Breaking Down the Brackets: East District predictions, sleepers, potential match ups and favorites

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One of the best days of the year is Selection Sunday for the OHSAA Boy’s Basketball State Tournament, and this past weekend drawings took place around the Buckeye state. Today, we start our look around the state in the East District. We will break down the brackets, look at top match ups and intriguing potential games, and of course our predictions.

The East District is comprised of three divisions (II, III, and IV) and two Division I teams (Zanesville and New Philadelphia). The unbeaten Blue Devils captured the fourth seed in the Central District and New Philadelphia will take its 15th seed to the Northeast District.

STATEWIDE BRACKETS

Division II

DII will once again get two teams to regional play and a guaranteed team to the regional final with the pair of East District winners squaring off in the regional semis. The teams at the Zanesville and Ohio University Eastern Sectionals will each play a super sectional meaning all sectional and district games will be at the same site. All teams in the entire district were seeded and had their choice of site. The rest of the district got good news back in the summer when New Philadelphia found out it would be moving to the DI. The Quakers returned their entire squad from a team that lost at the buzzer to Vincent Warren in regional finals a season ago.

stubbs_colZanesville Upper vs. Zanesville Lower Lower

No. 2 seed John Glenn will open with Minerva, while No. 6 East Liverpool awaits the winner of Indian Creek and Carrollton. In the bottom, No. 5 West Holmes, who is arguably the best team in the district, will face Buckeye Local. No. 4 Claymont gets the winner of Cambridge and Richmond Edison.

A possible John Glen/East Liverpool district semifinal could be very interesting. The Little Muskies have been solid all year and currently tied for 1st place in the Muskingum Valley League. Liverpool has lost three times to Steubenville, but could be very pesky led by senior Hayden Cunningham. Claymont and West Holmes would likely be the other district semifinal.

It would be interesting to see a John Glenn/West Holmes match up in the district final. The Little Muskies have only given up 50 or more points just three times this season and West Holmes features one of the best scorers in the district in senior guard Brady Arnold (West Liberty).

District Favorites: John Glenn, Claymont, and West Holmes.
Sleepers: Carrollton and Cambridge.
Top Match Up: Indian Creek vs. Carrollton
Top Potential Match Up: John Glenn vs. West Holmes
Our Pick: John Glenn

OUE Upper vs. OUE Lower

The OUE Upper bracket features the district’s No. 1 seed in Dover and the Tornadoes will take on Morgan in the opener. Maysville will await the winner of Meadowbrook and Indian Valley in the other sectional contest. In the bottom half, Philo locks up with Beaver Local and the PAC 7’s Tuscarawas Valley gets the victor of No. 3 seed Steubenville and River View.

Dover is Dover, but don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a great Tornado outfit. Dover’s three losses are to Zanesville (x2) and Columbus DeSales, who also beat 2nd seed John Glenn. This isn’t Dover’s best team, but the Tornadoes have still found a way to win 17 games, which says a lot about the program and the kids. Don’t sleep on Indian Valley in top half of this bracket. The Braves are coming on as of late and the trio of Brady Byers, Shawn Mills, and Dalton Bolon could be dangerous.

Steubenville appears to be the class of the bottom half of this bracket, but keep an eye on Philo and Tuscarawas Valley, both teams play in pretty good conferences. Big Red has just a trio of setback on the year (Mooney, Ursuline, and Wheeling Park, WV). A victory over undefeated Union Local on Saturday in the OVAC 4A Championship Game could send Big Red into the tournament on a serious high note.

District Favorites: Dover and Steubenville
Sleepers: Indian Valley, Philo, and Tuscarawas Valley
Top Match Up: Philo vs. Beaver Local
Top Potential Match Up: Dover vs. Steubenville
Our Pick: Steubenville

Division III

As always, Division III in the East District will get one team to the regional in Athens. However, this year, all 16 teams were seeded and allowed to play in either bracket (Meadowbrook HS or Claymont HS). Six of the eight regulars at Meadowbrook elected to head back to Byesville for some familiarity or perhaps they were trying to avoid undefeated Union Local for as long as possible. Four teams will advance to district play, which will take place at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville.

Meadowbrook Upper Upper Bracket

The four teams vying for a sectional championship in this bracket will be No. 2 seed Fort Frye, West Muskingum, Harrison Central, and Barnesville. We would be surprised if Fort Frye wasn’t playing Harrison Central for a trip to the district. The Cadets (18-3) have dropped two decisions to an excellent Vincent Warren club and a one-point defeat to Buckeye Trail. Harrison Central has been up-and-down, but the Huskies play excellent defense, which allows them to stay in games. If the Cadets were to advance to the district final and meet Union Local, Fort Frye has taken out an undefeated Buckeye 8 team before (Bellaire ‘06). The last time Fort Frye met Union Local was in (2003) when the Cadets held UL to just 29 points and put an end to the careers of Justin Schafer and Anthony Scarnecchia.

