Monday, November 13, 2006

This year's Texas 5A/I bracket might be a national pollster's dream-come-true

There has never been a system for choosing a postseason champion than college's football Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Let's get that formality out of the way first before we attack any of the high school playoff systems around the country.

Some are better than others. And the one in Texas is looking better this season than in some past years. But of course that outlook could change once the games are played.

But yes, I am extremely happy to see all three of our Top 25 Texas teams (and highest regionally ranked Texas team) all end up in the Class 5A/I bracket rather than seeing some slip into the 5A/II division. I'm sure, many Texans who have taken some flak on national message boards from Ohioans are happy, too. It's been hard to defend against the notion that that dividing your best teams up into two different brackets playing for two different trophies come playoff time is a silly idea.

But I wonder if it would make more sense to those folks in the Buckeye State if they realized that Texas has more than twice as many teams in its largest classificiation (5A) as Ohio does in its biggest division (Division I). Would they be less offput if Texas simply changed 5A/Division I to 6A?

Maybe, maybe not.

Either way, things just happened to turn out better than usual when this year's playoff brackets were announced on Sunday in Austin, Texas. The four biggest boys (according to the National Prep Poll rankings) are all in the same field of 64. In fact, No. 3 Southlake Carroll and No. 22 Euless Trinity are likely to go head-to-head as early as the second round. And we might have a SLC-Lufkin matchup in the top bracket semifinal for the third consecutive year.

Down in the bottom bracket, North Shore is lurking with designs on winning a state title and earning a Top 10 national ranking for the second time in four years.

I was asked early this season by a Dallas area newspaper reporter if there was a realistic possiblity for Southlake Carroll, if it were to finish 16-0 again, to win its third consecutive National Prep Poll title. With another dominant performance in the regular season already under its belt and with the possibility of beating three Top 25 teams in the postseason in the offing, the answer now would be an resounding "yes."

As I wrote in this blog last week. Lakeland's case for No. 1 is still very strong, but that doesn't mean a team currently ranked below the Dreadnaughts couldn't still rise up and take the top ranking from them.

None of us know how it will all play out until the last game is played -- and we might have to wait until a couple of days before Christmas until we're certain who the Prep Poll champion for 2006 will be.

Taking PrimeTime on the Road
Ned Friar of the PrimeTime Shootout dropped me a note recently ... For those not familiar, the PrimeTime Shootout in Trenton (N.J.) has developed into the one of the best (if not the best) national prep basketball shootout of the season.

In addition to the big-time event taking place at Sovereign Bank Arena again in February, the group has also organized a three-city PrimeTime Tour. First stop is Dallas on December 21, where No. 1 Oak Hill Academy will be the featured in a five-game extravaganza of hoops.

Atlanta and Philadelphia are scheduled stops on the tour after the first of the year. You can read all about it at or

More Hoops
Every year there are more and more great regional and national hoops tournaments and shootouts taking place across the nation. The action often features head-to-head games between nationally and regionally ranked teams. So, naturally, we pay a lot of attention to what takes place. will of course provide complete coverage and updates on this action throughout the season.

And if you are fan or college coach looking for a great resource to learn the who's, what's and where's in high school basketball events again this season, I cannot recommend highly enough that you order a copy of Eddie Oliver's Tournament and Events report. Check out Eddie's website for all the pertinent information.

This week's mailbag
The very lifeblood of this blog continues to be the mailbag. Formed from the comments, questions and concerns I receive from YOU in email form at

I received several nice emails since my last blog, so I thought I would share some of what was written with you, along with my responses.

Mark E. from Southlake (Texas) writes:

Good blog and your arguments for national positioning are solid. Right up front I will tell you I live in Southlake, but I don't think they should be number 1 - I think Oaks Christian should. I've only seen them on television but I can tell they are stout!

A few quick thoughts for you:
1 - Holding Southlake's decision to stay home against them seems wrong. When they scheduled Evangel, it was a marquee matchup; I'm sure De La Salle won't crumble before they play Southlake next year. (I hope you get to come to Dallas for the game, it is at SMU).

JD: I was not holding anything against SLC for not accepting an invitation to play in the Kirk Hebstreit Classic. But I was pointing out that it was an opportunity lost for the Dragons to play another nationally ranked team from another football-rich state. Admittedly, it was not an opportunity that Coach Dodge and Co. really needed to take, but it certainly would have been tremendous to see Carroll taking on one of Ohio's elite teams. And it would have certainly affected the Dragons' national ranking one way or another. As for next year's anticipated matchup with De La Salle at SMU. It could very well be a matchup between the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. But that, of course, is TBA.

2 - I know that schedule and quality wins are important in a national poll; certainly it is difficult ranking teams with an effective absence of mutual opponents. I am glad it is your job and not mine!

JD: It's becoming less difficult each year with the amount of game tape I am able to watch and informed people around the country I am able to speak with each week.

3 - Oaks Christian could probably beat any NCAA Division II team and a few Division I teams in a couple years if they all went to college together. They have several future NFLers on that team; Southlake has none.

