Steve Soucie’s Week 1 playoff projection: Restacking the field after the opening weekend

East St. Louis will likely be only school electing to “play up”

Steve Soucie's Week 1 playoff projections

It’s the first snapshot of how the postseason could look in eight weeks.

The picture, however, is blurry, not only around the edges but right smack in the middle as well.

This projection requires forecasting more than 2,000 games over the remainder of the regular season – often with very little information to provide the needed clarity.

Still, there is valuable information inside of this exercise waiting to be unearthed.

One of the larger variables is yet another realignment in the Chicago Public League in the offseason.

The CPL decided to place 16 of their more prominent teams inside of its Red Division. There are actually four subdivisions inside of that group, but basically all that means is that those 16 teams will play inside of the conference. In the long run, playing better competition during the regular season might better prepare the qualifying teams for the postseason. But in the short term, it means some of the typically better CPL teams won’t make the playoffs in this format, while opening the door for other teams playing in lesser divisions.

There are five White Divisions largely with programs that have had very limited success – or in some cases no success at all – and at least 10 to 12 teams from those divisions will earn playoff berths.

Why does all of this matter? Because unlike most conferences, there are wildly different enrollment variables to consider in the CPL. In most conferences, if one team replaced another it might mean a 4A team takes the place of a 5A team. If that scenario plays out in a CPL conference, it might be the difference between a 1A and a 6A school in the enrollment draw.

There are 24 CPL teams projected to make the field in the first projection from all over the enrollment landscape. That group will shift and move more than any other variable in the projection if history is any indicator.

It’s all a chain reaction. Fourteen CPS schools currently projected in the field have enrollments of less than 1,000. Due to that, some of the projected bubbles between classifications are currently showing teams that might have been expected to head to smaller classifications holding firmer in their typical divisions.

East St. Louis is currently the only school that has applied to the IHSA to “play up” for the next two seasons. Enrollment-wise, the Flyers would be a Class 5A school, but have committed to playing in the 6A field for the next two seasons. The IHSA deadline for schools to make that declaration is September 1, no other schools are expected to declare.

The schools that previously used some form of the “playing up” rule all have had their multipliers restored in IC Catholic (now 4A), Joliet Catholic (now 5A) and Loyola (now 8A) or have had a success formula applied to them as was the case for Sacred Heart Griffin (now 5A).

Through all of this, the teams hovering around the bubbles of the classifications remained very much the same, such as Seneca falling into the high side of Class 2A and WIlmington once again showing as the smallest school in Class 3A.

In the larger classifications, Prairie Ridge is trending much closer to the 6A line that originally anticipated. It currently is one spot ahead of Peoria, which is currently projected as Class 5A’s largest team.

A total of 257 teams were projected to reach five victories, meaning that an at-large team getting into the field with just four wins still remains a possibility. Buffalo Grove became the state’s first-ever four-win at-large team last season and it will remain something to watch throughout the season.

Once we leave the primary nonconference season of Weeks 1 and 2, there will only be about 250 wins to go around on a weekly basis. Illinois teams went 9-6 against out-of-state opponents in Week 1, but after this week the number of available wins against non-Illinois opponents drops to a very small trickle.

With less wins to go around, logically it becomes harder to get to five victories.

Here is the Week 1 playoff projection for all eight classes:

Class 1A

Class 2A

Class 3A

Class 4A

Class 5A

Class 6A

Class 7A

Class 8A