WPIAL bracketology: HSSN’s Chris Harlan, Don Rebel forecast boys basketball playoff seeds

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Sunday, February 21, 2021 | 4:21 PM


The WPIAL basketball regular season is entering its final days, but there’s no need for playoff scenarios this winter.

There are no win-and-you’re-in games this week. No anxious moments for players and coaches on the bubble, knowing their postseason fate rests in hands of others.

This year, there’s no bubble.

The WPIAL will hold an open tournament in all six classifications this season with all teams choosing to take part. The deadline to join was Thursday, and the vast majority of schools decided to participate.

The big question now: Where will teams be seeded?

The WPIAL basketball committee will meet Tuesday to pair the tournament. Those brackets will be announced at 7 p.m. that night on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

The WPIAL chose an open tournament because covid-related cancellations made it nearly impossible to identify playoff qualifiers from unbalanced standings.

Here’s an early look at what the boys brackets could look like, according to TribLive HSSN’s Don Rebel and Chris Harlan. The teams that opted out are not included.

There’s a full slate of games Monday night, some that have seeding implications, so this list will see some updates again before Tuesday.

Class 6A (17 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

Preliminary round

Canon-McMillan vs. Greensburg Salem

First round

No. 1 Upper St. Clair vs. No. 16 Canon-McMillan/Greensburg Salem winner

No. 8 Mt. Lebanon vs. No. 9 Seneca Valley

No. 4 Penn-Trafford vs. No. 13 North Hills

No. 5 North Allegheny vs. No. 12 Norwin

No. 2 Fox Chapel vs. No. 15 Bethel Park

No. 7 Butler vs. No. 10 Central Catholic

No. 3 Hempfield vs. No. 14 Baldwin

No. 6 Pine-Richland vs. No. 11 Peters Township

Chris’ take: An argument can be made for Fox Chapel (15-2) as the No. 1 seed. First, the Foxes won at Upper St. Clair, 72-70, on Jan. 22. They played almost their entire section schedule and topped Hempfield twice (USC has played three second games). Their only losses were to Chartiers Valley by three points and Penn-Trafford by two. It’s a close call, but USC (14-1) gets the nod here based on having only one loss and playing a tougher nonsection schedule. North Allegheny won its first eight section games in a row, and now has lost four straight. It’s an ugly slide, but they’re still the section’s top seed here since the Tigers beat Pine-Richland two out of three times. Butler jumps from the No. 10 seed to seventh after Monday’s win at NA.

Don Rebel’s bracket

Preliminary round

Canon-McMillan vs. Greensburg Salem

First round

No. 1 Upper St. Clair vs. No. 16 Canon-McMillan/Greensburg Salem winner

No. 8 Mt. Lebanon vs. No. 9 Seneca Valley

No. 4 Pine-Richland vs. No. 13 Peters Township

No. 5 Penn-Trafford vs. No. 12 North Hills

No. 2 Fox Chapel vs. No. 15 Bethel Park

No. 7 North Allegheny vs. No. 10 Central Catholic

No. 3 Hempfield vs. No. 14 Baldwin

No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Norwin

Don’s take: Fox Chapel did beat Upper St. Clair, but the Panthers get the nod for some impressive non-section wins and the fact they crushed a Penn-Trafford team that was 1-1 against the Foxes. Hempfield has quietly earned a third seed. Pine-Richland finished tie with North Allegheny in the loss column for first in Section 1 and Rams get the edge with their 25-point win over the Tigers last week. Butler is finally healthy and the defending champs look like they are ready to make another long playoff run.