JD: As talented as Oaks Christian is, I don't think there are many NCAA Division II teams out there that could not easily handle them. They are, afterall, high school kids. But I agree there might be a couple future Sunday players on their roster. Emphasis on the word 'future.'

And 1 question:
I posed this to Tony Bianco (the Tony poll) a couple years ago and he didn't respond. I am sure he didn't respond because, although he live in Fort Worth, he is from the Northeast and is consumed with both the Ohio high school football rhetoric and a bias against Texas public schools (though he has made Southlake national champs in his poll).

Enough with the preface, have you given any consideration to bifercating private and public schools in your poll? I know this is a bigger issue in Texas than other states, but the Texas private schools (only 2 of which are allowed to play against public schools during the regular season) have a history of recruiting athletes through "educational" scholarships. In Texas, private school recruiting has historically been a bigger issue in basketball than football, as private high school baseketball is more competitive than football in Texas. At a minimum, it would be nice to see which schools in the polls are private and which are public, such as #2 Oaks Christian (pr), #3 Southlake Carroll (pu). To substatiate my point, I didn't include Lakeland in my example because I don't know if they are public or private; but I would like to know out of curiousity.

JD: I actually used to compile seperate Top 25 public and private national rankings for American Football Monthly magazine. What I found was less advantage for the private institutions as you might think. For example, of this week's 70 nationally or regionally ranked teams, only 16 are private schools (Lakeland is one of 15 public schools in the Top 25).

My final thought:
Personally, I'm glad we have national polls; but I'd rather win Texas on the field than win the US on paper :-) Don't get me wrong, I think Carroll's past national championships are great, but they are as mythical as the NCAA Division I national championship (no one has an NCAA DI trophy, but that is a whole other sack of worms). That being said, I am also appreciative for the national polls as indicators of relative strength; it is a nice reward to be ranked, whether it is #1 or #25.

Thanks again for your blog!

JD: I couldn't agree more. State (or equivilant) titles are still the most important goals for any high school team to aspire to win. That's why we put more emphasis on the need for a team to win its postseason tournament than probably any other national poll.

High school national championships are indeed mythical, but are an interesting measuring stick to have in the history books when judging just how good a state championship team was in comparison to past great teams from that state or region.

Thanks for writing.

MAB in Fargo (ND) writes:

The Fargo South Bruins have completed their season as State AAA Champions undefeated at 12-0. They broke the all-time school scoring record of 512 points from 1990 when five of the played went D-1. The defense gave up 7.6 points a game. The offense averaged 445 yards per game. What a year! We were hoping that their great season would get some attention from your poll. Nonetheless, we are all extremely proud of our team!

JD: Thanks for the note and congratulations to the Bruins for a phenomenal year! MAB was nice enough to send a couple game tapes earlier this season so I could see for myself how good Fargo South was this season. I came away very impressed. Congratulations to Coach Kevin Feeney, the Fargo South players and your entire community.

In December and January, will again publish a complete listing of every state/section championship game result around the country along with our PrepNation 101 All-American team and state-by-state players of the year.

Steve G. in Indianapolis writes:

I think Warren Central is highly and I mean highly UNDERRATED. Warren Central's Offensive Average is 48.54 points per game, their Defensive Average is 8.46, and their Average Margin of victory is 40.08. I still don't get what gives ...

I understand these polls are subjective, but I am not as subjective as the polls. I did not attend Warren Central and am not a fan of theirs. I simply webcast games across Indiana. This year however I have watched many teams play and not just from Indiana. I have yet to see a team that has been televised with the size speed and strength of Warren Central. I was also in attendance at the Herbie Classic games in Cincy. Not one of those teams would beat warren Central in my personal opinion. St Xavier I have watched 2 times. They beat my Alma Mater Cathedral this year and I watched them lose to Lakeland just barely. Lakeland or St. X would be lucky to stay within 21 points of Warren Central. Even the great DeLaSalle was not comparable. they were good but I still don't feel they were good enough to topple the Warriors of Warren Central.

JD: Thank you for your highly objective opinion on Warren Central. We are at least on the same page that Warren Central is tremendous team with great speed, power and size. But I would be very surprised to see Warren Central -- or anyone without players who live in college dorms -- be able to beat Lakeland by 21. That doesn't mean it can't or won't happen. I would just be surprised to see it.

I will make this statement "You all will be surprised when the Natonal High School Football game is played" (U.S. Army All American All Star game). Warren Central's RB Darren Evans, and FS Jerimy Finch will be playing. Evans is not projected as a starter for the East, but wait till the coaches see him and work him out. He will be playing and will have an impact on the game. the coaches will be stunned by his size, strength, and speed. Mark that down and remember you heard it from me first.

JD: Actually, I won't be surprised by anything spectacular that Darren Evans (Virginia Tech commit) or Jerimy Finch (Michigan) might do in the Army All-American game. I have seen both play on tape and they are both among the best high school players I have watched in the last few years.

Keep your comments, questions and concerns flowing into I enjoy reading and responding to them.

Til next time,

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