Claymont Upper Bracket

No. 6 seed St. Clairsville, who has been in Division II the past two seasons, will face Ridgewood and No. 4 Garaway will dance with Shenandoah. St. Clairsville and Garaway always seem to meet in the postseason when the Red Devils are in DIII. The Red Devils have dropped both tournament games to Garaway (‘08 & ‘11), but since the last loss to the Pirates the Belmont County seat has advanced to the state tournament (‘12) and regional semifinals (‘13). Make no mistake about it, this isn’t those St. Clairsville teams. Garaway is a smidge over .500 and St. Clairsville is right at .500, which could make for a great match up of two young teams.

Claymont Lower Bracket

Top seed Union Local will look to get past a two-win Coshocton club, while Bellaire and Sandy Valley battle in the other contest. The Jets are looking to remain unbeaten when they meet a very good Steubenville team on Saturday for the OVAC 4A Championship, but UL may have to do it without its floor general sophomore Kaleb McDiffit, who is nursing a knee injury. The Jets hope to advance past the ECOL’s Coshocton Redskins before a possible third contest with Bellaire or a date with surging Sandy Valley. UL only plays seven kids, but that select few have excellent chemistry. On most nights, the Jets (20-0) have been better at almost every position against everyone on the schedule.

Meadowbrook Lower Bracket

No. 3 Monroe Central will meet 7th seed Martins Ferry in what should be a fantastic opener, while Buckeye Trail gets Newcomerstown in the nightcap. Monroe/Ferry could be interesting for a couple reasons. The Purple Riders jumped on the Seminoles with other spots open on the bracket, which should add some extra fuel to the fire. Second, both teams are hard to figure out, play great one night and so-so another. Robert “Big Red” Vargo could be an issue for the Ferry’s opponents with his size and ability to score in the paint. The question remains, how do the Rider’s guards hold up? Trail and Newcomerstown is another intriguing match up. Trail has knocked off Fort Frye and Newcomerstown beat Garaway with both wins coming early in the year.

District Favorites: Union Local, Fort Frye, Garaway, and Martins Ferry.
Sleepers: St. Clairsville, Harrison Central, and Monroe Central.
Top Match Up: Bellaire vs. Sandy Valley
Top Potential Match Up: Fort Frye vs. Union Local
Our Pick: Union Local

Division IV

The East District’s smallest division will yet again be sending a single team to the Canton Regional, but this year the playing field may be slightly more leveled with Cleveland VASJ catapulting to DIII. The East District went through a long dry spell of not winning a state championship before Berlin Hiland broke through in 2011 & 2012 winning the district’s first gold since Zanesville in 1995. The Hawks were very young a season ago, but still found a way to reach the district championship game before losing in overtime to a senior-laden Hannibal River team. Hiland returned nearly everyone from that team and are once again flying high. The district is broken down into two sectionals (New Philadelphia HS & Union Local HS) with the four sectional winners meeting at Meadowbrook HS in Byesville for district play

New Philadelphia Upper Bracket

No. 5 Tuscarawas CC will get after it with Conotton Valley, while rivals Bridgeport and Shadyside meet in the nightcap. Tusky CC should advance, but the other game is a toss up. Bridgeport beat the Tigers in the season’s opener (77-73), but that was ages ago. The Bulldogs have been roughed up the last two times out (Steubenville CC & Wellsville), which could go one of two ways heading into tournament play. Shadyside is up-and-down. The Tigers will compete with the good teams on the schedule, and then get blown out by a team of lesser quality, which is definitely a sign of a young team.

New Philadelphia Lower Bracket

Top seed Berlin Hiland gets Bellaire St. John and Frontier will battle Toronto. The Hawks only have two defeats on the year to DI Elyria and DII Brookhaven, both by eight points. We would be surprised if this sectional is competitive. Coach Mark Schlabach is one of the best in the business come tournament time advancing to the state tournament five times as a head coach (2 Loudonville/3 Hiland).

Union Local Upper Bracket

No. 3 Malvern locks up with Beallsville and No. 4 Caldwell entertains Hannibal River. Malvern and Caldwell could be a solid sectional final, but we give a slight edge to the Hornets. Junior big man Mitch Loomis of Malvern will be a tough guard for the teams in this sectional.

Union Local Lower Bracket

No. 2 Steubenville CC will play Strasburg with the winner getting Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans. Steubenville CC is primed for a tournament run led by a solid group of seniors that are use to winning.

District Favorites: Hiland and Steubenville CC.
Sleepers: Tuscarawas CC, Malvern, and Caldwell.
Top Match Up: Shadyside vs. Bridgeport
Top Potential Match Up: Hiland vs. Steubenville CC
Our Pick: Hiland

 

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