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WPIAL bracketology: Don Rebel, Chris Harlan forecast the 2024 basketball playoff pairings

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Saturday, February 10, 2024 | 9:16 PM


The 2024 WPIAL boys basketball playoff field is set with 87 teams in the six classifications.

Class 6A goes straight into the quarterfinal round while the five other classifications start with first-round games. Class 4A, 3A and 2A have full 16-team brackets with no byes. Class 5A has 17 teams, meaning two schools must meet in a preliminary round game. There are two first-round byes in Class A, which has 14 teams.

The brackets will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Monday on the WPIAL Basketball Playoff Pairings Show on TribLive HSSN. Until then, Don Rebel and Chris Harlan try to project what the the WPIAL basketball steering committee could decide.

Class 6A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 8 Pine-Richland at No. 1 Mt. Lebanon

No. 5 Baldwin at No. 4 North Allegheny

No. 7 Canon-McMillan at No. 2 Central Catholic

No. 6 Butler at No. 3 Upper St. Clair

Rebel says: Mt. Lebanon enjoyed an outstanding season against tough competition to become the only 6A team to win over 17 games this season, earning the 18-win Blue Devils the top-seed over defending champion Central Catholic. USC gets the nod over NA for No. 3-seed thanks to splitting with Section 2 champion Lebo. Watch out for a pair of dangerous third-place teams as Butler and/or Baldwin could win two playoff games and end up at “The Pete” playing for district gold.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 8 Pine-Richland at No. 1 Mt. Lebanon

No. 5 Baldwin at No. 4 North Allegheny

No. 7 Canon-McMillan at No. 2 Central Catholic

No. 6 Butler at No. 3 Upper St. Clair

Harlan says: Central Catholic finished its section schedule with strong wins over Butler and North Allegheny, earning the Vikings a section title and likely a No. 2 seed. The only real debate in this bracket might be which team gets the home game in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup: North Allegheny (10-12) or Baldwin (16-5)?

Class 5A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Trinity/Woodland Hills winner at No. 1 Moon

No. 9 North Hills at No. 8 Fox Chapel

No. 13 Penn-Trafford at No. 4 Thomas Jefferson

No. 12 Kiski Area at No. 5 Peters Township

No. 15 Mars at No. 2 Franklin Regional

No. 10 Penn Hills at No. 7 Gateway

No. 14 Chartiers Valley at No. 3 Shaler

No. 11 Bethel Park at No. 6 South Fayette

Rebel says: This took a while with four strong section champions and not much separation between the second and third places finishers up and down the four sections. It’s not clear cut, but Moon gets the nod at the top thanks to a perfect record in the deepest 5A section. Franklin Regional earns the No. 2 spot thanks to a nonsection victory over Shaler, which is slotted at No. 3. With so much depth to this classification, it makes for some delicious opening-round matchups where several road teams could advance in the tournament. Don’t sleep on defending champion Penn Hills.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Trinity/Woodland Hills winner at No. 1 Moon

No. 9 North Hills at No. 8 Fox Chapel

No. 13 Penn-Trafford at No. 4 Shaler

No. 12 Kiski Area at No. 5 Peters Township

No. 15 Mars at No. 2 Thomas Jefferson

No. 10 Penn Hills at No. 7 South Fayette

No. 14 Chartiers Valley at No. 3 Franklin Regional

No. 11 Bethel Park at No. 6 Gateway

Harlan says: Moon and Thomas Jefferson are the only undefeated section champions in Class 5A, so the Tigers and Jaguars get the edge here for the top seeds. The top four teams are all talented, so the WPIAL committee will need something to set the order. The head-to-head matchup between Franklin Regional and Shaler makes the three and four seeds easy to decide. Gateway is a curious team to seed. The Gators started strong with wins over Central Catholic and Franklin Regional, but stumbled down the stretch with five losses in nine games.

Class 4A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Freeport at No. 1 Lincoln Park

No. 9 Belle Vernon at No. 8 South Allegheny

No. 13 Quaker Valley at No. 4 Uniontown

No. 12 Elizabeth Forward at No. 5 North Catholic

No. 15 Southmoreland at No. 2 Hampton

No. 10 Highlands at No. 7 Avonworth

No. 14 Central Valley at No. 3 Montour

No. 11 Beaver at No. 6 Knoch

Rebel says: Everybody wants to be on the right-hand side of the bracket, opposite of defending champion and prohibitive favorite Lincoln Park. Section champions Hampton and Montour get their wish. However, Uniontown is among those on the left side. Despite winning their first 14 games, the Red Raiders ended the season by going 4-3 in their final seven. North Catholic is the top team from the runners-up, followed by a solid resume for Knoch and Avonworth. An underrated South Allegheny gets the nod for a home game over Section 4 runner-up Belle Vernon after beating the Leopards earlier this season.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Freeport at No. 1 Lincoln Park

No. 9 Belle Vernon at No. 8 Knoch

No. 13 Central Valley at No. 4 Uniontown

No. 12 Elizabeth Forward at No. 5 North Catholic

No. 15 Quaker Valley at No. 2 Hampton

No. 10 Highlands at No. 7 South Allegheny

No. 14 Southmoreland at No. 3 Montour

No. 11 Beaver at No. 6 Avonworth

Harlan says: I show love for Section 4 here by giving home games to Montour (18-3), Avonworth (15-7) and South Allegheny (16-6). The Gladiators finished third in that section but had nonsection wins over playoff teams Central Catholic, Belle Vernon, Washington, Serra Catholic, Uniontown and Shady Side Academy.