Class 5A (23 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Chartiers Valley – bye

No. 16 McKeesport vs. No. 17 West Allegheny

No. 8 Albert Gallatin – bye

No. 9 Shaler – bye

No. 4 Penn Hills – bye

No. 13 Trinity vs. No. 20 Armstrong

No. 5 Highlands – bye

No. 12 Plum vs. No. 21 Kiski Area

No. 2 New Castle – bye

No. 15 South Fayette vs. No. 18 Ringgold

No. 7 Thomas Jefferson – bye

No. 10 Franklin Regional vs. No. 23 Woodland Hills

No. 3 Laurel Highlands – bye

No. 14 Gateway vs. No. 19 Hampton

No. 6 Mars – bye

No. 11 Latrobe vs. No. 22 West Mifflin

Chris’ take: There’s probably no debate about the two top seeds: Chartiers Valley and New Castle. They split their section matchups, each winning big on the other team’s home court. The Colts won the most recent matchup, so they’re No. 1. But who’s next? I give section leaders Laurel Highlands and Penn Hills an edge in strength of schedule, with Highlands fifth and Mars sixth. This is easily the deepest of the six WPIAL boys brackets.

Don Rebel’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Chartiers Valley – bye

No. 16 Plum vs. No. 17 South Fayette

No. 8 Shaler – bye

No. 9 Franklin Regional – bye

No. 4 Mars – bye

No. 13 Trinity vs. No. 20 Kiski Area

No. 5 Laurel Highlands – bye

No. 12 Gateway vs. No. 21 Armstrong

No. 2 New Castle – bye

No. 15 West Allegheny vs. No. 18 Hampton

No. 7 Thomas Jefferson – bye

No. 10 Latrobe vs. No. 23 Woodland Hills

No. 3 Highlands – bye

No. 14 McKeesport vs. No. 19 Ringgold

No. 6 Penn Hills – bye

No. 11 Albert Gallatin vs. No. 22 West Mifflin

Don’s take: Wow. The depth of this classification is really evident when you get past Chartiers Valley and New Castle. That doesn’t mean the Colts and ‘Canes are a lock to meet a third time in the district finals because there are a lot of legit contenders. Highlands beating Mars on Saturday shuffled the deck between No. 3 and No. 6. This is going to be a fun and unpredictable bracket to watch unfold as 5A has traditionally become.

Class 4A (21 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Belle Vernon – bye

No. 16 Blackhawk vs. No. 17 Derry

No. 8 South Park – bye

No. 9 Deer Lakes – bye

No. 4 North Catholic – bye

No. 13 Burrell vs. No. 20 Hopewell

No. 5 Quaker Valley – bye

No. 12 Freeport vs. No. 21 Beaver

No. 2 Lincoln Park – bye

No. 15 Ambridge vs. No. 18 Yough

No. 7 Elizabeth Forward – bye

No. 10 Uniontown – bye

No. 3 Montour – bye

No. 14 Knoch vs. No. 19 Southmoreland

No. 6 Central Valley – bye

No. 11 Mt. Pleasant – bye

Chris’ take: Section 2 was the strongest section, and it draws four of the Top 6 spots here: No. 2 Quaker Valley, No. 3 Lincoln Park, No. 5 Montour and No. 6 Central Valley. Seeding the Section 1 teams behind North Catholic was troublesome since the standings are so unbalanced. Deer Lakes (5-2 in section), Burrell (5-6), Freeport (4-4), Knoch (4-5) and Derry (4-3) are all bunched together with games missing. Consider, Deer Lakes has only two section losses but played North Catholic and Burrell only once apiece. Derry hasn’t played North Catholic at all. I tried to avoid first-round rematches, but Uniontown shouldn’t be any lower than a 10.

