Here’s a bit of a primer on the state basketball tournament, which begins today (Tuesday).
What: The Georgia High School Association state basketball tournament. It began in 1922 as a boys-only event and was run by the Georgia Interscholastic Athletic Association (GIAA), but the GHSA existed then and recognizes those champions. The girls joined the mix in 1945. The Georgia Interscholastic Association (GIA) held tournaments for African American schools from 1948 through 1970 during segregation.
When/where: The state tournaments for classes AAAAAA through AA begin Tuesday and Wednesday. The Class A tournaments begin Feb. 22-23. The finals are March 7-9 in Macon. Until the semifinals, the games are played on the home court of the higher-seeded teams.
What’s new: Two big changes in the state tournament this year.
- Class A is split into public and private state championships. While the draws for classes AAAAAA through AA have been posted, those for Class A will be released on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Class A draw is determined by the GHSA’s power ratings, which are to be posted Tuesday, pending appeals.
- The Gwinnett Arena no longer is a venue for the state championships. Instead, they’ll be played at the Macon Centreplex. For the first time in state history, the semifinals and finals will be held at different venues and different weeks. The semifinals, played March 1-2, will be staged at Georgia Tech (AAAAAA), Kennesaw State (AAAAA, A private), Fort Valley State (AAAA, A public), Savannah State (AAA) and Georgia College (AA).
History: Georgia Basketball Project founder and Tifton Gazette reporter Becky Taylor compiles lists each year of teams making their first appearances, those breaking droughts and those who have been to the dance but never won a game. She shared this with us today.
Making their state tournament debuts:
Hapeville Charter (boys)
Langston Hughes (girls)
Mountain View (girls)
River Ridge (boys)
Breaking droughts of 10 years-plus:
Jeff Davis (boys, 1974)
Evans (girls, 1982)
Gilmer (boys, 1991)
Harlem (boys, 2002)
Paulding County (girls, 1991)
Pike County (girls, 1982)
South Forsyth (girls, 2002)
Thomson (girls, 2002)
White County (girls, 2002)
Dawson County (girls, 2003)
Jones County (boys, 2003)
Seeking their first tournament victories:
Bleckley County (girls)
Effingham County (boys)
Gordon Central (boys)
Northwest Whitfield (boys)
Paulding County (girls)
Chapel Hill (boys & girls)
Cross Creek (girls)
New Manchester (boys)
River Ridge (girls)
South Effingham (girls)
Starr’s Mill (boys & girls)
Woodland Stockbridge (girls)
Teams to beat: The AJC.com rankings for boys teams and girls teams can be found on our site. The No. 1 boys teams are Tift County (AAAAAA), Miller Grove (AAAAA), Eagle’s Landing (AAAA), Buford (AAA), Greater Atlanta Christian (AA) and Greenforest Christian (A). The No. 1 girls teams are North Gwinnett AAAAAA), Kell (AAAAA), Columbia (AAAA), Buford (AAA), Wesleyan (AA) and Southwest Atlanta Christian (A). Also, the computer Maxwell Ratings have ranked all 849 teams in the state. Check them out, too. The computer ratings also have generated the odds of any of the 320 state qualifiers winning the state title. Some teams are about 50-50. Others are over 1 million-to-1.
Defending champions: Reclassification means that not all teams are ‘’defending’’ the titles they won last year. Some have moved to new classifications. The 2012 boys champions were Milton (AAAAA), Miller Grove (AAAA), Columbia (AAA), Laney (AA) and Whitefield Academy (A). The 2012 girls champions were McEachern (AAAAAA), Miller Grove (AAAAA), Columbia (AAA), Lovett (AA) and Wesleyan (A).
Story lines: Here’s a quick class-by-class look –
AAAAAA boys: No. 1-ranked Tift County is trying to become the first South Georgia school to win the highest classification since 1998. Tift last won in 1996. No. 2 North Cobb can win its first-ever title, but two key starters are out. No. 3 Norcross can win its fifth title in eight seasons and become the first school since Mitchell-Baker in 1989-90 to win football and boys basketball state titles in the same academic year. That’s if Buford doesn’t do it first in Class AAA.
AAAAAA girls: No. 1-ranked North Gwinnett seeks its first-ever state title. North Gwinnett has won two of three games this year vs. No. 3-ranked Norcross. Those teams have multiple Division I signees and have been nationally ranked. No. 2 Parkview is undefeated but lacks the star power of the other two. Parkview might play Norcross in the second round.
AAAAA boys: No. 1 Miller Grove seeks to become the first boys program in history to win five straight state championships.
AAAAA girls: Miller Grove’s girls give their school an excellent shot at sweeping the boys and girls titles, as they did last season. It’s happened only 14 times in state history. But Miller Grove’s Region 6 rivals Tucker, Stephenson and Southwest DeKalb also are top-five teams behind No. 1-ranked Kell of Cobb County, which has never won a state title.
AAAA boys: Columbia has won three straight titles but is ranked only No. 3 after losing to No. 2 South Atlanta for the second time last week in the Region 6 tournament. No. 1 is Eagle’s Landing, which has never won a title. Also in the mix is Marist. This is one of the toughest tournaments to call.
AAAA girls: Columbia tries to win a state championship for the third time in four seasons.
AAA boys and girls: Buford is ranked No. 1 in the boys and girls rankings. The girls have won three of the past four state titles in AA, though missed in 2012. The boys have never won. Buford could become the first school to win football and boys basketball state titles in the same academic year since 1989-90.
AA boys: Greater Atlanta Christian is ranked No. 1 and can win a state title for the third time in four seasons after missing in 2012. GAC coach Eddie Martin can win his sixth state title in eight seasons. He won three at Norcross.
AA girls: Wesleyan can tie a state record with its sixth straight girls state title. The record is held by Hart County (1989-94).
A boys: The top four teams in the Top 10 lost in their region tournaments, so it’s wide open. The favorites are (pivate) North Cobb Christian, Greenforest Christian, W.D. Mohammed, Aquihas and St. Francis and (public) Wilkinson County, Mitchell County, Seminole County, Wilcox County and Turner County.
A girls: With the move of Wesleyan to AA, small-school girl basketball has been liberated. The last non-Wesleyan Class A champ was Calvary Day in 2008, when Wesleyan was in AA. Private-school Southwest Atlanta Christian remained No. 1 in the Class A rankings this week despite a 54-49 loss to St. Francis in the final of the Region 6-A tournament. Darlington also has beaten SACA. Among the publics, Randolph-Clay is the highest-ranked at No. 3. Also watch for Towns County and Gordon Lee from the north.