Despite all of the variables in the Illinois High School Association state playoff system, it is a fairly predictable model in regards to how the fields typically look from year to year.
Certainly, there are breakthroughs from year-to-year. Teams emerge from relative obscurity to fight their way into the playoff field, while other programs that simply seem to make playoff appearances on a year-to-year basis slide back a bit and miss the field.
But overall, the number is remarkably stable. In fact, over the last decade, the turnover rate (teams that make the playoffs year in and year out) hovers above 80 percent in every single year.
Using a three-year win model, you can often get a very accurate representation of how the playoff field might be constructed on a year-to-year basis.
Obviously, there are quirks in the system that could cause these landscapes to change, but more often than not these brackets should look very similar to the ones that are rolled out next postseason.
Now, let's get to the potential Class 8A field.
• Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins have evolved into one of the gold standards in the state. With 40 wins and two state championships over the last three seasons and a semifinal appearance in the other, no team has posted more victories over the stretch of the study.
• Loyola: The Ramblers have been absolute postseason beasts for the better part of the last decade and are also the only team to pin a loss on Lincoln-Way East over the last three years in the 2018 semifinal round. A rigorous schedule always proves challenging, but it's almost a guarantee that you'll find the Ramblers in the postseason mix.
• Marist: The Redhawks have quietly built themselves into a postseason juggernaut. Even when a daunting schedule looked poised to keep them out last season, a Week 9 win over Loyola allowed them to punch their way into the playoffs and stay alive until the semifinals. Marist has now made the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
ON THE RISE
• Niles Notre Dame: Under the old multiplier waiver (which required playoff victories as part of the formula) we aren't that far removed from the Dons being a Class 6A playoff team. But in 6A or 8A, the Dons have advanced to the playoffs in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Recently, they have started to add playoff wins on top of just appearances.
• Plainfield North: The Tigers missed the playoffs in 2018, but it looks like the program is back on the right path now. North is one of those programs that could float between Class 7A and Class 8A. Either way playoff berths could become more consistent.
• Bolingbrook: The talent generated in this program on a year-to-year basis is pretty impressive. One of these years the Raiders are going to make another deep run in the postseason as making the field has become a seemingly regular feat.
THE WILD CARDS
• Rich Township: The athletic consolidation of Rich Central, Rich South and Rich East has promise, but it's a tough reality moving from the Class 5A/6A arena to the monolith that is Class 8A. Rich Central, excluding last year, was a regular playoff qualifier, Rich East a sporadic qualifier and Rich South rarely if it all. Combining the three gives them more resources, but its nonconference schedule doesn't do them many favors toward making a playoff bid a reality in its new form.
• Curie and Taft: The only two Public League teams in the projected 8A field face an interesting challenge if the CPL Divisions remain the same. Both of these two teams found themselves in the Red Bird with some of the better teams in the CPL. They both tend to give themselves little margin for error by scheduling more difficult non-league games, Curie in particular.
• West Aurora: The three-year model still smiles on the Blackhawks because of all their success in the Upstate Eight in years past. West Aurora's first trip through the Southwest Prairie didn't go all that well last season, but it wouldn't be surprising to see a regroup.
TEAMS ON THE VERGE
(Teams that appear the closest to breaking into the projection that are not currently in)
• Fremd: The Vikings built an impressive defensive unit last season and look to have laid the foundation for something bigger. The largest obstacle might be their typically packed schedule.
• Joliet West: The Tigers lost a lot of experience on the offensive line, but it's hard to envision a scenario where teams have a ton of success stopping powerhouse running back Trent Howland enough to keep them out of the dance.
• Lockport: The Porters have struggled to stack many wins up in recent seasons, but Lockport made a dramatic turn to 4-5 and almost made the field last year after going just 2-16 combined the previous two seasons. There's a visible path to Lockport returning to the field.
THE FULL BRACKET
• (32) Taft at (1) Lincoln-Way East
• (17) Bolingbrook at (16) Huntley
• (25) Bartlett at (8) Glenbard West
• (24) Aurora West at (9) Minooka
• (29) Rich Township at (4) Gurnee Warren
• (20) Neuqua Valley at (13) Edwardsville
• (28) Plainfield South at (5) Homewood-Flossmoor
• (21) Oswego East at (12) Brother Rice
• (31) Stevenson at (2) Loyola
• (18) St. Charles East at (15) Barrington
• (26) Oak Park-River Forest at (7) Maine South
• (23) Curie at (10) Niles Notre Dame
• (30) Evanston at (3) Marist
• (19) Naperville Central at (14) South Elgin
• (27) New Trier at (6) Oswego
• (22) Plainfield North at (11) Hinsdale Central