It feels like March around The List HQ, where we’ve been poring over brackets for the past couple of days.
It’s definitely our favorite time of year. The favorites. The Cinderellas. The upsets. We’re pretty sure concentrating on work will be impossible while waiting for the state tournament to start Tuesday night.
In the meantime, though, we figure obsessing over the brackets is the best way to kill time. As we do, the arguments begin over who’s going to win it all and who has the easiest and toughest paths to get there.
Out of that comes this Top 10 list, featuring the five hardest and five easiest draws for state championship hopefuls.
5. Class AAAAAA No. 4 Shiloh
If the Generals can survive a first-round matchup with Walton – a team that recently won at No. 7 Wheeler for the first time in 27 years – they’ll likely get to see No. 6 Peachtree Ridge in the second round, followed by either Wheeler or No. 10 Chattahoochee in the quarters.
4. Class AAAAAA No. 1 Tift County
Tift may be hoping first-round opponent McEachern is still tired from its five-overtime loss to Campbell on Saturday, because the Blue Devils would probably then see No. 8 Westlake, who has won 13 of 14, and No. 2 North Cobb, who has just two in-state losses this season.
3. Class AAAAA New Manchester
The Jaguars started the season 6-6, but they’ve now won 10 in a row, including the Region 5-AAAAA Tournament. Their reward is to kick off with 17-win Appalachee, followed by likely matchups with No. 4 Stephenson and either No. 5 Mays or No. 8 Gainesville.
2. Class AA No. 7 Bleckley County
After winning 21 in a row, the Royals had climbed to No. 3 in the state before a 2-point loss to Taylor County in the Region 4 final put them in a very tough spot. If they can get past Thomasville in the first round, No. 3 Westside-Augusta would likely be next, followed by a trip to No. 2 Vidalia, who has only lost once this season.
1. Class AAAAA Sprayberry
What do the Yellow Jackets get for making a surprising run to win the Region 7 title? An opening date with No. 6 Tucker, then likely dates with No. 7 Alpharetta and No. 1 Miller Grove, the four-time defending state champs. Sprayberry’s first three likely potential state tournament opponents have a combined 65 wins.
5. Class AAA No. 2 Savannah
To open the playoffs, Savannah will see Chapel Hill, which amazingly started the season 0-13 and 3-18 but still found its way into the postseason. If they win, they’ll face off with either 19-win Henry County or Dodge County, who has hovered around .500 much of the season. Next up would be a likely matchup with No. 9 Washington County, if they can survive their side of the quadrant.
4. Class AAAA No. 2 South Atlanta
Perhaps the Bracket Gods are giving South Atlanta a gift for making it through Region 6, perhaps the toughest in AAAA. In the first round, the Hornets will host a below-.500 Northgate team. After that, they’ll see 17-win Fayette County or a Stephens County team that’s struggled to stay above .500 all season. If they make the quarters, some pretty good teams would await, including Northwest Whitfield, recent top-10 team Alexander and Region 6 rival Grady, who beat them earlier this season.
3. Class AA No. 5 Jordan
The only ranked team in its quadrant, Jordan is sitting beautifully as the only 20-win team there. In the opening round, the Red Jackets will face 14-13 Washington-Wilkes, followed by either 17-win Dade County or sub-.500 Wesleyan. After that, they’d see 19-win Jefferson or one of three other teams that’s either under .500 or just a few games above.
2. Class AAAAAA No. 5 Hillgrove
Hillgrove may have failed in its bid to win the Region 4 title, but the Hawks’ reward came after that. They’re the only ranked team in their quadrant of the bracket, and no other team is really all that close. They’ll see 16-win Valdosta, then Tri-Cities or Luella. If they get through those two, they could see a solid opponent in Campbell or Brunswick, who play in the most intriguing first-round matchup of this quadrant.
1. Class AAAAA No. 3 Northside-Columbus
The Patriots won a small Region 1, and now they get to enjoy a comfy run to the state semifinals. First-round opponent Northgate is only 9-16. In the second round, they’d see either 17-win Jones County or 11-16 Richmond Hill. After that, they’d get their toughest opponent of the quadrant if 20-8 Jenkins could make it there.
Now we want to know what you think. Which teams do you think have the easiest and toughest draws in the bracket? Who’s going to get it done in the end? Could the Charlotte Bobcats win in the tough brackets? Let us know either here in the comments or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.