The 35th annual Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions features one of its most robust fields to date — as five of the eight participants were featured in this week's Top 25 rankings.
An event that has grown into the premiere tournament of the second half of the high school basketball season will produce a wide-open field with three teams set to begin the tournament unbeaten. Both semifinal matchups should be doozies with CBS Sports Network set to air both on Friday night.
Also known for its massive draw, Missouri State's JQH Arena capacity will be put to the test with an attendance of 10,689 last year on championship Saturday. JQH Arena's seating capacity is estimated at 11,000, making for a fun atmosphere for elite basketball beginning on Thursday.
No. 2 McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)
headlines the loaded event after an impressive 14-0 start to the season. The Indians look to prove they are deserving of the top spot in the national rankings again with another tournament championship this season, opening with a first round match-up against fellow unbeaten Springfield Catholic (Springfield, Mo.)
Breaking Down the Field
No. 2 McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)
Enters as favorites, but
are sure to be challenged with three games in three days as their lack of depth will be put to the ultimate test over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Assuming the Indians advance past their difficult first-round matchup against their undefeated local opponent, a challenging semifinal contest against the winner of Belleville West and Shadow Mountain could turn out to be the game of the tournament.
Set to face its stiffest test of the season against the high-octane offensive attack of Shadow Mountain. The Maroons will rely on their star E.J. Liddell
to carry them against the Matadors, who lack a true post presence. However, guard play will be crucial for this group to make a run and pick up a few quality wins in Springfield.
The Matadors undoubtedly have the most difficult path to a title as they will need back-to-back victories against unbeaten foes just to reach the championship game. An event title for Shadow Mountain would mean all but clinching their GEICO Nationals bid — while making a strong case for a top five national ranking.
Appear to have all the firepower necessary to make a run to the tournament championship game behind a balanced lineup that features four players averaging double figures. The Buffaloes have a strong opportunity to bolster their national resume — facing Rainier Beach (Seattle) in their first round game.
This event will be crucial for the Vikings survival in the Top 25 as their only out-of-state game of the season was a 79-63 loss to Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.). A strong showing would pay major dividends for the Evergreen State power moving forward, with an opening-round win over Sunrise Christian being the major first step.
This group has battled through a daunting national schedule and lost a couple heart-breakers along the way. The three-time defending state champions will rely heavily on dominant frontcourt led by the top ranked overall senior in the nation, Memphis pledge James Wiseman
. The Mustangs open with a first round game against a struggling Parkview in a contest where they're heavy favorites.
Springfield Catholic (Springfield, Mo.)
The local unbeaten will take on their first out-of-state opponent this season when they face the second ranked team in the nation. The Fighting Irish will look to pull off the biggest upset of the high school basketball season behind a balanced attack led by three seniors averaging double digits on the season.
The Vikings were devastated by the injury bug last month, losing Missouri State pledge Tyem Freeman for the season with a torn ACL. Since losing their senior leader, Parkview has gone just 4-3 and struggled to replace Freeman's 26.1 points per game which led the team.
10 Players to Watch:
(6-2, Sr., G) Shadow Mountain — Committed to Arizona State
(6-7, Sr., F) Belleville West — Committed to Ohio State
6-6, Sr., W) McEachern — Committed to Auburn
(6-3, Sr., G) Sunrise Christian Academy — Committed to UCLA