Postseason high school basketball action continues to heat up around the nation as Texas, Georgia and North Carolina tipped off state tournament play this week.
MaxPreps examines the most challenging hardwood state tournament brackets for 2020-21. The hundreds of classifications across nearly 40 states expected to compete for state titles were narrowed down to the 10 toughest.
Factors for determining the most difficult state tournament
brackets include Top 25 teams in the field, quality of favorites,
quality of top contenders, depth and quality of the tournament field and
the overall difficulty of capturing the championship.
Illinois and New Jersey are two states that would typically make the cut. However, postseason play has been canceled for the 2020-21 season due to virus-related precautions. California and Washington are two other states not featured on this list, as neither state has begun its 2020-21 campaign.
MaxPreps toughest postseason basketball brackets
1. Texas UIL 6A
2018-19 Winner: Duncanville
It takes seven wins to outlast 128 teams in the Lone Star State's highest classification. This season one of the deepest fields in recent memory has four ranked teams headline the bracket as Waxahachie, Duncanville, Richardson and South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie) all are poised to make deep runs. Led by 1,500 point scorer CJ Noland
(Oklahoma commit), Waxahachie has a slight edge over the field entering postseason play after reeling off 13 consecutive victories since a 57-47 loss to top contender McKinney on Dec. 5. The Indians also handed defending champion Duncanville its only loss of the season.
2. Georgia AAAAAAA
2019-20 Winner: Wheeler (Marietta)
Rundown: The Peach State's highest classification is a gauntlet and the 2020-21 season is no different. Milton and Grayson (Loganville) each look to capture the crown after falling short last season. Both bowed out to defending state champion Wheeler — Milton lost in state semifinals and Grayson fell in state-title game. Wheeler dropped down a classification this season, so the bracket will see a new champion next month at Macon Coliseum. Grayson has a potential early road-block as a showdown with 2018-19 state champion McEachern awaits in the second round. Recent history shows unpredictable results are likely ahead in the state of Georgia.
3. Nebraska Class A
2019-20 Winner: Bellevue West (Bellevue)
Rundown: Not normally a hot bed for hoops, the Cornhusker State has three teams that have appeared in the MaxPreps Top 25 rankings this season. Millard North solidified the state's presence with its victory over perennial powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Mouth Wilson, Va.)
at the Heartland Hoops Classic prior to losing to No.
25 Creighton Prep (Omaha) last week. Defending champion No. 16 Bellevue West are slight favorites, bolstered by a pair of victories over Creighton Prep, while splitting the season series with Millard North.
4. Indiana Class 4A
2018-19 Winner: Carmel
The Hoosier State's highest classification is known for its packed crowds, historical high school gyms and quality basketball. While the packed crowds may not happen this season, the quality of basketball continues headlined by Homestead (Fort Wayne), which is led by dynamic duo Fletcher Loyer
(24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists) and Illinois signee Luke Goode
(20.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists). Lawrence North and Carmel are among the top contenders, as Lawrence North pushed Homestead to overtime in their Jan. 23 meeting and Carmel will be hungry to defend its crown.
5. Kentucky Sweet 16
2018-19 Winner: Trinity (Louisville)
Rundown: The Bluegrass State knows how to put together a state basketball
tournament. The Sweet 16 format has withstood the test of time and
enters the 104th year following a year off due to the pandemic. Remarkably, no team has won more than
six titles in the history of the event —63 different teams have
captured at least one KHSAA Sweet 16 crown. This year's field is wide open with a month play begins on March 31. Undefeated programs Ballard, Lexington Catholic and North Laurel are currently among favorites, but plenty is bound to change over the next five weeks.
6. Ohio Division I
State Represented: Ohio
2018-19 Winner: Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati)
One of the most wide-open fields, this bracket features more than a handful of teams capable of a title run. No clear favorite has risen through regular season play but Archbishop Moeller, St. Xavier, Jackson, St. Edward, Mentor, Centerville and Lincoln Gahanna are all capable of a deep run. The Buckeye State plans to crown state champions on March 21. Despite suffering four regular-season losses, Archbishop Moeller remains in a strong position to defend its state crown behind 6-foot-9 Indiana commit Logan Duncomb
7. Michigan Division I
2018-19 Winner: Lincoln (Ypsilanti)
St. Mary Prep has emerged as an early favorite as top contenders still continue to be defined in the young regular season. Huron (Ann Arbor), Grand Blanc, University of Jesuit (Detroit) and North Farmington (Farmington Hills) all could challenge the Eaglets. Defending champion Lincoln isn't expected to repeat after top-ranked junior Emoni Bates
transferred to Ypsi Prep Academy (Ypsilanti, Mich.)
, which isn't affiliated with the state association.
8. North Carolina Class 4A
2018-19 Winner: South Central (Winterville)
Rundown: A shortened regular season made seeding difficult as Apex Friendship grabbed a six-seed. Undefeated North Mecklenburg started as a three seed and looks to be the favorites after advancing to the state championship game before postseason play was cut short because of the virus. The Vikings have won 26 consecutive games dating back to last season.
9. Pennsylvania Class 6A
2018-19 Winner: Kennedy Catholic (Hermitage)
The 32-team field will be pared to seven teams this season, and no clear-cut favorite has emerged yet. Movement is likely before the March 17 tournament begins. Senior Marquette signee Stevie Mitchell
has Wilson in a strong position, but after splitting the season series with Reading, the Bulldogs will likely need to eclipse their conference rivals once again in District play to advance to the state tournament.
10. Ohio Division II
2018-19 Winner: Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood)Rundown:
Unlike Ohio's Division I, there is a clear favorite in D-II. St. Vincent-St. Mary, perhaps best known for being LeBron James' alma mater, looks to senior Ohio State commit Malaki Branham
to guide the Fighting Irish to their build on their state record ninth championships. Among top contenders Lima, Tippecanoe and Rossfield are among the Fighting Irish's most likely road-blocks for a third title since 2016-17. Buchtel is another team to watch, as five-star junior Chris Livingston
has put together a monster year averaging 31.2 points, 15.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists.