Video: Grayson basketball highlightsSee the No. 2-ranked team in action.
Winning a high school basketball championship is always a challenge regardless of the state, classification or matchups — the journey always provides unique challenges to each title suitor along the way.
we examine the most challenging hardwood state tournament brackets for
2019-20. The hundreds of classifications across 50 states were
narrowed down to the 10 toughest this season.
factors went into determining the most difficult state tournament
brackets, including Top 25 teams in the field, quality of favorite(s),
quality of top contenders, depth and quality of the tournament field and
the overall difficulty of capturing the championship.
1. CIF Open Division
State Represented: California
2018-19 Winner: Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth)
Rundown: Although at this point it is hard to predict who will advance to the CIF Open Division state tournament, a talented group of teams sit among the top contenders to capture the coveted Open Division state title. In the preseason, No. 20 Sierra Canyon appeared to be overwhelming favorites to run through in-state competition and capture its third consecutive state title. Entering postseason play, things are wide open as No. 6 Centennial, Rancho Christian and Sheldon are some top opponents standing in the Trailblazers' way of a three-peat.
2. GHSA Class AAAAAAA
State Represented: Georgia
2018-19 Winner: McEachern (Powder Springs)
The highest classification in the state of Georgia is loaded with talented teams, headlined by No. 2 Grayson, which enters as overwhelming favorites to capture its first state title in program history. The Rams likely will have to get past Norcross in the state quarterfinals before a potential rematch in the semifinals with defending state champions McEachern. Although McEachern lost the first meeting by 26 points, reigning MaxPreps National Player of the Year Sharife Cooper
may have some magic left to end his senior campaign.
3. UIL Class 6A
State Represented: Texas
2018-19 Winner: Duncanville
Rundown: It takes seven grueling wins to outlast 128 teams in the Lone Star State's highest classification and capture the crown. No. 16 Duncanville, the defending champions, have pieced together another strong season and ride a 20-game winning streak wrapping up regular-season play. Their top challenger appears to be No. 25 Westlake, also riding a 20-game winning streak. Despite having two nationally ranked teams as favorites, this year's field appears to be wide open as the regular season wraps culminates.
4. IHSA Class 4A
State Represented: Illinois
2018-19 Winner: Belleville West (Belleville)
Rundown: The IHSA Class 4A state tournament is wide open this season, with plenty of quality teams spread throughout the state. Favorites appear to be No. 24 Curie and Bloom, while teams like Collinsville, Thornton and Evanston have also had strong seasons. Whitney Young and Simeon have the talent to compete for the state title as well, but have struggled to put together consistent stretches throughout the year. Although it's difficult to predict who will come out of the pack, whichever team survives surely bolster its national resume.
5. NJSIAA Tournament of Champions
State Represented: New Jersey
2018-19 Winner: Ranney (Tinton Falls)
Twenty years ago, Camden captured its first, and only, NJSIAA Tournament of Champions crown on the back of Dajuan Wagner. This year, the Panthers appear to be one of the favorites to win a second TOC crown behind elite freshman Dajuan Wagner Jr.
, who leads the team in scoring. Patrick School is the other team entering postseason play as favorites behind top-ranked junior Jonathan Kuminga
and a roster that's finally at full strength. Other top contenders include Roselle Catholic and Rutgers Prep, both of whom have been featured in the national rankings this season.
6. MHSAA Division 1
State Represented: Michigan
2018-19 Winner: Lincoln (Ypsilanti)
As postseason play approaches, the favorite to capture the MHSAA Division 1 crown remains a mystery as plenty of teams remain in contention. Although Lincoln is a strong contender to repeat as state champions behind top-ranked sophomore Emoni Bates
, the loss of key seniors leaves questions as they enter the stretch run. Clarkston and Huron have emerged as early favorites to capture the state title, while teams like Muskegon, St. Mary Prep and River Rouge are firmly in the race.
7. UIL Class 5A
State Represented: Texas
2018-19 Winner: Mansfield Timberview (Arlington)
Lancaster, riding a 27-game winning streak with two regular-season games remaining, has emerged as a 5A title favorite. Top contenders include unbeaten Newman Smith, Shadow Creek, Fort Bend Hightower and Port Arthur Memorial as an unpredictable 128-team field is filled with talented teams from top to bottom. Lancaster is considered as one of the best teams in the Lone Star State regardless of classification and sits just outside the Top 25 at No. 26 and in the Next Five.
8. OHSAA Division I
State Represented: Ohio
2018-19 Winner: Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati)
Rundown: Archbishop Moeller and St. Edward have separated themselves from the pack entering the final week of the regular season. The defending state champions have put together an impressive resume that includes 19 consecutive victories after falling to Division II favorites St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron) in the second game of the season. St. Edward also has one loss after falling to top contender Hilliard Bradley in December before rebounding to beat St. Vincent-St. Mary and Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) in a busy January.
9. IHSAA Class 4A
State Represented: Indiana
2018-19 Winner: Carmel
Rundown: Bloomington South is the only remaining unbeaten in Indiana's highest classification, but others such as Lawrence Central and Lawrence North enter the postseason capable of capturing the state crown. The Hoosier State is known for its basketball passion as some of the nation's biggest state tournament crowds materialize here. Look for all three favorites to make deep state tournament runs with the winner likely to make a strong case for a national ranking.
10. WIAA Class 3A
State Represented: Washington
2018-19 Winner: O'Dea (Seattle)
Rundown: Eastside Catholic and O'Dea appear to be a step ahead of the rest of the field as the regular season winds down in the Evergreen State. Both teams have spent time in the national rankings and would have an opportunity to jump back into the Top 25 with a state title run in March. The top contender will be a talented Garfield squad that has just one in-state loss — to O'Dea — while knocking off Eastside Catholic in recent weeks. Whoever emerges, this season will be more challenging than usual in Class 3A basketball.