Chucks Corner by Chuck Livingston
Welcome back to the space, gang! Yesterday, I updated the girls Power Poll before the start of conference play in the 7A and 6A on Friday night. Today? It’s time to refresh the boys’ list. This will be a prediction-centric column where I’ll come up with one for each team, but here’s a little teaser: Every boys team will make their respective state tournament, and will win a game once there. That may not sound like a huge deal for Crittenden County, arguably the most decorated hoops county in the state, but that hasn’t happened in the past two years. In fact, last year West Memphis and Marion failed to win a postseason game, while West Memphis Christian only made it to the north state tournament, missing the overall states by a single win. 1.) Earle Bulldogs (13-2 overall, 6-0 2A-3) Earle saw its 13-game winning streak snapped by El Dorado at the Lendel Thomas tournament in Harrison, but the Bullies circled the wagon to win third place there. The Wildcats are 12-1 and boast a pair of players with committable offers to the University of Arkansas, so they’re no slouch. Prediction: Earle will make it to the Class 2A state final. Look, predicting tournament hoops is difficult. On any given day in March, a team can shoot the lights out, while you struggle a little bit and you’re gone. However, I believe that the Bulldogs are one of the better teams in Class 2A, and are hungry to get back to Hot Springs after not having gone in three years. 2.) West Memphis Blue Devils (7-6 overall) West Memphis ran into a pair of powerhouses as part of the Neosho Invitational in Missouri, but the Blue Devils finished 2-2 there. Nothing to hang their heads about, especially when considering that one of the losses was to a nationally-ranked outfit. Prediction: West Memphis will compete for a top seed in the state tournament. Remember, the Blue Devils were the No. 2 seed in last season’s tournament, finishing behind North Little Rock. The Charging Wildcats are still plenty talented, but I think the Blue Devils can split with them and nab the No. 1 seed, and the first-round bye that accompanies it. I don’t want to overlook Cabot, but West Memphis always seem to compete well against the Panthers. Regardless, the Blue Devils’ contests against those two heavy-hitters will be must-see drama. 3.) West Memphis Christian Black Knights (15-2 overall) This team has hit the floor running and never looked back so far this year. Playing under their third coach in three years, the Black Knights boast a pair of wins against Magnolia Heights, a back-to-back state titleist, and welcome Marshall Academy to town on January 19. That contest will be a true measuring stick for each school. Prediction: West Memphis Christian navigates its way through their district and north state tournament to make it into the overall state tournament. That’s no small feat, by the way. That’s a minimum of four wins in those tournaments against some of the better teams in West Memphis Christian’s classification. That will prepare them well for their run at the title. 4.) Marion Patriots (5-6 overall) The Pats have tightened their rotation up and seen some attrition with their roster, but seem to be better off for it. They’re still in search of a reliable back-up point guard ahead of their game with West Memphis on Friday night, but they’re more prepared for that than they were at the start of the season. Prediction: Marion will finish in the top-half of the 7A/6A-East. I really like the Pats to take down the 6A-East’s No. 2 seed in the state tournament this year. I also like them to finish fourth or better in the blended conference. I can see Marion getting swept by Jonesboro and Cabot, but splits against fellow contenders West Memphis, North Little Rock and sweeps against Mountain Home, Searcy and Little Rock Central will have them in that 7-7/8-6 area. As a point of reference, West Memphis finished fourth last season at 7-7, with Marion behind at 6-8. In my opinion, the 7A/6A-East is down from its previous perch, while Marion is about the same as last year’s younger team. **** I love hearing feedback. You can e-mail me your thoughts or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Twitter at ChuckETsports and my office phone is 870-735-1010.