Class 3A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Beaver Falls at No. 1 Deer Lakes

No. 9 Ellwood City at No. 8 Washington

No. 13 Mt. Pleasant at No. 4 Neshannock

No. 12 South Park at No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

No. 15 Sto-Rox at No. 2 Mohawk

No. 10 Burrell at No. 7 Yough

No. 14 McGuffey at No. 3 Shady Side Academy

No. 11 Derry at No. 6 Seton LaSalle

Rebel says: Following the Deer Lakes loss on Friday to Shady Side Academy, the top-seed could be a debate. However, the defending champion Lancers are still the No. 1 seed to me. Co-champs in Sections 2 and 4 throw a big old monkey wrench in the top-seeds. Also finding quality wins wasn’t easy either, so second-place finishers Shady Side Academy and Neshannock jump the co-champs. A very dangerous team occupies the No. 9 spot in 2021 champion Ellwood City.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Sto-Rox at No. 1 Deer Lakes

No. 9 Ellwood City at No. 8 Seton LaSalle

No. 13 Mt. Pleasant at No. 4 Neshannock

No. 12 Derry at No. 5 Yough

No. 15 McGuffey at No. 2 Mohawk

No. 10 Burrell at No. 7 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

No. 14 Beaver Falls at No. 3 Shady Side Academy

No. 11 South Park at No. 6 Washington

Harlan says: This was the toughest bracket to seed. Making it tricky were the two pairs of co-section champions: Yough/Washington and OLSH/Seton LaSalle. Yough gets a boost for having the WPIAL’s top scorer in Terek Crosby and a 10-game winning streak. OLSH and Seton LaSalle are traditionally two of the top teams in 3A, but it’s difficult to measure this year’s teams by their nonsection schedules.

Class 2A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 16 Nazareth Prep at No. 1 Aliquippa

No. 9 Jeannette at No. 8 Chartiers-Houston

No. 13 Clairton at No. 4 Bishop Canevin

No. 12 Winchester Thurston at No. 5 Fort Cherry

No. 15 Frazier at No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic

No. 10 Serra Catholic at No. 7 Eden Christian Academy

No. 14 Sewickley Academy at No. 3 Northgate

No. 11 Burgettstown at No. 6 Shenango

Rebel says: Defending champion Aliquippa is the top seed with Greensburg Central Catholic earning the two seed. Then it becomes interesting. Outside of falling to the Quips twice, Northgate has only two losses, both to 6A teams. I have the 2023 district runner-up and the second-place team in Section 1 as the No. 3 seed, ahead of section winners Bishop Canevin and Fort Cherry. Despite a big loss Friday and a third-place Section 1 finish behind Aliquippa and Northgate, Shenango earns No. 6 with wins over Ellwood City, Union and Eden Christian.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 16 Nazareth Prep at No. 1 Aliquippa

No. 9 Shenango at No. 8 Chartiers-Houston

No. 13 Sewickley Academy at No. 4 Bishop Canevin

No. 12 Winchester Thurston at No. 5 Fort Cherry

No. 15 Frazier at No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic

No. 10 Burgettstown at No. 7 Serra Catholic

No. 14 Clairton at No. 3 Northgate

No. 11 Eden Christian at No. 6 Jeannette

Harlan says: Serra Catholic is the third-place team that gets a boost in my bracket. The Eagles lost by two points to Greensburg Central Catholic in late January. No other section foe came within 20 of the Centurions this season. Northgate topped Bishop Canevin by 17 points last month, earning the Flames a No. 3 seed.

Class A

Don Rebel’s bracket

No. 1 Imani Christian – bye

No. 9 California at No. 8 Carlynton

No. 13 St. Joseph at No. 4 Monessen

No. 12 Avella at No. 5 Neighborhood Academy

No. 2 Rochester – bye

No. 10 Jefferson-Morgan at No. 7 Aquinas Academy

No. 14 Summit Academy at No. 3 Union

No. 11 Hillel Academy at No. 6 West Greene

Rebel says: Defending champion Imani Christian is a heavy favorite to repeat in Class A before climbing the ladder to 6A next season. The top two finishers in Section 1 grab the next two seeds with Rochester earning a bye at No. 2 followed by 2023 runner-up Union at No. 3. Section 2 champ Monessen is the fourth seed. All six teams from Section 3 qualified for the playoffs, including first-timer Hillel Academy along with St. Joe’s and Summit Academy. Those three combined for an overall record of 14-39, but they are all part of the February Frenzy.

Chris Harlan’s bracket

No. 1 Imani Christian – bye

No. 9 Carlynton at No. 8 California

No. 13 Summit Academy at No. 4 Monessen

No. 12 Hillel Academy at No. 5 Union

No. 2 Neighborhood Academy – bye

No. 10 Jefferson-Morgan at No. 7 Aquinas Academy

No. 14 St. Joseph at No. 3 Rochester

No. 11 Avella at No. 6 West Greene

Harlan says: The top two seeds should both come from Section 3. Imani Christian is the reigning champion. Neighborhood Academy has nonsection wins this winter over Rochester, 64-33, and Bishop Canevin, 72-58, along with a five-point loss to Class 6A contender Central Catholic. Section 1 champion Rochester is the three seed after defeating Union on Tuesday, and Section 2 champion Monessen is fourth.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at [email protected].



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