After winter weather canceled nearly all sporting events this week, Nashville-area high school basketball teams are set to resume district and region tournaments as soon as this weekend.
Which boys teams have the best chance to win state titles in March?
Here are 10 Midstate squads – two from each classification – to watch during the TSSAA postseason (rankings based on latest Associated Press statewide poll):
Local front-runner: No. 2 Clay County (21-2)
Mr. Basketball finalist Grant Strong (31.6 points per game) and the Bulldogs have won their last 13 games since falling to Goodpasture 76-54 on Dec. 30. Clay County has become a force in Class A, qualifying for five of the last six state tournaments, but the program has never won a state title.
Not far behind: No. 3 Richland (20-1)
Daniel Nicholson (17.5 PPG), Trey Luna (15.8 PPG) and Logan Helton (15 PPG) nearly led the Raiders to a perfect regular season. Richland hasn’t been to a state tournament since 2013 and only has four overall appearances, including a runner-up trophy from 1987. Just getting to Murfreesboro would be a big step.
Local front-runner: No. 2 Upperman (20-4)
A state tournament run from Upperman would make quite the story. The Bees advanced to the 2020 tournament, only to have COVID-19 end their season as Putnam County was recovering from aviolent EF-4 tornado that killed 19 people and injured 88 others. Guard Collin Gore (18 PPG) and forward Alex Rush (15.5 PPG) form a dynamic inside-out duo.
Not far behind: No. 8 Creek Wood (21-4)
The Red Hawks may seem like a long shot, especially since their lone state tournament appearance came back in 2015. This year’s team went 14-0 in District 11-AA play and all four of its losses were to teams in higher classifications. Senior guard Raekwonn Nesbitt is a player to watch.
Local front-runner: No. 3 Siegel (22-3)
The Stars dismantled their District 7-AAA opponents by an average margin of 23 points. Seniors Matthew Schneider (19.6 PPG), Zion Swader (15.8) and Jaylan Wetzel (16.5 PPG) help Siegel score nearly 72 points per game. This could be the year the Stars break through to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, but they’ll likely have to get through No. 1 Houston or No. 2 Bearden to earn a title.
Not far behind: No. 4 Franklin (23-2)
The Admirals could have just as easily been listed as the front-runner. Franklin nearly played Siegel on Jan. 16, but the game was canceled because both teams had to make up district games. Missouri Western signee Reed Kemp (24 PPG) leads a senior-laden lineup that has reeled off 19 consecutive wins.
Local front-runner: No. 1 CPA (22-3)
After suffering three losses in December, the Lions have won 15 straight to open the calendar year. Senior Braden Zapp and junior Braeden Moore combine to score nearly 40 points per game, and CPA makes about 13 3-pointers a night as a team. The Lions won back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013, but they haven’t been back to a title game since. That could change in a few weeks.
Not far behind: No. 3 Goodpasture (22-1)
The Cougars may complicate CPA’s plans. The two teams could meet in the DII-A Middle Region tournament and again later in the postseason. Patrick “PJay” Smith Jr. (16.4 PPG) and Isaiah West (16 PPG) form one of the top backcourt duos in Tennessee. Goodpasture is seeking its first-ever state crown.
Local front-runner: No. 3 MBA (12-1)
Christian Brothers (20-0) and Knoxville Catholic (18-3) have a firm grip on the top two spots in DII-AA, but the Big Red are still in the mix. MBA started its season late, and COVID-19 and weather issues have forced several cancellations. When the Big Red have taken the court, Jackson Francis (19.3 PPG), Marcel Reed (15.5 PPG) and company have been untouchable – save for a Feb. 5 loss at Pope John Paul II.
Not far behind: No. 4 Brentwood Academy (18-3)
The Eagles own eight state championships, including four straight from 2015-18. To get back to that level, Brentwood Academy will have to overcome its late-season slump. The Eagles have lost three of their last five outings after beginning the season 15-0. Mr. Basketball finalist Trent McNair, son of Tennessee Titans legend Steve McNair, leads the way with 20.1 points and 5.8 per game.