Chuck’s Corner by Chuck Livingston
Welcome to the third day of Hoops Column Week. I thought long and hard about what to name this gimmick and settled on that. I’m very creative. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I updated the Power Poll for the girls and boys. Today, I’m going to predict the 7A/6A-East standings for the boys and girls, as well as how they’ll fare in the split conferences. I already did some of that for the local teams, but I’m looking at the leagues as a whole today. IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m probably wrong a lot more than I’m right, so don’t take these picks to the bank. Just think of them as something you can throw back at me when I’m totally wrong in March. Let’s lead off with the girls first. 7A/6A-East blended conference: 1.) Little Rock Central (12-0 overall) 2.) North Little Rock (10-3) 3.) West Memphis (10-3) 4.) Jonesboro (10-4) 5.) Cabot (9-6) 6.) Marion (7-6) 7.) Mountain Home (8-5) 8.) Searcy (5-6) The girls basketball factories in Little Rock haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, Central or North Little Rock may be the two teams to beat come state tournament time, though Conway will have something to say about that. Cabot had an excellent two-year run with a talented, hard-working crew, but those heroes have moved on, which means that West Memphis should be in the state tournament, and probably even win a game once they’re there. It’s possible that the top four teams in the blended league all come from the 7A-East, though I expect Jonesboro to hold its own against Cabot and West Memphis. I’ve seen Marion of course, and I also saw Searcy as part of the Beebe Badger Christmas Tournament and the Lady Lions looked much improved. Of course, that was going to happen after a 1-13 season last year, but for now, I have to pick them to miss the tournament. 7A-East 1.) Little Rock Central 2.) North Little Rock 3.) West Memphis 4.) Cabot 6A-East 1.) Jonesboro 2.) Marion 3.) Mountain Home 4.) Searcy The girls league is going to be a grind every night out. There are no gimmes on that schedule, aside from Searcy, and they even seem to be much improved. The boys side figures to be a little different. Jonesboro has won the blended conference the past two seasons, and should be the favorite to win a third consecutive, but as for the rest of the league? To a man, it’s wide open. For starters, North Little Rock graduated the crew most responsible for a hat trick of Class 7A state titles. The Charging Wildcats will still be good, but the difference between state title-contender and state tournament-participant is massive. Cabot may be capable of nabbing the top seed from the 7A-East, despite losing some key players, but returning their best player, post man Hunter Southerland. Little Rock Central has been seemingly down since Joe Johnson got buckets for the Tigers, but on Tuesday night, they did pick up a big win against Little Rock Catholic. On the 6A side of things, Jonesboro isn’t going anywhere. Not as long as Wes Swift is there, anyway. After the Golden Hurricane, you have three teams that can beat each other on any given night. We talked about Marion yesterday, but Mountain Home was a work-hard overachieving team last year and seem to be capable of being those same Bombers again. If they can take their show on the road then they can be pretty scary. Searcy was 0-14 in the league last season, but lost a pair of close games to Marion (46-44 at home, 51-44 in Marion) that could have allowed the Lions to leap into the tournament. If the ball bounces their way this year, they could qualify for state. 7A/6A-East blended conference: 1.) Jonesboro (9-2 overall) 2.) Cabot (9-3) 3.) West Memphis (7-6) 4.) Marion (5-6) 5.) North Little Rock (6-6) 6.) Little Rock Central (5-4) 7.) Mountain Home (4-8) 8.) Searcy (4-7) Hometown folks are now panicking because I picked Marion and West Memphis to finish in the top-half of the conference, which means they not only have to prepare for other teams, they’re now stuck with the Chuck stench. My apologies to Larry Bray and Irving Clay in advance. The 7A-East is anyone’s game. North Little Rock has dominated competition in that league over the past three years, but always struggled on the road, even with KeVaughn Allen and K.J. Hill on their team. Without those two elite athletes, the field is even closer. On the 6A half, the Marion-Searcy-Mountain Home round robin will be very exciting. Searcy is going to beat someone this year and Mountain Home is always tough at home because it’s tough to travel there and they seem to get the benefit of the doubt from the game officials. I think Marion is the most well-rounded team of the three, and they took the No. 2 seed last year, but they need their big three of Marlon Warren, Shaun Doss and A.J. Latham to bring it every night, or they could lose to anyone. 7A-East 1.) Cabot 2.) West Memphis 3.) North Little Rock 4.) Little Rock Central 6A-East 1.) Jonesboro 2.) Marion 3.) Mountain Home 4.) Searcy As always, thanks for reading. I love talking about the local teams with y’all. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, get ahold of me on twitter at ChuckETSports or on my office phone at 870-735-1010. Enjoy the night, and I’ll see you on Friday at Lehr Arena as this very conference tips off with Marion-West Memphis.