central (9-3) and 43-40 to Warsaw (9-3) and 64-57 to Michigan City (8-4). The Vikings' high points so far are their 55-52 holiday tournament victory over Connersville (8-5), a 54-48 win over tradition-rich Penn (6-6) and a 74-69 win over Elkhart Memorial (8-6). Valpo still has Munster (12-1), Chesterton (13-12) and arch-rival Lake Central (9-5) left to play. Again. This is a ‘strength of schedule’ ranking.

6. (2A) Bowman Academy (9-5)
2019 (13-12), 2018 (13-8), 2017 (13-10)

GARY: I can not honestly tell you exactly how good Bowman is. Good wins over Crown Point (7-6), Penn (6-6) and Gary West Side (9-4). But this team has traveled far and wide. Farther and wider than I can evaluate. They beat Hamilton high of Milwaukee 71-60, but they lost to Victory Christian, a non-IHSAA school. How good are they? Bowman lost by 24 points to 21st Century and by 32 points to LaLumiere, the LaPorte prep school that’s loaded up with college prospects. They beat a decent Lake Station team (7-5) by an 84-41 count, but Bowman lost to St. Louis Christian Academy. I just don’t know. It’s a tough year to rank teams and Bowman and Gary West Side (9-4) are two of the big reasons why.

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Revised: January 23, 2020 .