It’s not March, and I’m not sure it’s the same kind of madness, but state playoff basketball is here in full force nonetheless.
Sifting through the brackets from each classification yields interesting matchups and interesting teams at every level. There are certainly the favorites, but there are plenty of teams waiting in the wings to pounce should one of the giants fall.
Around the area, there are plenty of teams that will take part in the boys tournament, including favorites like Jordan, Manchester, Spencer and Northside.
So, buckle up. The next few weeks are sure to be a fun ride.
Without further ado, here’s a quick look at what’s ahead. Follow me on Twitter. I’ll have thoughts, updates and blogs throughout the playoffs. Send me your picks and thoughts on my picks. Civil debate is always encouraged.
Class AA, Boys
Local outlook: Jordan, Spencer, Manchester, Kendrick
Four teams from the Bi-City area will suit up for the Class AA first round, and don’t count out any of them from advancing to the second round. If I’m betting, I’d say three of these teams should win or at least be favored at tipoff time (Jordan, Spencer and Manchester). Kendrick is interesting because if you look at its record, it would be easy to dismiss it. Having seen the Cherokees play, though, I know they can get hot and mix it up with the best of them. Jefferson might have its hands full when Kendrick comes to town.
My favorites in each bracket: Vidalia, Greater Atlanta Christian, Jordan, Laney
GAC and Vidalia should be considered favorites to meet in the state final, but there are plenty of road blocks along the way. GAC has the pleasure of potential matchups against Spencer and Manchester, both of which are among the elite in the Maxwell Ratings.
Dark horses in each bracket: Westside-Augusta, Pelham, Kendrick, Manchester
Three of these aren’t exactly what I’d consider dark horses. Kendrick, however, will be overlooked by the vast majority of people around the state in its first-round game. It very well could lose, but look out if it doesn’t. This is a team that beat Jordan 92-88 earlier this year. That’s not a bad team.
The pick: GAC over Vidalia
Class AAA, Boys
Local outlook: Carver
Carver was a surprising (to an extent) winner in its region and has, as a result, set itself up nicely in the playoffs. Expect a first-round victory against Swainsboro, but Johnson will be no easy out. Advancing to the quarterfinals would likely set up a matchup with a talented Thomson team.
My favorites in each bracket: Johnson, Morgan County, Savannah, Buford
Buford is the favorite here, and I don’t think that comes as a surprise. Each of the other three teams is rated highly and, though there are plenty of traps along the way, will be favored to make it to the semifinals.
Dark horses in each bracket: Thomson, Washington County, North Hall, Dawson County
I mention Thomson and Washington County because they are legit contenders right out of the gate. I mention North Hall because I know it is a talented team that can, and has, hung with some very talented competition. I mention Dawson County strictly because of its style of play. There is talent on the team, yes, but it is a slow half-court offense that frustrated opponents in the playoffs last year.
The pick: Buford over Johnson
Class AAAA, Boys
Local outlook: Shaw
It’s a tough break for Shaw to drop to a 4-seed heading into the state tournament, but is there any out there that don’t think it’s talented enough to spring the upset? Half of the team’s losses came by five points or less and it notched wins over Spencer, Northside and Jordan throughout the season. It faces a very solid Johnson-Gainesville team with a very talented athlete, Montrell McKenzie, who will cause problems. Don’t be shocked if the Raiders are still alive after Wednesday, though.
My favorites in each bracket: Monroe, Marist, Eagles Landing, South Atlanta
I’m not exactly going out on a limb on any of these. Class AAAA has a lot of talent, though, so take this with a few grains of salt.
Dark horses in each bracket: Jonesboro, Shaw, Glenn Hills, Grady
This is a true set of dark horses: two 4-seeds and a 3-seed. The issue with Shaw is that it hasn’t had a ton of success over its past couple of weeks. Consider, though, its early-season success. If it can pull off an upset against Johnson, I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see it start to put some pieces together.
The pick: Eagles Landing over South Atlanta
Class AAAAA, Boys
Local outlook: Hardaway, Northside
One very good team, one exceptionally great team. As a 4-seed, Hardaway has the odds against it, but it is playing one of the weaker No. 1s in Whitewater, ranked 30th in the classification in the Maxwell Ratings. Northside, on the other hand, should be considered one of the absolute favorites, not just in that bracket. It has been solid all season, it is well-tested and it is filled with talented senior leadership. That’s a good formula for postseason success.
My favorites in each bracket: Effingham County, Gainesville, Northside, Miller Grove
Ah, yes. Straight chalk. Four semifinalists, four 1-seeds. Forgive me, but I think these top seeds are dominant in their respective brackets. Effingham County and Miller Grove should be considered the state’s best in Class AAAAA.
Dark horses in each bracket: Northside-WR, Stephenson, Tucker, Jenkins
Northside and Jenkins could find a way to advance to the semifinals. I expect Hardaway to unseat Whitewater to set up a matchup against Jenkins. That’s not an easy road for Jenkins by any means, but facing a 4-seed in the second round is always encouraging.
The pick: Effingham County over Miller Grove
Class AAAAAA, Boys
Local outlook: None
Proceed to the next section.
My favorites in each bracket: Hillgrove, Shiloh, Tift County, Norcross
Tift County has the highest Maxwell Rating of any team in any classification in the entire state. What does that mean? Well, it means that it is pretty good. Is it the best? Who knows? We’ll find that out soon. The rating certainly isn’t everything, but it does give us a clear indication of which teams have performed well against quality competition. Tift County sits at the top of the heap.
Dark horses in each bracket: Brunswick, Wheeler, North Cobb, Collins Hill
Collins Hill sticks out here because it isn’t necessarily considered an elite team. Who knows, though? Win your first-round game, and the pieces might fall into place.
The pick: Norcross over Shiloh
There you have it. That’s about as thorough a look as I can give you right now. Be sure to come back daily for postgame thoughts from the day’s games as well as looks ahead to the next round. As always, follow me on Twitter @leprepsports for updates and thoughts throughout the playoffs.