Random thoughts on state hoops brackets, Pt. 1
With the state hoops brackets out now for all to dissect, I figured I'd offer up some random thoughts and observations about how the matchups shake out.
For the sake of brevity, we'll break this into two parts, with the boys up first. I'll have the girls breakdown sometime tomorrow. Also, you can find the complete brackets for each class on the PIAA Web site or by clicking here.
-- Tall tasks for Hanover and York Suburban. Both will be making long road trips. Both will be facing teams that figure to cause all sorts of matchup problems.
Hanover heads to South Philadelphia High School to take on defending PIAA Class AA champs Imhotep Charter. The Panthers won the Philadelphia Public League title for the second year and a row, and figure to present a degree of athleticism and size that Hanover hasn't seen all year. Take for instance Erik Copes, a 6-foot-8 junior who will be playing his college ball at George Washington in two years. Don't think YAIAA Division IV presents too many players like that.
As for Suburban, they'll take the three-hour bus ride to Richland High School in Johnstown to take on Greater Johnstown. The "other" Trojans (that, too, happens to Greater Johnstown's nickname) play a pressure defensive style designed to force turnovers. For Suburban, which has never really replaced Mitch Kemp at point guard, ballhandling has not been a strong suit this year. Advantage: Greater Johnstown.
-- Yes, they may be the prohibitive favorite in Class AAA, but Neumann-Goretti didn't emerge with the kindest of brackets. The No. 9-ranking team in the entire nation according to Maxpreps has a tricky road to the state title game.
First up, a game against District 3 foe Susquehanna Township. That figures to be a win, although with Township's explosiveness (see: York Suburban) you never know. Win there, and Neumann could likely be looking at semifinal matchup with Steel-High and 6-foot-8 force Jeff Davis. Assuming they get past that game, Neumann might have to handle a tricky quarterfinal matchup with Philly rival Archbishop Carroll, which gave the Saints a game in the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, despite missing star guard D.J. Irving.
Why does all of this matter you ask? Well, mostly because Neumann figures to be the semifinal opponent for Eastern York, should the Golden Knights make it that far.
-- Speaking of Eastern, seems like they made out pretty well in their draw. The Golden Knights will face Wilkes-Barre Coughlin -- the third-seed from District 2 -- in first-round play Friday. The Crusaders lack firepower and size (they don't have any starters taller than 6-foot-1), and it would be a surprise if Eastern didn't take care of business. From there, the Golden Knights take on the winner of Murrell Dobbins Tech (of Philadelphia) and Springfield (Delaware County). I think the winner of that gives Eastern a game. But as far as draws go, the Golden Knights could certainly do worse.
Obviously, things would get a little hairier come the quarterfinals. But this is the state playoffs. That's the way it should be.
-- Most intriguing game of local interest? Try William Penn (23-6) and Bayard Rustin (23-4) in Class AAAA. The Golden Knights boast decent size in 6-5 sophomore Anthony Nash and 6-4 junior Cory Blake. And senior guard Rondell White (18.9 ppg) can score the basketball. Not to mention Rustin (located in West Chester) plays in rugged District 1, which has ruled Class AAAA the last few years.
But the Bearcats boast the almighty experience factor, and William Penn's talented group of senior guards would like one last encore to last year's state final run. I see two extremely evenly matched teams. Should be a good one. Plus it's being played at Rip Hamilton's alma mater, for whatever that's worth.
-- Game of non-local interest basketball enthusiasts should check out? Plymouth-Whitemarsh vs. Red Land. The former is a top-rated team in the country. The latter has a pair of game-changing giants in the front-court (Steve Zack and Mike Zangari). And the game is taking place at my alma mater, Wissahickon High School. It doesn't get any better.
-- Rawest draw? Try Trinity, the District 3 Class AA champions, who will face a 24-1 Strawberry Mansion team (the fourth-seed in District 12) in the first round. I thought winning the district was supposed to get you an easy matchup?
-- District 1 has produced four of the last five Class AAAA state champions. Bank on that becoming five of six. Defending champ Penn Wood tops the Eastern side of the bracket, while powerhouse Plymouth-Whitemarsh should be a contender in the Western bracket. Both are ranked among the Top 25 teams in the nation by Maxpreps. I see these two squaring off at the Bryce Jordan Center on March 27.
-- Last but not least, here's this week's GameTimePA TV episode, in which we break down the matchups for the four boys' basketball teams left in the state playoffs.