2017 Renegade Boys Basketball Week-6 Poll

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith


The sun is shining on Crown Point starting January as the Bulldogs have a 9-1 record, their best start since the 1960s. (Photo by Mark Smith)

CROWN POINT (01-05-2017) This is the first week of January. You know. The one where they haul away the Christmas trees and a four-day week seems like a month. The week where it rains all day on the good days and snows on the bad ones. The week where it's so cold you have to put on a coat and two pairs of pants to go to bed. The week where it's dark at 6:30 in the morning and even darker at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The week where the second half of the basketball season starts. The one that matters.

The Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) continues to excel with seven teams above the .500 mark as of New Year's Day. On top of that, six of the DAC teams were either 8-2, 8-3 or 9-1 on Jan. 1. That suggests that the showdowns about to come are worthy of your time and ticket money.

I've talked a lot about how the decline in TV coverage hurts Northwest Indiana sports. The decline in box scores significantly hurts baseball, softball, football and especially basketball. Both local newspapers have decided, probably due to staffing cuts from years past, that it's not worth the time to compile a box score and print it.

Smaller papers like the LaPorte Herald, Michigan City Dispatch or the Chesterton Tribune have an easier task because they concentrate on fewer teams. They can get the box scores of games in print or online.

With respect to all writers who cover the game, you learn more from a complete box score than you do from a game story. It isn't even close. To mention every player who played and cite their totals is the essence of coverage. It has been a staple of basketball coverage for decades and relatively few box scores are on-line. Accepting the time and space issues involving box scores, I'd be OK if the papers would print full box scores two days after the game. If Friday box scores appeared Sunday or Saturday scores showed up Monday, it would not diminish their value.

Most all game stories are edited and what is edited out is point scoring and rebounding details. I truly think more basketball fans would purchase the papers if box scores were printed. It could be a selling point for the print editions of papers.

Warasw at Crown Point, last year's 4A regional final was postponed in Denver and has been rescheduled for Jan. 21.
CP plays at 4A No. 13 Warren Central (7-0) the night of Jan. 28. Undefeated South Bend Riley (9-0), 31-7 the last year and a half, hosts LaPorte the night of Feb. 18. Michigan City hosts arch-rival LaPorte on Jan. 20 and South Bend Clay on Jan. 21. Clay is coached by Delray Brooks, the 1980s Michigan City Rogers superstar.

Should be a feel-good night. Rogers, who played and coached in college (after scoring 2300 points at the old Rogers high), was a rookie high school coach at Clay last year when they hosted MC. Hard not to have talent-rich East Chicago (5-6) and LaPorte (8-2) in the poll, but it's the 'Magnificent 7', not the 'Nearly Great Nine'.

1. (4A) Crown Point (9-1)
2016 (19-9) 2015 (19-9), 2014 (12-9), 2013 (5-16)

CROWN POINT: Crown Point lost a rematch with Pike in 67-62 in overtime in the finals of the Noblesville Holiday tournament. Ten years ago Pike wouldn't have thought about playing Crown Point. This year, Pike played CP twice. CP is confirming a theory of mine. The Bulldogs are better, by record, than they were last year against a tougher schedule with less talent. I think that public school teams with core players in the same class who have played together much of their lives can win more than teams with core players of different ages. CP's four 'Class of 2017' seniors have always played together and the record reflects that so far. Let's see how my theory holds up when the Bulldogs play at Merrillville (8-3) the night of Jan. 13 and host Griffith (10-0) the night of Jan. 14.

2. (4A) Valpo (9-1)
2016 (18-6), 2015 (20-4), 2014 (12-10), 2013 (10-11)

VALPARAISO: The 4A No. 12 Vikings are rated ahead of the 4A No. 14 Crown Point Bulldogs in the latest state poll despite a 64-62 loss to Merrillville. Valpo got some nice holiday wins over Horizon Christian (10-4) and Huntington North (7-4) to go with their earlier win over Lowell (9-3). The Vikes were 15 of 18 from the line in the win over Huntington and Trace Ramsey had 18 in the loss to Merrillville in holiday tournament play. Is Valparaiso really 47-11 the last 2-1/2 years? A lot of the out-of-the area teams Valpo has on the schedule (Penn, Concord, Adams, Washington, Noll) are not having good seasons, so the focus will be on Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) play. Valpo at LaPorte (8-2) is the night of Feb. 2. Valpo (9-1) at Crown Point (9-1) looms on the night of Feb. 10.
Valpo should be 15-1 when they host Merrillville again on Jan. 27.

