Winning a high school basketball state championship is never an easy task, regardless of the state, classification or match-ups — the journey always provides unique challenges to each state champion along the path to the title.
Today, we examine the most challenging hardwood state tournament brackets for 2018-19. The hundreds of classifications across our 50 states were narrowed down to the 10 most difficult to win this season.
Many factors went into determining the most difficult state tournament brackets, including Xcellent 25 teams in field, quality of favorite(s), quality of top contenders, depth and quality of the tournament field and the overall difficulty of capturing the championship.
While many other state tournament brackets were considered, here are the Top 10 toughest high school boys basketball state tournament brackets for 2018-19:
1. CIF Open Division
State Represented: California
2017-18 Winner: Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth)
Rundown: The CIF Open Division is the only state tournament bracket that projects to have multiple Xcellent 25 teams in its field as No. 5 Salesian College Prep, No. 7 Sierra Canyon, No. 12 Fairfax and No. 14 Rancho Christian all will have strong shots at the daunting Open Division state championship. Defending champion Sierra Canyon appears to be co-favorites, with unbeaten Salesian, after Rancho Christian was upset by Bishop Montgomery in the first round of CIF Open Division Southern Section pool play last week. If last year is any indication, expect some wacky results as the top seeds from Nor-Cal and So-Cal were both upset in the first round a season ago.
2. GHSA Class AAAAAAA
State Represented: Georgia
2017-18 Winner: Meadowcreek (Norcross)
Rundown: Georgia's highest classification always proves unpredictable at this time of the year as No. 2 McEachern enters the state tournament as overwhelming favorites to capture its first state title. The Indians are unbeaten, having captured titles at both the City of Palms Classic and Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. McEachern's first-round opponent East Coweta, along with Norcross, defending champion Meadowcreek and Grayson appear to be the Indians biggest challengers for the AAAAAAA state title.
3. UIL Class 6A
State Represented: Texas
2017-18 Winner: Allen
Winning a state title in Texas' highest classification is always a challenge and this season is no different. A wide-open field has a deep collection of high-level talented competing in the 128-team Class 6A bracket. While only one Lone Star State team makes an appearance in this week's Xcellent 25, it wasn't due to a lack of competition, but quite the opposite. In-state opponents have been beating up on each other all season —
with talent spread out across the massive state typically known for its high school football prowess.
4. IHSA Class 4AState Represented:
2017-18 Winner: Belleville West (Belleville)
Rundown: As the regular season wraps up around the state of Illinois, two teams have come into focus as clear favorites to capture the IHSA Class 4A state title — Curie and Belleville West. Although Belleville West is reeling a bit after last week's back-to-back losses, the defending state champions have played a difficult national schedule and have proven themselves throughout their 2018-19 campaign. While Curie appears to be the odds-on favorite at this point in the season, boasting an unbeaten record against in-state opponents and recently earning a Top 10 spot in the national rankings.
5. NJSIAA Tournament of Champions
State Represented: New Jersey
2017-18 Winner: Roselle Catholic (Roselle)
Rundown: The Garden State's national prowess has taken a hit in recent years due to the absence of hall of famer Bob Hurley and his now dormant St. Anthony (Jersey City) program — along with inconsistencies at Patrick School since Kevin Boyle departed for Montverde Academy. Despite the slight decline in national attention, the New Jersey Tournament of Champions remains one of the most difficult state championship tournaments to win. This year, Ranney and defending champion Roselle Catholic appear to have an edge over the field to capture the coveted crown, with Ranney winning their regular season meeting.
State Represented: Indiana
2017-18 Winner: Warren Central (Indianapolis)
Last season, Warren Central became the first unbeaten state champions out of the state of Indiana since 2009, winning its first state title with a 54-48 victory over Carmel. Although a mid-season loss to Lawrence Central ended the Warriors 46-game winning streak, the Warriors remain favorites to repeat. This season is shaping up very similarly to last year, as Warren Central and Carmel are likely to meet in another late-round postseason showdown likely to determine the Class 4A title once again.
7. OHSAA Division I
State Represented: Ohio
2017-18 Winner: Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati)
Defending OHSAA Division I state champions Archbishop Moeller have been on an unbelievable run over the last two seasons, winners of 42 consecutive games and favorites to capture the program's fifth state title (would tie them for fourth-most titles for a program in OHSAA history). Dublin Coffman and Northview, both unbeaten in Division I, and appear to be major contenders to dethrone Archbishop Moeller. Another team in the hunt is Pickerington Central —
a one-loss team that's been featured in the Xcellent 25 this season.
8. NCHSAA Class 4A
State Represented: North Carolina
2017-18 Winner: Independence (Charlotte)
Millbrook is the only remaining unbeaten in North Carolina's
highest classification —
outscoring opponents by more than 25 points
per contest. The biggest question surrounding Millbrook is its ability
to win in a close game as only two teams have been able to
stay within five points of the talented group this season. South Central
is the other favorite to capture the 4A state title, with its lone loss coming to No. 20 Ranney (Tinton Falls, N.J.) in the John Wall Invitation
title game. South Central is led by the most imposing big man in the
state in UNC pledge Day'ron Sharpe
9. NYS Federation Tournament of Champions Class AA
State Represented: New York
2017-18 Winner: Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains)
Rundown: Long Island Lutheran enters postseason play as the favorites. Last year, the Crusaders fell short of adding to their state record seven Federation state titles after a controversial 76-72 semifinal loss to Archbishop Stepinac. In that game, Long Island Lutheran was assessed a technical foul in a tie game with just 8.3 seconds remaining because the official scorebook ruled they had zero timeouts remaining. Although it was later ruled the Crusaders did in fact have a timeout remaining and the official scorekeeper made a mistake, the result stood, providing the Crusaders with a little added motivation.
T10. KHSAA Sweet 16
State Represented: Kentucky
2017-18 Winner: Covington Catholic (Park Hills)
Rundown: The Bluegrass State knows how to put together a state basketball tournament, as its Sweet 16 format has withstood the test of time and enters the 103rd year of playt. Remarkably, no team has won more than six times in the history of the event as 63 different teams have captured at least one KHSAA Sweet 16 title. While the Sweet 16 has certainly been unpredictable in the past, Scott County enters this year's tournament as overwhelming favorites to capture a third state title in the same year their legendary head coach Billy Hicks captured his 1,000th career win.
T10. PIAA Class AAAAAA
State Represented: Pennsylvania
2017-18 Winner: Roman Catholic (Philadelphia)
Roman Catholic's chances at repeating asClass AAAAAA state champions took a big hit this week when their junior guard Lynn Greer
was ruled ineligible after Greer enrolled at Oak Hill Academy for a short time prior the basketball season, before re-enrolling in Roman Catholic in the fall. While the Cahillites are still favorites to capture the state title, three-time defending PIAA Class A state champions Kennedy Catholic enters as co-favorites after moving from Pennsylvania's smallest classification to its largest for an added challenge.