Sub-state pairing preview
When the Lansing High boys' and girls' basketball teams open sub-state play two weeks from today, the Lions could be in store for a rude introduction to Class 5A basketball.
The tournament brackets are pretty stiff.
First, the nitty-gritty details: The sub-state field includes four Topeka schools - Topeka West, Seaman, Highland Park and Shawnee Heights - in addition to Paola, Gardner-Edgerton, Kaw Valley League foe Mill Valley and LHS. For the most part, the pool is extremely talented.
The sub-state's eight teams are broken down into two pods of four, with the winner of each pod advancing to state at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. Unfortunately for Lansing, neither bracket looks particularly friendly as each features a few teams that are heavy on state tournament experience.
Let's examine how the sub-state pairings would look based on the teams' current records.
In the boys' bracket, it's a case of picking your poison. The top two seeds, as it stands today, would be defending state champion and current No. 2 team in the state Highland Park (15-2) as the No. 1-seed. Fifth-ranked Topeka West (14-3), last year's third-place team, would be the No. 2-seed. West plays an up-tempo style and can run-and-gun with anybody. The Chargers also boast 6-foot-8 Indiana State signee Jay Tunnell (18.7 points per game) at center.
Gardner-Edgerton is the other top-seed contender. The Trailblazers currently are 13-3.
In actuality, the team the Lions may stack up best with is Highland Park. They match up better size-wise with the Scots and can slow the tempo if necessary because Hi-Park can play at either speed.
Even if Lansing wins its remaining games, the best it can do is earn the No. 7-seed. Say the Lions beat West or Hi-Park, though. Either Gardner-Edgerton or Paola (12-4) - both of which are receiving votes in the state poll - likely would loom in the next round.
I covered both Topeka schools for three years and have seen both of them toppled when they were heavily favored. Knocking either one off would be a difficult task, but if the Lions play the same style of game as they did when they pushed Immaculata to double-overtime, anything could happen.
The girls' bracket is slightly friendlier.
Lansing currently rests as the No. 5-seed, and, in all likelihood, that won't change. The Lions (9-8) will be no lower than fifth, but they may be too far behind Gardner-Edgerton (11-4) to make the leap to the No. 3-seed. That means LHS likely will face fourth-seed Topeka Seaman (11-7).
Judging by record alone, Seaman would appear to be a favorable adversary for the Lions. The Vikings are lingering close to the .500 mark, so it looks like they haven't done anything particularly special. That assessment would be wrong, though. Seaman has won its last five games and handed Shawnee Heights its only loss of the season, 45-42, on Feb. 9. The Vikings started slow, but the return of 6-foot senior Megan Williams in the post has kick-started their offense.
"They're big and they're going to be tough," LHS girls' coach Keith Andrews said of the Vikings. "All cylinders need to be clicking there. We've got to be a little smoother, have a few less turnovers and a more free throws (to beat them)."
If Lansing beats Seaman, an even more formidable foe likely will await the Lions - that's right, top-seed Shawnee Heights (16-1). Sure, Heights recently suffered its only loss of the year, but the T-Birds returned the favor two days later by handing previously unbeaten Washburn Rural (No. 2 in Class 6A) its first defeat of the year, 49-32, on Friday night.
The brackets may be loaded for the LHS boys and girls, but that's no reason to be discouraged. Last year, two teams with losing records - Wichita West (5-18) and Washington (9-15) - competed at the 5A state tournament. Two years ago, it was the eight-win Hi-Park girls who went to state.
Upsets do happen. Anything is possible when the postseason arrives. March Madness is almost upon us.
- Chris Wristen's column appears weekly on the blogs page at lansingcurrent.com, as well as occasionally in print.
Chris Wristen's column appears weekly on the blogs page at lansingcurrent.com, as well as occasionally in print.