Ever thought about where the best boys high school basketball is played in Indiana?
I’m guessing most of us have our own ideas.

Of course, get into such a conversation and you’ll likely encounter different opinions. Maybe even a few tempers might flare.

Ok, what area of the state seems to have and show the most interest, the biggest followings?

Likely pretty much the same scenario.

For years, I would think that many folks would point to the North Central Conference, where Muncie Central and Marion were so dominant. I know I would! The Bearcats and Giants have each won eight state championships. Most came when we were in a single-class tournament. Marion’s last title came in 2016 as a Class 3A champion; all of Muncie’s titles came in our former one-class system.

Anderson and Lafayette Jeff of the NCC each won three apiece, the last one won by the Broncos was in 1964 when Denny Brady was Mr. Basketball and Marion Crawley the coach. Crawley also won at Jeff in 1948. Two of his earlier championships came coaching the Washington Hatchets.

And also impressive was that both Muncie Central and Anderson each were seven-time state runners-up. And the late Bill Green leads all boys coaches with six state titles — four at Marion and two at Indianapolis. Washington.

Yes, mighty powerful stuff.

But the NCC is no longer referred to as “The Conference of Champions’’ and the conference no longer has the same slate of members as it had back in the hey days.

A friend of mine, a former media member up north, contends that Indiana is more of a basketball state from Martinsville to on down South. Well, Martinsville does have 3 state championships, as do Franklin and Evansville Bosse, while Washington leads the southern group with seven titles.

Up North, he says, Warsaw probably could make an argument for being one of the best basketball towns. It has had only two losing seasons (each by only one game) since the 1993-94 season. And the Tigers are usually a tough out in the postseason. So is Homestead, which also owns one state title.

You need to include Plymouth, too. Scott Skiles put basketball on the map at Plymouth, which is located down U.S. 31 west of Warsaw. The Pilgrims Nation has two state championship banners; Warsaw won in 1984 and was a state runner-up in 2010.

And Warsaw and Plymouth fans follow their teams religiously. It’s been that way for many years.

My friend contends that basketball in Central Indiana really doesn't draw all that well anymore, unless it's a big rivalry game like, well, Fishers-Hamilton Southeastern or Carmel-HSE or Noblesville-HSE.

Of course, there are some smaller schools that really support their teams, maybe even more when it comes to girls basketball in our “CLASS’’ format.
I know that back in 2012 and 2015 Class 3A power Guerin Catholic, the defending state champion both of those years, drew incredible interest at the State Finals.

And more recently, the past back-to-back Class 3A girls state champs from Northwestern HS in Howard County certainly received some mighty strong backing.

Getting back to deeper Central Indiana, Frankfort won four and Lebanon three titles; Crispus Attucks and Park Tudor won four; Ben Davis and Pike each won three times; Carmel stirred some emotions in the 2018 4A State Finals, finishing runner-up to unbeaten Warren Central. In 2019, in head coach Ryan Osborn’s second year, the Greyhounds won it all and produced Carmel’s best-ever season at 26-1, and the school’s fourth boys state title.
And, of course, the Hamilton Southeastern Lady Royals went 27-1 and won the school’s first state basketball championship. Definitely a special moment with a lot of impact and fan and student backing!

I guess what I’m saying is that Central Indiana, in my opinion, doesn’t take a backseat to anyone.

And, too, Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers and Noblesville draw well in the boy’s basketball sectionals, which are alternated each year at Noblesville and Carmel sites.

Seriously, when it comes to basketball or even football sectionals, there’s simply no place better, with so many fever-pitched fans hollering and stomping in those wooden bleachers and on those aluminum stands, than Hamilton County. And at many big-time Central Indiana sites, for that matter.

And speaking of football, well …

You’ll find some folks who will likely tell you that Central Indiana is more of Football Country.

Hmmm. Maybe?

If so, could that possibly have anything to do with Indiana moving to Class Basketball? Hey, just asking!

Well, football stadiums can hold more fans. That's a given. And football provides the biggest state championship gathering and explosive atmosphere during the first part of each school season.

But Football Country?

Still, again, the Fishers-HSE rivalry certainly packs the stadium each year in the neighborhood of 10,000--plus fans.

I don't wander outside of Hamilton County too often unless it involves state championships.

There's no question that football popularity is on the rise. It’s been on the rise for quite some time.

And I won’t deny its out-reaching popularity. I mean, yeah, it’s big, even HUGE.

Just a few years back, you might recall that a magazine referred to the Indianapolis area as the third-best area for football. Make that NATIONALLY.
So if someone wants to bring up Football vs. Basketball popularity, well, all I can say is that makes for good conversation.

You certainly cannot argue the dominance of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, which was formed in 1996.

Since 1999, MIC teams have won 26 state football championships. Three of those were won by Carmel.

That conference also won 10 straight titles until Fishers brought home the plaque in 2010. Since then, the MIC has won the past eight “big-school’ state championships. \

I can remember back in the day (1975-82), when I was sports editor at The Michigan City News-Dispatch, fans in Northwest Indiana raved about just how dominant the Duneland Conference was in high school football.

I watched it. I pretty much had to live it in Northwest Indiana. I covered many football games played by Duneland Conference teams. Yes, that conference provided a physical brand of football. Still, I was not all that impressed. And folks, it’s nothing like we see in Central Indiana.

The MIC continues to be KING, and Ben Davis, Warren Central and Carmel are the leaders in that group. Ben Davis and Warren central have each won 9 state titles; Carmel has 8 titles and is a 7-time state runner-up.

Sheridan, the smallest (Class A) football-playing school in Hamilton County, also has won nine state championships.

So when it comes to rating basketball and football in our neck of the woods, here’s the way I see it:

Basketball coaches love their sport.

It has been King in Indiana for a long, long time, though it’s no longer as big, perhaps, since the IHSAA moved to that controversial multi-class system in the 1997-98 season — with 4A Pike, 3A Cathedral, 2A Alexandria and 1A Lafayette Central Catholic crowned our first Class champions.

Football coaches love their sport big time, too.

And me, well . . . I’ll split the uprights and add a slam-dunk on this subject: Hey, I love them both!

*—Mark Morrow, a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter, has resided in Hamilton County since 1989. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling (317) 460-8018.