3. (4A) Merrillville (8-3)
2016 (22-2), 2015 (18-9), 2014 (4-16), 2013 (22-4)

MERRILLVILLE: Merrillville has that win over Valparaiso and only the loss to Hamilton Southeastern (10-1) in holiday play. The Pirates have a 77-74 loss to McCutcheon (8-1) and the early 69-67 loss to East Chicago. The wins over Valpo (9-1) and Andrean (7-1) are nice, but The Pirates want to get the home game against Crown Point (9-1) on Jan. 13 as the Bulldogs stopped Merrillville's 11-game win streak last January. I've been surprised with the offense (72 points per game) Merrillville has displayed. The Pirates graduated more than half of their scoring from last year. Nobody in the DAC is overly big up front so the fact that Merrillville isn't won't matter in league play.

4. (4A) Chesterton (8-3)
2016 (16-9), 2015 (17-9), 2014 (12-10)

CHESTERTON: The Trojans did lose to Noblesville and Columbus East in the Noblesville Holiday tournament, but that's no big deal. 6-foot-6 baseball star Austin Peterson (19.7 per game) did score 29 with four three-pointers in a 65-54 win over Columbus North. Peterson added 22 in a 71-62 loss to Columbus East. Who is 6-foot-2 freshman Jake Wadding? I don't know, but he scored 24 against Noblesville. Is Chesterton better than LaPorte (9-2)? We may find out the night of Jan. 13 in LaPorte County. Crown Point (9-1) gets to Chesterton on Jan. 20, while the Trojans take the short ride to rival Valparaiso (9-1) on Feb. 17. The Trojans should be ready for the seven-game DAC schedule.

5. (3A) Andrean (8-1)
2016 (9-15), 2015 (14-11), 2014 (13-10), 2013 (22-4)

MERRILLVILLE: Andrean has only one 9-point loss to Merrillville so far and they host Lafayette Catholic (6-2) the night of Jan. 14. The 59ers host Crown Point (9-1) on Feb. 7. The 59ers' 'Gang of Four' guards Jeron Tatum (14.1 ppg.) and Tarik Dixon (12.5), 6-foot-2 junior Curtis Jones (13.0 ppg.) and 5-foot-7 Will Carey (9.9 ppg.) have kept the Niners on the move. Tatum was 20 of 61 (33%) on three-point shots after eight games. As a team, Andrean shoots 48% which suggests, with their lack of size, they're getting a lot of layups and open shots. Nobody's held the 59ers below 60 points as of yet. Griffith (10-0) at Andrean is Jan. 26, while Andrean at Lowell (9-3) is Feb. 2. Andrean traditionally loves to play at home and they have eight of their final 13 at home.

6. (3A) Griffith (10-0)
2016 (25-4), 2015 (19-4), 2014 (16-7), 2013 (11-11)

GRIFFITH: Here's a surprise to me because the Panthers lost their top scorers from last season. Still waiting for the second half of the season here, because the schedule gets a lot tougher. So far, Griffith has two wins over Gary West Side (4-7) and two wins over Clark (0-11) to mix with a 62-52 holiday tournament win over Munster (6-4). Look at this 5-game road trip coming up for the Panthers. Griffith rides the big yellow bus to Lowell (8-3) on Jan. 13 and to Crown Point (9-1) on Jan. 14. After a short ride to Gavit on Jan. 18, the Panthers play at East Chicago on Jan. 21 and Andrean on Jan. 26. Eight of Griffith's final 12 games are on the road. Not sure about this year's Panthers, but the post-season path is not rocky. Right not Griffith is the only winning team headed for 3A Sectional 17.

7. (4A) LOWELL (9-3)
2016 (20-7), 2015 (11-14), 2014 (16-5), 2013 (9-13)

LOWELL: Lowell has rolled up seven wins in a row with the help of three wins at the Caston Holiday tournament. The Devils rolled over Hebron 96-55 on Jan. 3 to improve to 5-0 at home. Nick Mantis scored 24 and John Cory added 16. Mantis (23.5 ppg.) and 5-foot-11 guard John Cory (16.5 points, 5.2 assists per game) lead a team that has 68 of 188 (36%) 3-pointers in 12 games. Senior Brett Skorka, a 6-foot-2 'post' player, scored a career-best 22 against the Hawks. You want to have a 'home season ticket' pass the rest of the way for Lowell. The Devils host Griffith (10-0) the night of Jan. 13 and they are home to Merrillville (8-3) on Jan. 28 and Andrean (8-1) on Feb. 2.

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Revised: January 06, 2017 .