In normal times, sports fans would have had one real reason to look forward to this weekend: College basketball’s Sweet 16s.
Fear not: Delaware County basketball fans of all ages can continue to enjoy at least a version of that suspense.
To serve men’s and women’s college basketball fans suffering from March bracket withdrawal following the cancellation of the NCAA playoffs amid coronavirus concerns, the Daily Times will conduct two mock Sweet 16 tournaments over the next two weeks. One will eventually determine Delco’s greatest high school boys basketball team of all time. The other will pinpoint the county’s finest girls team.
The boys bracket will be revealed in Sunday’s Daily Times. On Monday, the Sweet 16 girls teams and first-round pairings will be revealed.
Among the eternal lures of bracketology is arguing which teams should be in the field, and which should be relegated to the NIT. A panel of Daily Times sports writers has been busy studying the resumes of the likely participants. There is still time for fans to submit suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While no nomination will be dismissed and no potential 1-vs.-16 matchup prohibited, the ultimate choices will come with built-in controversy. That’s because, on the boys side alone, Delco has been such a producer of basketball brilliance that there have been 19 state championship teams. Also, there have been 23 PIAA finalists, bringing the total to 42 teams that played for state championship in that traffic jam for the 16 spots.
The field will also be crowded by qualified private school entrants. Six Delco outfits have won Catholic League boys championships. An additional 10 played for the league championship. Worthy units from the Inter-Ac League, Christian and independent schools surely will receive consideration consistent with the high majors.
With the greatest Delco girls basketball success sprouting from the Catholic League, which did not compete in PIAA tournaments until 2009, there have been only four state champions from the county. Six more have played in state championship games.
Further challenging the committee is the reality that until the mid-’70s, there were no recognized playoffs for girls basketball teams, meaning some of the greatest sides in county history may have played as few as 10 games. The committee will have given full consideration to all 39 girls Catholic League championship teams from Delaware County (led by Cardinal O’Hara’s 18 and including five from the shuttered Notre Dame in Moylan in the 1950s and 60s), as well as to other private-school teams of high achievement.
After both brackets are revealed and fans of some legendary teams left out express their exasperation for landing among the First Four Out or the Next Four Out, the Daily Times sports staff, after some consultation with outside experts, will begin to conduct the 30 mock games, 15 each in each bracket. Projected scores and some game “reports” will appear in the Daily Times as the brackets become filled in.
Eventually, only one girls team and one boys team will remain.
How will it play out?
How will teams from one era fare against another? Will the better powers from the Catholic League have proven superior to some state champions? Can some other private school underdog make a Cinderella run? Will there be other upsets, or will the seeding committee’s opinions be proven correct?
Such are the mysteries of all postseason basketball madness, something that no real Delco basketball fan will need to miss, not even in this, the maddest March of all.