YAIAA basketball playoff predictions: Who's in?
With the YAIAA basketball season entering the final few weeks, it’s time to get excited for the postseason. Right now, we’re discussing the YAIAA playoffs, which may not mean anything toward the district ratings, but they still never fail to entertain. The chase for each spot and the potential matchups are always exciting to analyze so let’s dive right in.
For a quick reminder, here's who qualifies for the YAIAA tournament: the top three teams from Division I, two each from Divisions II and III, and a wild card.
On the boys’ side of the action, Central York and Northeastern have wrapped up their spots at the top of Divisions I and II. Meanwhile, Division III competition has been fairly average, so the "wild card" team will most likely come from Division II, giving the nod to Gettysburg or West York.
The Bulldogs play three of the last four on the road, including a head-to-head with Gettysburg and a season finale against division leader Northeastern. Gettysburg gets Dover at home, then four straight on the road to end the season.
In Division I, William Penn could leapfrog Spring Grove. The Rockets play five games in the next six days, which is a tough challenge at this point in the season, while the Bearcats get Dallastown, Central and Capitol Christian (Md.).
Division III doesn't have too much drama, other than the fact that Hanover, which sits one game behind York Catholic, could jump the Irish for the division lead. But York Catholic’s remaining schedule is favorable: three home games (Bermudian Springs, Hanover, Lancaster Mennonite) and one on the road (Fairfield).
How it shakes out: Sorry for being rather boring here, but I see everything standing as is — West York holding on to the final playoff spot, Spring Grove keeping the second spot in Division I and York Catholic winning Division III.
Potential intriguing matchups: Central’s defense vs. West York would be fun to watch. Jared Wagner can guard Josh Bailey on the outside, but who slows down Darian McCauley? And could the Bulldogs, who have had their share of shooting woes, keep up with Central’s 3-point shooting? Kyle Krout vs. Eli Brooks would be a fun matchup in the bottom half of the bracket, and a Northeastern-William Penn rematch in the first round after the Bearcats handed the Bobcats their only loss this season to date would be a must-see game.
Prediction: Give me another Central vs. Northeastern matchup here, which could once again come at York College for the final. Those two teams have already met once this season with Northeastern coming out on top. Both teams have a difficult path, though. The Bobcats’ toughest game could come in the first round against William Penn, which already beat them this season. The Rockets are going to have arguably the best player on the floor no matter who they go up against, so you can never count them out. Eastern is another sleeper. The Golden Knights have gotten better as the season goes on and can give the bigger schools trouble with their shooting and inside presence.
On the girls’ side, Red Lion and Susquehannock have all but wrapped up Divisions I and II, unless Red Lion slips up and lets Central back into it. Regardless, the eight teams that will qualify for this tournament are pretty clear-cut, unless New Oxford surpasses William Penn in the next two weeks. New Oxford has the easier stretch schedule with games against the division’s bottom three teams remaining, but it may be too late. If William Penn beats Dallastown Wednesday, the Bearcats are in.
Division II would get the Warriors, York Suburban and West York. The only drama would be whether the Trojans hold on to the second spot or fall into the wild card spot and a potential first-round matchup with Red Lion.
Division III is still up for grabs with Delone Catholic leading York Catholic by a game, but those two teams meet one more time this season at Delone.
How it shakes out: I see Red Lion holding on to Division I and William Penn keeping the third spot with a win Wednesday. West York’s schedule is tough with games against Susquehannock and York Suburban still remaining, so I give the edge to the Trojans to keep the second spot. I think Delone holds on to the Division III lead so once again, no crazy predictions on this side either (sorry, guys).
Potential intriguing matchups: Red Lion would have its hands full right from the start with a first-round matchup against the feisty and postseason-experienced Bulldogs. Delone Catholic vs. York Suburban in a rematch of last season’s YAIAA quarterfinal would be interesting with Delone’s guard-heavy lineup against the Trojans’ defense and size. Central already beat York Catholic pretty handily once this season, but York Catholic continues to get better, and a second dose of Emma Saxton vs. Kate Bauhof would be a gift to YAIAA fans. And speaking of individual matchups, how about Chyna Steele vs. Ashley Stone in the William Penn vs. Susquehannock quarterfinal?
Prediction: A lot can happen between now and then, but I see Red Lion and Central meeting in the finals. Still, keep an eye on Delone and Susquehannock to play spoiler. Both of those teams can present matchup issues and have key wins on their resume.