Don Rebel’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Belle Vernon – bye

No. 16 Burrell vs. No. 17 Yough

No. 8 South Park – bye

No. 9 Deer Lakes – bye

No. 4 North Catholic – bye

No. 13 Ambridge vs. No. 20 Southmoreland

No. 5 Montour – bye

No. 12 Derry vs. No. 21 Beaver

No. 2 Quaker Valley – bye

No. 15 Blackhawk vs. No. 18 Knoch

No. 7 Elizabeth Forward – bye

No. 10 Uniontown – bye

No. 3 Lincoln Park – bye

No. 14 Freeport vs. No. 19 Hopewell

No. 6 Central Valley – bye

No. 11 Mt. Pleasant – bye

Don’s take: Traditionally strong Section 2 does not disappoint this season, with Quaker Valley, Lincoln Park, Montour and Central Valley among the top six seeds. Joining Section 2 in the top 6 are No. 1 Belle Vernon and No. 4 North Catholic. Elizabeth Forward is a clean No. 7 having won five straight before losing to BVA on Saturday. Not a whole lot of separation between seeds 9 and 18.

Class 3A (23 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 South Allegheny – bye

No. 16 Ligonier Valley vs. No. 17 Brownsville

No. 8 Brentwood – bye

No. 9 Ellwood City – bye

No. 4 Aliquippa – bye

No. 13 Apollo-Ridge vs. No. 20 Waynesburg

No. 5 Beaver Falls – bye

No. 12 McGuffey vs. No. 21 Mohawk

No. 2 Neshannock – bye

No. 15 New Brighton vs. No. 18 Beth-Center

No. 7 Avonworth – bye

No. 10 Charleroi vs. No. 23 Valley

No. 3 Shady Side Academy – bye

No. 14 Laurel vs. No. 19 Steel Valley

No. 6 Washington – bye

No. 11 Seton LaSalle vs. No. 22 East Allegheny

Chris’ take: South Allegheny and Neshannock each lost a section game in the past week, but I’m not ready to jump Shady Side Academy over them here. Beaver Falls (9-4) could be the biggest variable in the Top 8 seeds. The Tigers were second in our preseason rankings but stumbled out of the gate with three losses in their first seven games. They seemed to find their stride late in the season before losing Friday to Ellwood City in their Section 1 finale. With Beaver Falls fifth here, they could run into Aliquippa in the quarterfinals. The Beaver County rivals had to cancel their nonsection game earlier this season.

Don Rebel’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 South Allegheny – bye

No. 16 Mohawk vs. No. 17 Brownsville

No. 8 Seton LaSalle – bye

No. 9 Brentwood – bye

No. 4 Aliquippa – bye

No. 13 Apollo-Ridge vs. No. 20 Beth-Center

No. 5 Beaver Falls – bye

No. 12 New Brighton vs. No. 21 Waynesburg Central

No. 2 Neshannock – bye

No. 15 McGuffey vs. No. 18 Ligonier Valley

No. 7 Avonworth – bye

No. 10 Ellwood City vs. No. 23 Valley

No. 3 Shady Side Academy – bye

No. 14 Charleroi vs. No. 19 Steel Valley

No. 6 Washington – bye

No. 11 Laurel vs. No. 22 East Allegheny

Don’s take: After Shady Side Academy beat South Allegheny on Wednesday, the big question is, who is No. 1? South Allegheny gets the advantage for their overall body of work. Neshannock gets the edge at No. 2 over SSA due to strength of section. The top four is strong, but the next four are right there with the capability of a long postseason run. In fact, there is plenty of balance in this tournament to the point where a double-digit seed could also make a deep run.

Class 2A (23 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – bye

No. 16 South Side vs. No. 17 Burgettstown

No. 8 Carlynton – bye

No. 9 Fort Cherry – bye

No. 4 Frazier – bye

No. 13 Winchester Thurston vs. No. 20 Jefferson-Morgan

No. 5 Springdale – bye

No. 12 Carmichaels vs. No. 21 Serra Catholic

No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic – bye

No. 15 Chartiers-Houston vs. No. 18 Clairton

No. 7 Shenango – bye

No. 10 Monessen vs. No. 23 Riverview

No. 3 Sto-Rox – bye

No. 14 California vs. No. 19 Propel Braddock Hills

No. 6 Jeannette – bye

No. 11 Sewickley Academy vs. No. 22 Northgate

Chris’ take: Frazier as the No. 4? The Commodores bounced back from a 4-18 record to win their section’s title. Will the WPIAL basketball committee reward the feel-good story of Class 2A? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’d bet some of the other teams in 2A wouldn’t complain. They’d probably rather Frazier take one of the seeds on OLSH’s side of the bracket, so they can start on the opposite side. Springdale won 52-50 at Jeannette on Jan. 23, likely earning the Dynamos a bracket spot ahead of the Jayhawks.

