2017 Renegade Boys Basketball Final Poll
... and a look ahead to 2018

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


Is it time for Chesterton to win the sectional again in boys basketball? Maybe 2018 is the time. There will be a lot of new ideas in play next season. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CROWN POINT (04-05-2017) I've waited a whole month for the final 'Look ahead' poll because I don't know what's coming in 2018. Teams like Merrillville, Lowell, Crown Point, Valparaiso, Michigan City, East Chicago and LaPorte lose so much of their starting lineups. There are fine young players in Northwest Indiana, but I don't see a lot of them on the same teams.

I used to watch the college basketball NCAA tournament and complain about a 3-point shooting contest. Last month's NCAA Men championship game was embarrassing in its quality. And it wasn't the first time. Remember Butler shooting 34% in the NCAA championship game? The over-emphasis on shooting 25-footers is killing the game of college basketball.

Now, the high school playoffs aren't much different.

The style of play is becoming less watchable and less fundamental. The 'Steph Curry' effect. Players are judged by their ability (or lack of it) to shoot low-percentage shots. So, I'd like to take over the game.

1.) I would like to see the 3-point line moved back in high school and college. It's becoming far too easy a shot. I know the original concept of the '3' was to keep big players from dominating. But we've swung totally in the other direction. Fundamental basketball now means 'step back' 3s and screening for 20-25 footers.

I don't want to eliminate the '3'. Just make it a difficult shot again. As players get bigger and stronger, the line should move back. Maybe 24 feet. Take it out of play as an offensive style and return it to what it was: A specialty shot for a specially gifted shooter. Bring the mid-range shot back into the game. And refs? The step back '3' move is traveling and should be called that. Hopping forward three feet off the dribble is traveling. Hopping backwards should be the same call because it's also a violation.

2.) Jumping into the defender isn't a foul on anybody. It's not a fair play or a skilled play to get the defensive player to leap into the air and then jump 'forward' into him. That's not in the rules anywhere that I know of. A leaping player can't be penalized for taking the space that an offensive player didn't have (extending upward) when he jumped. There's too much throwing up a hopeless three while jumping forward just to get three free throws. An embarrassing non-basketball act you wouldn't do if it only got you two free throws. You can't be rewarded with a bonus when you look for the referees to bail you out.

3.) I think it's long since time that players be allowed six fouls a game. The number '5' is an arbitrary number as far as I can discover. The game has become faster and more physical. More difficult to officiate. I think that three fouls per half is fairer for the game the way it is now. I'd also like to see, as a balancing change, that the 12th foul in a half gives three free throws to the opposition. Teams foul late in a game in the hopes of shooting a '3' at the other end and making up a deficit one point per possession. I think that's something that should be discouraged.

4.) I think a player must be on his feet to call time out. To dive into a pile or leap out of bounds and in mid-air scream time is just wrong. You can have possession on the floor, but you then have to play. You can't call time out unless you are standing. It would make games much easier to officiate and convince players to play instead of, again, looking to get bailed out by game referees.

5.) If the defense forces a jump ball, there should be a jump ball. The alternating possession rule is inherently unfair to the defense. If I block your shot and 'tie you up', why should you get the ball back half the time? Referees can execute jump balls. It's not correct for a defensive play to result in the offense getting to run an inbounds play. There should be no bonus for losing the ball.

6.) Indiana basketball lives on Friday and Saturday nights. But, for some reason, when we get to the regional, we skip Friday night and play the semifinals on Saturday morning. I don't have an explanation for that. Playing the semifinals on Friday allows newspapers and radio stations to promote the championship game. The idea that boys can play two winner-take-all games in one day and be at their best both times is nonsense. No one really believes that. They just say it. At no other level of the sport of basketball do you play two playoff games in one day. It's just stupid. Not to mention that you would draw more fans playing Friday night and Saturday night. I'd also like to see one state championship game played on Friday night (baseball does this), as opposed to 10:30 a.m. in the morning on Saturday.

7.) I'd like to see Class 4A be reduced to just the 64 largest schools. Make it a small elite class as Class 6A (just 32 teams) is in football. Hobart (enrollment 1,285) is never going to beat Carmel (4,993 teens) school in a state tournament game. We can pretend there could, but they won't. But Hobart and Carmel are both 4A schools. Hobart is in the same sectional with Crown Point (2,815 students). That's only fair if you play for or coach Crown Point.  If you make all 4A sectionals involve just four teams (which should be considered anyway), you make the big school bracket all relatively big schools. I'd also like to see the Class 1A bracket feature only public schools. No Catholic or Christian schools and no charter schools. 1A private schools should play in the 2A bracket. It's fair and we all know it.


