Bracketology: Sizing up the hoops playoffs
Some notes, thoughts and observations on the high school basketball state playoff brackets while wondering if Sundayâ€™s snowy blast will postpone any games scheduled for Monday night:
* First, some nuts and bolts. 14 boys teams and 14 girls teams from our two area conferences (the Mountain Valley 1A/2A and the Northwest 1A/2A) made the playoff field. Three teams earned No. 1 seeds in their 16-team â€śpodsâ€ť â€“ the Wilkes Central girls, Ashe County boys and Winston-Salem Prep boys. Mount Airyâ€™s girls, North Surryâ€™s girls and West Stokesâ€™ boys were No. 2 seeds.
There will be two first-round games pitting Northwest 1A/2A conference partners against each other â€“ Mount Airy will visit Winston-Salem Prep on the boys side, while East Surry will travel to Bishop McGuinness on the girls side.
The brackets feature four games featuring a Northwest 1A/2A team against a Mountain Valley 1A/2A team â€“ North Wilkes at South Stokes boys, Elkin at Mount Airy girls, Forbush at West Stokes girls and Surry Central at Wilkes Central girls.
There is one potential future conference match-up, with Carver visiting Surry Central in boys action. Those two schools have been paired together in a potential 2A conference for 2013-17. Nothing like getting acquainted a little early.
* All game times are 7 p.m. unless other arrangements have been made between the schools or there are double-headers going on at the same school.
* Two of the biggest surprises in the basketball playoff field may have been the Surry Central girls and North Surry boys. A few weeks ago, the NCHSAA announced that there would be no wildcard teams in the 2A bracket. Folks from the Northwest Conference were under the impressions that only two of the three 2A teams from its league would make it into the post-season.
Since Surry Centralâ€™s girls and North Surryâ€™s boys finished third in the regular season among the 2As and didnâ€™t win the conference, the thought was that the teamsâ€™ season was complete. But the brackets came out Saturday, and both teams found themselves included. In Surry Centralâ€™s case, they showed up in a revised bracket released a few hours after the original one didnâ€™t include them.
Apparently one qualifying team opted out of the playoffs in each case, and the Golden Eagles and Greyhounds had the best overall winning percentage among the remaining squads. Both are No. 16 seeds. Surry Centralâ€™s girls face a tough task, traveling to Wilkes Central. North Surryâ€™s boys visit Cuthbertson.
* The N.C. High School Athletic Association used an experimental system to build this yearâ€™s playoff brackets. Instead of using a bracket with predetermined match-ups based on conference finishes, the NCHSAA opted to use a similar system to what has been doing in football. Conference champions get the top overall seeds, followed by all of the No. 2 teams from each conference, then the No. 3 teams, etc.
Those teams were then seeded based on winning percentage and grouped into 16-team pods based on geography. The hope is that there would be fewer instances where two of the stateâ€™s top teams meet up in round one or two, and that the best of the best get rewarded for their seasonal efforts.
Reaction to the seeding process, which is being used in a one-year trial basis, has been mixed. A lot of coaches say they donâ€™t like not knowing in advance who they may play or whether they will even have a home game. And some are frustrated that the brackets produce conference rematches in round one.
“I wouldnâ€™t mind it if I knew I wasnâ€™t going to draw someone from my own conference,” South Stokes boys coach Jason Clark said last week while wondering if the Sauras would draw someone like East Surry or Bishop in round one. “I feel like our conference is one of the toughest ones in the state. If weâ€™ve got to play somebody in our conference it is not a state tournament to me. I want to play somebody different, someone I havenâ€™t seen.”
The biggest beef overall could be that the NCHSAA didnâ€™t use up-to-date records for seeding, disregarding what transpired during conference tournament week (except in situations where the tournament rearranged seeding from a particular conference because a lower-seeded team won the event).
This seems like a big omission by the NCHSAA. It would seem to make sense to take into account conference tournament results, giving each game in the tournament meaning. Conference tournament success could move teams up a few notches in their state playoff seeding.
* We here at YadkinValleySports.com have dreamt and wondered about a possible Wilkes Central vs. North Surry girls match-up all season. Both teams have been ranked among the stateâ€™s best at the 2A level. Both won conference regular season titles. Both played for tournament championships on Friday, though North Surry was upset by Mount Airy.
If there is to be a North Surry vs. Wilkes Central showdown, it will come in the final four since both teams are in different pods. North Surry will have to win the 2A Midwest, while Wilkes Central will have to win the 2A West to bring about an Eagles-Greyhounds showdown. If this doesnâ€™t happen, can we still have a meeting between the teams? It would be a blockbuster for sure.
* Like Wilkes Centralâ€™s girls, Mount Airy seems to be on top of its game right now. The Granite Bears (22-5) have won 11 straight games since falling to North Surry in mid-January. Theyâ€™ve beaten reigning 1A state champion Bishop McGuinness three times, including twice recently in a five-day stretch.
Mount Airy will see Bishop for a fourth time if both teams win their openers. Bishop faces East Surry in its first game, with the victor playing the Mount Airy-Elkin winner.
Bears coach Howard Mayor wasnâ€™t too surprised at a pairing that has a rematch with Bishop looming so quickly. He did the math last week and figured the Bears and Villains would likely be grouped in the same four-team bracket to start the playoffs. Turns out he was correct.
That four-team mini-bracket of Elkin-Mount Airy-Bishop-East Surry will guarantee that at least one local conference team will be playing Friday night. But it also means that three local conference teams will be done after Wednesday.
* An NCPreps.com message board poster posed this question over the weekend: Can four teams from the Northwest 1A/2A win state championships? While that would be an amazing feat, there wouldnâ€™t have to be too many upsets to pull it off. Winston-Salem Prep is a No. 1 seed in the 1A boys bracket. Mount Airyâ€™s girls, North Surryâ€™s girls and West Stokes boys are all No. 2 seeds.
* Who from our area could be considered darkhorse teams? Keep an eye on Surry Centralâ€™s boys, who played West Stokes to the wire in last weekâ€™s conference tournament before running out of gas. South Stokes is an athletic team that could get on a run in the 1A boys bracket.
Starmount finished third in the MVAC but was just a few buckets away from winning the league or at least tying for the top spot. The Rams are a No. 9 seed but could be dangerous against No. 1 Cuthbertson if they get through round one.
The Forbush girls have had their moments during the back half of the season where they have looked like one of the better teams in their conference. Any girls team from Wilkes County should not be taken lightly. East Wilkes, especially, has made a habit of playing at least three rounds into the1A girls bracket lately.
* The Ashe County boys are the No. 1 seed in the 2A west bracket. They are in a tough sectional though, with either Shelby or Pisgah awaiting in round two if they win their opener.
* Upset alert. Donâ€™t be surprised if you see the East Surry boys (No. 11 seed in the 1A Midwest), Bishop McGuinness boys (13 seed in the 1A Midwest) or West Stokes girls (6 seed in the 2A Midwest) get on a roll this week. These are solid teams from a great conference that may have been champions in other leagues.
* If games donâ€™t get played Monday night because of weather concerns, the state likely will mandate they get played Tuesday if at all possible because round two games are slated for Wednesday night. Be sure to check YadkinValleySports.com and our Facebook page for the latest schedule updates.