Posted On: 02/21/18 6:20 AM

To package alongside our District Previews from last week, we wanted to provide the readers with perspectives from all over the state on big picture questions. The OHSAA playoffs start this week, which means plenty of game coverage, more predictions, and a flood of opinions.

Yesterday, we started by answering questions about players, today is teams/matchups, and State Championship predictions come on tomorrow.

Let us know what you think by commenting or replying on Twitter!

Besides a State Championship game, what’s the potential can’t-miss matchup of the tourney?

Dusty Wright: Back last summer I remember watching a Trotwood Madison-Hughes scrimmage at Hughes thinking to myself, “Boy I sure hope I get to see them play in March.” I hope the Basketball Gods were listening. I’ve been a good boy right?
Tony Peters: Garfield Heights-Pickerington North in a potential State Semifinal matchup in Division I. I would love to see Alonzo Gaffney and Jerome Hunter battle it out with a trip to the state championship on the line.

Anthony Garcia: Solon and Garfield Heights in the Division I Cleveland Regional Semifinal is as good of game we’ll see before the Final Four. The pace of play Solon requires their opponents to play could exploit some weaknesses from the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Garfield Heights has versatile athletes that will tower over the undefeated Comets. Additionally, I considered Eastmoor versus Trotwood (D-II Regional Semifinal) and Beechcroft versus Wauseon (D-II Regional Final).

Which sleeper team could emerge as a final four team?

Dusty Wright: While those in the Cincy area know, the rest of the state does not understand just how good Cincinnati Hughes is. They have one of the more versatile starting fives in Southwest Ohio which includes one of the best point guards in the state in Giovanni Santiago. If they can consistently knock down shots, Big Red could be playing in Columbus championship weekend.

Tony Peters: Springfield out of Dayton. The Wildcats are a deep team with a 9 man rotation at times. A very athletic team, Springfield is the only team to defeat Wayne this season and has already seen Moeller once this year. It’ll be a tough road, but this team is the team to do it.

Anthony Garcia: I’ll throw out three teams because why not? Unioto, the no. 2 seed in the Athens 2 District, could sneak up on Fairland in a Regional Final. Their top three players are all seniors and they have a meaningful point guard advantage in Flagler signee Logan Swackhammer. Next, Cincinnati Taft. Two days after either Eastmoor Academy or Trotwood prevails in a Regional Semifinal, they’ll have to play either Taft, McNicholas, or Fenwick from the other side of the bracket. I like the Senators out of that group and they could escape with a Regional Title. Also, Africentric in Division III cannot be slept on.

Good or bad, who has been this season’s surprise team?

Dusty Wright: Woodward started the season like one of the better teams D-II teams in Cincy. After starting the season 7-1, the Bulldogs stumbled to a 6-8 finish the rest of the season. A lack of a consistent 2nd scorer behind Terry Durham has been the downfall for Coach Redden’s team all season.

Tony Peters: Defintely Butler. I don’t think anyone expected the Aviators to not only share the GWOC title, but pull off a 19 win season. Granted at times their schedule was much easier than others, they still knocked off Sidney, Versailles, and Xenia. Although I do not predict them advancing past Miamisburg in the sectional finals, this Aviator team has turned a lot of heads this season.

Anthony Garcia: Last season’s D-IV State Champions, Lutheran East, enter the postseason six games under .500. They lost Maurico Tate, Keandre Graves, and Justin Motley from that team but replaced that them with transfers David Gulley and Nehemiah Benson, along with freshman standout EJ Farmer. I’m still surprised the Falcons have struggled to fit the pieces together, considering their players seem to compliment each other as individual pieces. Regardless, they have a shot at reaching Columbus if they win the D-III Garfield Heights District.

Which team won’t make the final four but is a year away from being a State Championship contender?

Dusty Wright: I am going to go to the D-IV level and talk about Gamble Montessori. Coach Berdo Allen always plays a tough schedule and with a young roster finished 9-9. With young talented players like F Michael McCants and G Jarren Deloach a year older and wiser along with a talented cast of role players, look for the Gators to contend for Columbus in the D-IV bracket.

Tony Peters: This is such a difficult question. I’d have to say Springfield. They lose Lenny Taylor and Michael Wallace, but return plenty of firepower including Ra’Heim Moss who has clearly seen his stock rise this year. With Wayne losing their electric backcourt and Centerville losing many seniors, the Wildcats should easily be the top team in D1 and even Dayton as a whole come November.

Anthony Garcia: This one was down to Pickerington Central, Purcell Marian, and Brush for me. I’ll stick with Chet Mason’s Arcs. They’ll graduate starters Tyler Williams and Tajh Benton along with complimentary pieces like Deion Burton and Dorian Grayer. Yet, it’s the last chance for Brush to capitalize on a window where they’ll have a trio of D-I prospects (John Hugley, DJ Dial, and Andre Harris) in their lineup — all three of which have shown significant development this season. Expect St. Edward, Brush, and Garfield Heights to be the big three in Cleveland next season, with all three positioning themselves as State Championship bound.