To be clear, I don't see anyone in NW Indiana returning all their starting lineup and poised to make a state title run. In the era of charter schools, that can change over the summer. The boys move around more than they used to. And there's other changes. Gary West Side drops from 4A to 3A. West Side and Griffith are likely in the same sectional.

Does 4A Sectional 1 add a team from 4A Sectional 2 or do they now exist as a six-team sectional? Andrean, which graduated all five starters, moves from 3A to Class 2A. Do they join tradition-rich Gary Roosevelt and Bishop Noll in Sectional 33? There's a lot new to get used to.

And there are a lot of challengers for all the local sectional titles in March of 2018.

Here's five of them.

1. (4A) Chesterton (16-9)
2016 (16-9), 2015 (17-9), 2014 (12-10), 2013 (13-9)

CHESTERTON: Chesterton left the 2017 playoffs early, but that may not be the case in 2018. The Trojans return 6-foot-6 Austin Peterson (15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds), 6-foot-1 guard Ky Palombizio and 6-foot-3 Jake Wadding, both of whom were honorable mention all-DAC. I know. I know. It's been 30 years since Chesterton won a boys basketball sectional. But they return four starters and all the bench. No one else in the DAC has that much experience starting the season. 2018 might be their time.

2. (4A) Merrillville (21-8)
2016 (22-2), 2015 (18-9), 2014 (4-16), 2013 (22-4)

MERRILLVILLE: Coming off two 20-win seasons, I think Merrillville still contends with 6-foot-3 Johnny Bernard (12.3 ppg.) and some newcomers. The Pirates have had highly successful JV teams for two years in a row and they have good sized underclassmen. Other than Bernard and guard Nolan Thomas, there isn't much experience returning, but that's a story that will be told all around the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) next season. What I'm reminded is that Merrillville graduated six seniors in June of 2016 and came back to win the sectional in 2017. This is the first of many 'question mark' teams.

3. (4A) Lake Central (15-12)
2016 (13-12), 2015 (13-10), 2014 (22-4), 2013 (15-8)

St. JOHN: With East Chicago undergoing major changes, Lowell losing two 1,000-point scorers and Gary West Side dropping to 3A, it could be time for the LC-Munster sectional showdowns to resume. The Indians don't have big scorers, but they return guards Justin Graves and Derek Hobbs plus solid 6-foot-3 forward Justin Graciano (10 ppg.) and 6-foot-3 Keon Sellers inside. Only three seniors graduate off the 2017 team. LC may still be a small team physically and that will hurt them with the schedule they play. But they won a couple of sectional games last March and if their shooting improves, here's a team that will be in that sectional title game again.

4. (1A) 21st Century (19-9)
2016 (20-7), 2015 (10-14), 2014 (15-6), 2013 (15-8)

GARY: In 1A, 21st Century is a mismatch for most small schools with 6-foot-3 DeAndre Gholston (21.6 points, 10.6 rebounds per game), 6-foot Johnny Davis (12.3 ppg.) and 5-foot-10 Christian Rogers (3.6 ppg.). With Bowman Academy on IHSAA suspension for two seasons, 21st Century could add more players. But even if they don't, its going to be very hard for 1A public schools like Kouts and Morgan Township to beat them in sectional play. Small but speedy, 21st Century has won consecutive regional championships and they defeated all nine 1A public schools they played in the last two post-seasons. They could be a state contender in 2018.

5. (4A) Munster (13-12)
2016 (10-14), 2015 (18-10), 2014 (20-5), 2013 (25-1)

MUNSTER: This is a team that had nothing but the future in 2017. And the future is now. The Mustangs graduated two seniors. Sophomore guards Jevon Morris (11.6 ppg., 2.9 assists, 30 3-point baskets), Tyler Zabrecky (10.6 ppg., 33 3-point goals) have two more seasons. Freshman Josh Davis (5.5 points, 3.1 assists, 27 3-point baskets) has three more years. You have to take a lot of this on faith here. There's no big players with any varsity experience returning. But the 2018 playoffs will feature a lot of new stars everywhere. More so than usual. Munster will have a couple of them.

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Revised: April 08, 2017 .