Don Rebel’s bracket

Preliminary round

No. 1 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – bye

No. 16 Burgettstown vs. No. 17 Clairton

No. 8 Frazier – bye

No. 9 Fort Cherry – bye

No. 4 Springdale – bye

No. 13 Monessen vs. No. 20 Serra Catholic

No. 5 Jeannette – bye

No. 12 South Side vs. No. 21 Jefferson-Morgan

No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic – bye

No. 15 Carmichaels vs. No. 18 Chartiers-Houston

No. 7 Carlynton – bye

No. 10 Sewickley Academy vs. No. 23 Propel Braddock Hills

No. 3 Sto-Rox – bye

No. 14 California vs. No. 19 Northgate

No. 6 Shenango – bye

No. 11 Winchester Thurston vs. No. 22 Riverview

Don’s take: If you look up prohibitive favorite in the dictionary, there will be a team picture of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, as they shoot for a third straight district crown. The chase for the ‘other side of the bracket’ and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds was tight with Greensburg Central Catholic and Sto-Rox prevailing. Section 1 was deep, thus Shenango earns the No. 6-seed. Congrats to Frazier after they earned at least a share of the section championship for the first time since 1990.

Class A (15 teams)

Chris Harlan’s bracket

First round

No. 1 Bishop Canevin – bye

No. 8 Western Beaver vs. No. 9 St. Joseph

No. 4 Rochester vs. No. 13 Aquinas Academy

No. 5 Geibel Catholic vs. No. 12 Nazareth Prep

No. 2 Eden Christian vs. No. 15 West Greene

No. 7 Leechburg vs. No. 10 Avella

No. 3 Imani Christian vs. No. 14 Propel Montour

No. 6 Union vs. No. 11 Mapletown

Chris’ take: If there was any doubt Bishop Canevin (12-3) deserved the No. 1 seed, it was likely erased when the small-school Crusaders routed big-school Central Catholic, 71-42, last Wednesday. Eden Christian (10-1) has a better record, but didn’t play nearly the schedule of Canevin. Rochester (11-4) is the feel-good story of Class A. The Rams went 0-21 last season.

Don Rebel’s bracket

First round

No. 1 Bishop Canevin – bye

No. 8 Geibel Catholic vs. No. 9 St. Joseph

No. 4 Rochester vs. No. 13 Propel Montour

No. 5 Union vs. No. 12 Avella

No. 2 Eden Christian vs. No. 15 West Greene

No. 7 Leechburg vs. No. 10 Nazareth Prep

No. 3 Imani Christian vs. No. 14 Mapletown

No. 6 Western Beaver vs. No. 11 Aquinas Academy

Don’s take: Bishop Canevin continues to be the team to beat. The Crusaders may have a handful of legit contenders to deal with, including Eden, Imani, Rochester and Union. Sophomore scoring machine Vinnie Cugini will finally get his taste of playoff basketball. Also, this is the first time for Propel Montour into the WPIAL playoffs.

More High School Basketball

Mars scores 24 consecutive points in WPIAL 5A quarterfinal win over Trinity
Mt. Lebanon edges Bethel Park in Class 6A battle
Big 2nd half allows Norwin girls to pull away from Butler
Greensburg Central Catholic boys advance to WPIAL semifinals
High school roundup for March 6, 2021: Laurel Highlands, Chartiers Valley move on in 5A bracket

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