5 Toughest HS State Championships To Win
Texas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, and New Jersey were the top 5 states that are considered to be the toughest to win a state championship. Below is a breakdown from MaxPreps.com of the 5 toughest state tournaments:
Texas Class 5A
Defending champion: Marcus (Flower Mound)
2011-12 contenders: DeSoto, Fort Bend Bush (Richmond), Fort Bend Travis (Richmond), Marcus, North Crowley (Fort Worth), Plano West, Seven Lakes (Katy)
The chase: The proliferation of talent (a dozen Class of 2012 Top 100 seniors) and NCAA Tournament-on-steroids-style postseason makes winning a title in Texas tough in any classification, but especially at the 5A level where a handful of teams could make noise in the national rankings this season.
The state tournament features 128 teams in a single-elimination tournament over four weeks. 2011 champ Marcus finished No. 2 in the national rankings but had a fight on its hands in nearly every round, winning five of seven games by 10 points or less. The Marauders return most of their key pieces, but are not a slam dunk to repeat.
Recent history suggests that winning back-to-back titles will be an uphill challenge for Marcus. The last repeat champion at the 5A level was Fort Bend Willowridge (Houston) in 2000 and 2001. The last six title games have featured 10 different teams.
New Jersey Tournament of Champions
Defending champion: St. Anthony (Jersey City)
2011-12 contenders: Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone), Hudson Catholic (Jersey City), Linden, Plainfield, Roselle Catholic, St. Anthony, St. Patrick (Elizabeth)
The chase: New Jersey crowns group champions, but the TOC has become the ultimate prize for the state's elite since it was introduced in 1989. The event encompasses every NJSIAA-affiliated school, regardless of enrollment, and pits group winners against one another in a single-elimination tournament.
While the Garden State is always loaded with talented teams and players, the presence of one program in particular has made capturing the Tournament of Champions a nearly impossible task. St. Anthony has taken home the hardware 11 times under legendary head coach Bob Hurley and will be favored to do it once again in 2012.
The landscape has changed a bit with Kevin Boyle's departure from St. Patrick. Boyle led the Celtics to five TOC titles but left during the offseason for Montverde Academy (Fla.), perhaps opening the door for somebody else to enter the picture.
Kentucky Sweet 16
Defending champion: Christian County (Hopkinsville)
2011-12 contenders: Ballard (Louisville), Bullitt East (Mt. Washington), Rowan County (Morehead), Scott County (Georgetown), Trinity (Louisville)
The chase: When it comes to high school basketball state tournaments, it doesn't get any more old-school than Kentucky's Sweet 16.
One state, one champ.
Winners of 16 regionals gather at storied Rupp Arena in Lexington, a grouping that last year featured Eastern of Louisville (enrollment 2,300) and Bardstown (enrollment 564) a year ago, providing an annual opportunity for Hoosiers-type storylines. Two years ago, tiny Shelby Valley (Pikeville) (enrollment 589) took advantage and won it all.
In the 20 years since Fairdale captured back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991, the all-comers format has helped produce 18 different state champions with only Mason County (Maysville) and Scott County winning multiple Sweet 16s. Warren Central (Bowling Green) was the last team to reach consecutive title games in 2004 and 2005.
Indiana Class 4A
Defending champion: Bloomington South
2011-12 contenders: Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers), Kokomo, Lawrence Central (Indianapolis), Lawrence North (Indianapolis), North Central (Indianapolis), Pike (Indianapolis)
The chase: Many Indiana fans are still bitter over the IHSAA instituting multi-class basketball in 1997. The decision closed the book on a tradition-rich, single-class state tournament that spawned the movie Hoosiers.
While it's no longer possible for a team like Milan in 1953-54 (enrollment 161) to knock off the big boys, the state's 4A classification is still about as compelling and competitive as it gets. Six of the last eight state titlists have finished in the national rankings, including 2005-06 mythical national champion Lawrence North. That team was led by the fabled tandem of Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.
Bloomington South has won two of the last three 4A titles but looks like a longshot to add to the trophy case this winter. Perennial powers like Lawrence North and North Central and star talents like Gary Harris (Hamilton Southeastern) and Jeremy Hollowell (Lawrence Central) will ensure that fans pack Conseco Fieldhouse once again in March.
California Division I
Defending champion: Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2011-12 contenders: Loyola (Los Angeles), Mater Dei
The chase: Nearly 250 schools compete for California's Division I state title, but only a small percentage have what it takes to run the gauntlet. Since the divisional format was introduced in 1981, just 12 different programs have been able to finish on top. Crenshaw (Los Angeles), De La Salle (Concord), Fairfax (Los Angeles), Mater Dei, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) and Westchester (Los Angeles) have combined to win 24 championships, including 14 by Crenshaw and Westchester alone. Mater Dei also won three state titles at the Division II level.
The postseason format in California adds to the challenge. Mater Dei – a heavy favorite to repeat this season – played nine games in six different venues over 30 days to cap a 32-3 campaign a year ago. Three of those contests came against teams that appeared in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 during that span.