Here we go again.
The second round of the state playoffs tip off tonight for the boy’s teams and the slate of big time match-ups are plenty. I’ve picked out the best game in each of the classifications.
WHAT I’M BUYING THIS WEEK
1. Walton (19-9) at Norcross (26-2): Offense vs. defense. That is what this game will come down to. Walton’s offense marched through McEachern in the first round. Norcross has proven to be one of the elite defensive teams in the state.
Walton has scored over 80 points in 19 games under 80 points this year. Norcross has only allowed a team to score more than 60 points just five times all year. There will be one team pushing, and one team pulling. The two different styles will be fun to watch play out.
If Norcross can hold Glen Rice, Jr. and Ryan Harrow to a combined 40 points, then the Blue Devils have a good shot at moving onto the next round of the state tournament. Norcross’s depth and ability to step up in the moment on it’s home floor should be the difference maker.
Georgia Hoops pick: Norcross
2. Tucker (17-8) at Hillgrove (27-2): Old meets the new in this game. Tucker has been to the Gwinnett Arena before. Three times, in fact. The Tigers are used to winning in March. In it’s third year of existence, Hillgrove is already making history in post-season basketball by making into the second round of the state tournament.
Tucker’s eight losses are deceptive. So are Hillgrove’s 27 wins. Tucker is better than it’s record presents while Hillgrove will have a major challenge matching Tucker’s size and physical play inside and on the wing.
Manny Atkins has been Mr. Clutch this season for the Tigers and the supporting cast has a sizable edge over Hillgrove. The Hawks will need a big game from guard Darrius Baugh and big man Heath Houston. The edge Hillgrove has is two fold: home court advantage and they are a better defensive team.
Georgia Hoops pick: Tucker
3. Liberty County (20-5) at Westover (24-6): What a match-up in AAA. Both teams match-up well and the talent level on the floor would usually be matched up against each other in a deeper round of the playoffs.
Westover’s Terrence Noel steps up in the big games. He scored 20 of his 30 points last week against Shaw in the second half. The 6-3 senior is a tough player when it matters. It will most certainly matter against Liberty County.
Liberty County will have to drive four hours to Westover for the night game. While most teams may struggle with the logistics, the Panthers are used to traveling thanks a brutal 3-AAA map. Juniors Jordan McRae and Rion Brown make for a tough match-up on the wings because of their size and length.
Georgia Hoops pick: Westover
4. Long County (21-6) at Dublin (27-1): For the second round in a row, the top team in AA will be challenged at home. Dublin was up against the ropes against Northeast Macon and had to fight deep into the fourth quarter to get a hard earned victory.
Long County is rolling in 2009. The Blue Tide has only lost one game since Jan. 3. Dublin has been dominate all season long. The only loss came to Collins Hill at a tournament in Florida.
The game also features two of the best unsigned seniors in the state in Dublin’s Sherrard Brantley and Long County’s Jimmy Bacon.
Expect another close one and the Irish having just a wee bit more luck in the end.
Georgia Hoops pick: Dublin
5. Hancock Central (20-8) at Turner County (27-1): There are a lot of best involved with this game.
Hancock Central has the best big man in the class in Kammeon Holsey. The Georgia Tech bound big man is coming off your run-of-the-mill 34-point, 22-rebound game against Portal.
Turner County is the best team in class A and one of the best in the state. The Rebels have one of the deepest rotations in the state along with one of the best coaches in Eric Holland.
Turner County’s tiny gym will also be the best atmosphere to watch a game on Wednesday night. That should make for the best game of the entire night across the state.
Who’s best will be best tonight?
Georgia Hoops pick: Turner County
Three more to keep your eye on:
South Gwinnett at Centennial – The Comets are a sleeper to watch. The majority of the team knows Lorenzo Brown’s game very well from AAU ball. The Comets are bigger and deeper. Don’t be surprised to see an upset tonight from South Gwinnett but I can’t argue against Lorenzo Brown. The Knights hold on for the win.
Paideia at Whitefield Academy – This is a passing of the torch game in class A. Whitefield has been the staple of consistency in the state’s smallest region. With seniors Brandon Reed and Cameron Baskerville, the Wolfpack should make another run to Macon. Paideia will step into Whitefield’s dominating role next week.
Burke County at Northside Columbus – A lot of size in this game. There are three Division I players in this game that stand over 6-8. And both teams feed the post. Northside should take advantage of playing at home.
- I wonder if Mother Nature comes into play for the second round games. There are some schools that have Monday off because of the Blizzard of 2009. There are some schools, most notably Gwinnett County schools, that can not practice on Monday. Those that did had school on Monday, as they should, those schools practiced.
- The GHSA released the locations for the quarter-finals and the reception has been mixed. The clear winner is class A. The south quarter-finals will be at Columbus State on March 6. The north quarter-finals will be at Marietta High School. Both venues are perfect for the teams involved.
On the flip side, the reception has been mixed for the AAAAA brackets. Fort Valley State will host the south side of the bracket. Sure, both venues are a little out of the way. Sure, there may have been other locations that seemed like a better fit. Sure, sure, sure…
But I like the two choices. Fort Valley and West Georgia have two of the nicest, and newer, gyms in the state. Both venues are certainly big enough and both are a great atmosphere to watch a game. Enjoy the drive, make a memory and fans will travel near or far to see their team in action. It’s only one game folks.
- How about some fun with numbers? Thirty-three of the 40 number one seeds moved onto the second round. Twenty-two of the 40 number two seeds moved onto the second round. All eight number one seeds moved on to the next round in class A. Both AAA and AA send six number one seeds onto the next round, the lowest of any class.
- I’d love to see all 10 teams that make it to the state finals play a rematch as a non region game next year in the schedule. It could be the season opener at Georgia State or Georgia Tech or at Mercer or wherever in a central location at a college gym. Have five games on a Saturday in November and start the year off where the previous one left off. Just a thought…
- Of the seven remaining No. 4 seeds, Walton is clearly the best of the bunch. No need to spell that one out. But keep an eye on North Hall and Decatur. North Hall could make a push to the Final Four. Decatur will likely match-up with Region 6 foe GAC in the Elite Eight.
SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS
Valdosta over Riverdale
Newnan over Redan
Centennial over South Gwinnett
Milton over Central Gwinnett
Coffee over Savannah
Westlake over Tift County
Wheeler over Peachtree Ridge
Norcross over Walton
Last week’s class AAAAA record: 12-4
Stockbridge over Bainbridge
Statesboro over Forest Park
Marist over Cass
Tucker over Hillgrove
Richmond Academy over Brunswick
Glynn Academy over Jonesboro
Miller Grove over Rockdale County
Fayette County over Clark Central
Last week’s class AAAA record: 15-1
Westover over Liberty County
Northside-Columbus over Burke County
North Hall over Cedartown
Gaineville over Druid Hills
Washington County over Monroe
South Atlanta over Cairo
Elbert County over Cedar Grove
Columbia over West Hall
Last week’s class AAA record: 11-5
Thomasville over Greene County
Henry County over Cook County
Blessed Trinity over Riverside Military
Dade County over Calloway
Dublin over Long County
Central Macon over Appling County
GAC over Chattooga
Decatur over Coosa
Last week’s class AA record: 12-4
Terrell County over Aquinas
Turner County over Hancock Central
Athens Christian over North Cobb Christian
Greenforest over Pace Academy
Wilcox County over Calvary Day
Wilkinson County over Greenville
Darlington over Athens Academy
Whitefield Academy over Paideia
Last week’s class A record: 16-0