Thursday, February 26, 2009

THE BRACKET: Wheeler's Doug Lipscomb and Norcross' Jesse McMillan share their thoughts on one of the toughest playoff brackets in recent memory

McEachern. Wheeler. Norcross. Walton. All in Score Atlanta’s all-classification Top 10. All in the same quarter of the boys 5A state basketball playoff bracket.

That’s right; at least three teams in the Top 10 of the entire state—not just the Top 10 of their respective classification—won’t even make it to the semifinals of the 5A playoffs.

“It’s very tough,” admitted Wheeler head coach Doug Lipscomb. “That’s basically all you can say.”

Just how tough is that section of the draw? McEachern finished 20-0 in Region 5-AAAAA and 24-3 overall. Norcross also completed a perfect regular season in region, going 18-0 in 7-AAAAA before getting upset by Collins Hill 67-65 in the tournament final. The Blue Devils are 25-2 overall and—oh yeah—they are the three-time defending state champions.

Wheeler went 14-2 in Region 6-AAAAA and all five of the team’s other losses (20-7 overall) came against out-of-state competition. One of the region losses was an 82-81 nail-biter against…Walton, which compiled a 9-5 record in Region 6, 18-9 overall. Three of the Raiders’ losses were not only against out-of-state opponents, but also by a combined six points including two double-overtime thrillers.

Think it can’t get any more difficult? Think again. Either Walton or McEachern won’t even get out of the first round, as they will square off head-to-head on Saturday night.

If Norcross can survive Meadowcreek in its opener, the Blue Devils will meet the Walton-McEachern winner for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“It’s definitely a difficult bracket,” said Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan. “It seems like every year one part of the bracket is like this. You have to beat a good team in every round to advance.”

Is it so difficult that a new seeding system might be necessary to prevent such an uneven bracket?

“I don’t think re-seeding is necessary,” added McMillan. But he does have an idea in mind. “I think basketball should do it much like football, where a North Georgia team plays a team from South Georgia in the first round.”

For now, however, McMillan and his Blue Devils are stuck with an opening-round test against Meadowcreek, their “cross-town rivals” in McMillan’s words. Then, if Norcross continues to advance, it’s Walton or McEachern in round two and potentially Wheeler right after that.

“You have to look at like every team you’re going to play is really good,” McMillan concluded. For this quarter of the draw, that’s an understatement.

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