Show of hands, everyone: Who predicted before the season that the West Jefferson boys and Mandeville girls would sit atop The New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10 rankings to start 2016?
No, me neither.
But surprise, surprise.
It’s the Buccaneers and Skippers leading the way after spending the past six weeks playing their predistrict schedules and jockeying for position.
West Jefferson is the top-ranked team in Class 5A in the LHSAA’s unofficial power rankings. The most impressive victories on West Jefferson’s résumé came against Riverside in the season opener. That handed the Rebels their first loss to an in-state team in two years.
Riverside had some key players who were just returning after making a run to the football state championship game. We’ll get a better gauge of who’s No. 1 on Wednesday at 9 p.m.: That’s when West Jefferson plays Riverside in a 1-vs.-2 matchup in the opening round of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic at the Alario Center.
The Rebels enter the tournament as one of the state’s hottest teams after claiming championships in the Country Day tournament and the Holy Cross tournament in back-to-back weeks in December.
The trio of Malik Crowfield, Herb McGee and Jared Butler has played lights out for Riverside, which is seeking its fourth consecutive state championship.
The race for the girls’ top spot was just as close, with Mandeville edging Destrehan. Elise Reilly and the Skippers are still perfect heading into the opening week of district play. Destrehan has just one blemish on its record.
Here are a few more storylines we should be keeping an eye on as the season progresses and girls teams try to make their way to Hammond and boys teams try to get to Lake Charles for the Top 28 tournaments.
Landry-Walker, once again?
The Charging Buccaneers won back-to-back titles in Class 4A. Now they make the leap up to 5A and will have to go through teams like Scotlandville and Natchitoches Central to win a championship.
‘Queen’ and ‘Moon’
Cabrini’s Rakell “Queen” Spencer and Destrehan’s Cara “Moon” Ursin are two of the most electrifying guards in the area. Both have led their teams close to winning a state title in recent years. Can they get over the hump this season?
Who’s the man?
Folks go back and forth about who’s better: McDonogh 35’s DeJon Jarreau (UMass signee) or Landry-Walker’s Lamar Peters (Mississippi State)? Both have presented strong cases this year, especially in that epic battle in December. Unfortunately, they won’t play each other again, but both may get their teams back to the big stage at Burton Coliseum. And with Chalmette big man Mitchell Robinson in town, it’s more than just a two-man race.
This district often gets criticized in football, although this past season it was a tad bit better. In basketball, it may be the most rugged in the state. Four Super 10 teams — West Jefferson, Landry-Walker, Chalmette and Bonnabel — are in this district.
Jan. 22 and Feb. 8 are the dates Riverside and Country Day meet in key District 12-2A games. You won’t see a better collection of guards on the court at the same time on the same day.
It’s shaping up to be a fun season.