Who will it be this year? In a year that has a pair of powerhouses at the top and a million of others close behind, the AAAAA state tournament should be wild and one that people will be talking about. Sounds a lot like last year's tournament, doesn't it?
The favorites are two fold, in our opinion. Wheeler, the top team on the Georgia Hoops Top 20 power poll, is the best team in the state and no one in the state has knocked off the Wildcats. The same can be said for Norcross, the other favorite.
There are a number of teams chasing down the
Researching the No. 1 seeds
Region 1 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams:
Notable losses: Americus-Sumter 43-54,
Notes: There is always a surprise out of region 1 and Coffee certainly has the makings of that. The team's best player is a sophomore in Trevis Simpson and the 6-5 multi-positional prospect is one of the best players in
Region 2 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Stephenson 75-72, Redan 51-48, M.L. King 78-56, Newnan 53-44, Southside 72-49, Redan 41-40, Redan 51-47, Stephenson 68-63
Notes: The Astros don't wow you with great size but they are tough, deep, and scrappy on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Tilford Ellerbee has a team that could quietly win enough games to reach
Region 3 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Statesboro 58-49, Statesboro 52-42, Beach 67-59,
Notes: Every year there is a team from
Mundy's Mill (22-4)
Region 4 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Shaw 54-51, SACA 61-47, Riverdale 70-62, Peachtree Ridge 47-45, Newnan 76-62, Riverdale 59-57,
Notable losses: Hiram 64-77,
Notes: Every year this team gets better and better. The size is there with the Tigers, anchored by LSU bound Dennis Harris and 6-7 center Michael Allen. Guard play will have to be the key for Tu Willingham's crew. Senior Todd Salter has been here before. Freshman Adam Smith has not. Overall, keep an eye on this group. They might just be the best team in the quadrant they are in.
Region 5 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Campbell 56-45, Harrison 59-53, McEachern 74-58, Centennial 63-59, Harrison 76-71, Campbell 64-52, McEachern 74-65, Campbell 70-66
Notable losses: Blessed Trinity 35-50,
Notes: The Blue Devils lost to Norcross last year in the state tournament. If all goes well,
Region 6 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: McEachern 87-78, Centennial 93-64, Sprayberry 68-59, Sprayberry 85-79, Miller Grove 82-77, Northview 84-66, Northview 74-42, Centennial 76-67
Notable losses: None to
Notes: Meet our clear cut favorite to win the AAAAA state championship. The Wildcats have the best starting five in the state and of those starters, only one is a senior in Mr. Georgia Basketball candidate Dequan Jones. Sophomore point guard Phil Taylor and junior big man Richard Howell have been steady all season and have a great feel for their respective roles on the team.
Region 7 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Collins Hill 76-43, Peachtree Ridge 70-37, South Forsyth 77-30,
Notable losses: None to
Notes: Can Eddie Martin and his staff make it three in a row? If Al-Farouq Aminu continues to play like has been this season, it isn't out of the picture. The
Region 8 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Clarke Central 78-65, Tucker 77-64, Central Gwinnett 81-56, Meadowcreek 80-63, Central Gwinnett 69-53, Meadowcreek 66-58, Meadowcreek 63-49,
Notable losses: Parkview 62-63, Parkview 66-68
Notes: For the first time since the turn of the century, Berkmar has a team that can do some damage. The scoring punch of Wesley Witherspoon, the most versatile player in the state, and Demarion Gordon has proven to be a worthy 1-2 in AAAAA play this year. The Patriots have only lost two games in state and both came against Parkview. Both losses came by a bucket, too.
Must see games
What is it about the first round of the tournament and Norcross? Last year's tournament began with a bang as the Blue Devils held off Wheeler in one of the greatest games in
While Norcross doesn't have the same team it did last year and a match-up against
While the Hiram-M.L. King game doesn't scream sexy to the
Hiram has one of the best backcourts in the
Others we are watching closely: Wheeler-Parkview; Mundy's Mill-Redan;
There will be a major upset in the first round. Of all of the brackets, the first round match-ups in AAAAA are clearly the best and don't be surprised to see one of the big dogs go out early.
News & Notes
The first two rounds of the state tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seed.
Last year's state championship game could happen again if Norcross and Centennial win in the first round. The two would play Feb. 26 at Norcross.
Top 1 seed: Wheeler
Top 2 seed:
Top 3 seed: McEachern
Top 4 seed:
Keep an eye on…
The state tournament always brings out the sleepers. Here are five seniors to watch:
Yaw Gawya, Parkview – For Gwinnett County hoops fans, the Colgate bound forward is no sleeper. In fact, he's the most prolific scorer in Parkview basketball history. That is saying something. Don't be surprised to see him go for 25 and 15 against Wheeler.
Matt Sundberg, Harrison – For Cobb County hoops fans, the
Will Tollfree, Stephenson – The 6-6 senior is coming into the tournament after posting 30 points and 20 rebounds in a region tournament game. He's long, defensive minded and
Kevin Williams & Norris Rumph,
Yannick Crowder, Redan – The 6-7 post won't put up big numbers but he'll make his presence felt inside with blocked shots and rebounds at the cup, freeing up the other block for the team's best offensive force.
Five young players to watch
Phil Taylor, Wheeler – There isn't a sophomore in the state with as much control over a team like he has with the No. 1 ranked Wheeler Wildcats. He's been around the winning program for a long time and has been big in the big moments this season.
Trae Golden, McEachern – Like Taylor, Golden is no sleeper. The
Trevis Simpson, Coffee – The 6-5 sophomore is the power and punch for the top big school from
First round predictions
Coffee (19-3) vs.
Stephenson (18-7) vs. Newnan (19-8)
Hiram (21-6) vs. M.L. King (22-6)
Berkmar (21-5) vs. Sprayberry (12-15)
Wheeler (26-2) vs. Parkview (20-6)
Peachtree Ridge (17-10) vs. McEachern (21-7)
Centennial (23-5) vs. Meadowcreek (17-9)
Norcross (24-2) vs.
Douglass (19-4) vs. Morrow (14-12)
Mundy's Mill (22-4) vs. Redan (14-9)
Bolded and italicized teams are my picks to win