Breaking Down the Brackets: Central 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 recently drawings took place around the Buckeye state. Today, we continue our look around the state in the Central District. We will break down the brackets, look at top match ups and intriguing potential games, and of course our predictions.

The Central District is comprised of four divisions (I, II, III, and IV). A year ago, Bishop Watterson brought home gold for the district. Central Ohio also scored in 2012 when Pickerington Central captured the DI state championship. The Tigers became the fourth school from Central OH to win the D1 championship this century joining Brookhaven (‘02), Newark (‘08), and Northland (‘09).

STATEWIDE BRACKETS

Division I

Division I consists of four districts with all championship games being played at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum. The district semis will be spaced out between Olentangy Liberty HS, Westerville Central HS, and Olentangy Orange HS. The winner of each district will move on to regional play at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.

All sectional play will take place on the higher seed’s home floor.

stubbs_colColumbus 2 Upper vs. Columbus 2 Lower

No. 1 Columbus Northland (17-4) versus No. 44 Whetstone with the winner playing No. 45 Hamilton Township. No. 21 Teays Valley opens up with No. 24 Hilliard Darby.

No. 8 Westerville Central (17-5) awaits the winner of No. 16 Worthington Kilbourne and No. 25 Westerville North. No. 18 New Albany elected for a bye and will get the survivor of No. 10 Delaware Hayes (19-3) and No. 22 Dublin Jerome.

We really like the dynamics of this bracket with Columbus Northland, Westerville Central, New Albany, and Delaware Hayes. This should be very competitive. A New Albany/Delaware Hayes rematch could be looming in round two. Northland has the most talent of any team in the state, but Westerville Central has the personnel to challenge. Northland’s chemistry just hasn’t been right since losing to Mentor in last year’s state semifinals, but there isn’t a better time to turn things around than tourney time.

District Favorites: Columbus Northland
Sleepers: Westerville Central, Delaware Hayes, and New Albany
Top Matchup: Delaware Hayes vs. Dublin Jerome
Top Potential Matchup: Columbus Northland vs. Westerville Central
Our Pick: Columbus Northland

Columbus 1 Upper vs. Columbus 1 Lower

No. 5 Newark (17-4) opens up with No. 43 Central Crossing as No. 37 Westland awaits. No. 20 Columbus Briggs took the bye and will play the winner of a dangerous No. 15 Reynoldsburg (12-10) and No. 28 Chillicothe.

On the bottom, No. 9 Dublin Coffman (16-5) takes on No. 33 Hilliard Bradley, while No. 40 Olentangy Orange awaits the victor of No. 7 Walnut Ridge (17-4) and No. 41 Lancaster.

Newark, Reynoldsburg, Dublin Coffman, and Walnut Ridge should make for solid district. Newark’s combo of junior Jordan Dartis and senior Teddy Metzen, Coffman’s trio of Nate Axelrod, Seth Fuller, and Luke Vargo, Reynoldsburg’s Jarius Ward, Travis Gleason, Lloyd Chatman, and Chiante Palm, and Walnut Ridge’s Dymiere Finch, Tarik Wright, and Malik Harrison makes for some talented teams.

District Favorites: Newark and Dublin Coffman
Sleepers: Reynoldsburg and Walnut Ridge
Top Matchup: Chillicothe vs. Reynoldsburg
Top Potential Matchup: Newark vs. Dublin Coffman
Our Pick: Newark

Columbus 4 Upper vs. Columbus 4 Lower

No. 2 Gahanna Lincoln (19-3), who may be playing as well as anyone in the district and is paced by Michigan State signee Javon Bess, gets No. 42 Dublin Scioto with the winner getting No. 39 Logan. No. 14 Thomas Worthington squares off with No. 27 St. Charles and No. 19 Groveport-Madison awaits.

In the bottom half of this district, No. 3 Upper Arlington (20-1) faces No. 38 Pickerington North with the survivor playing No. 30 Olentangy. No. 12 Grove City, who is led by junior Nick Bapst, received a bye and will get the victor of No. 23 Franklin Heights and No. 31 Mt. Vernon.

We would certainly welcome a Gahanna Lincoln/Upper Arlington showdown, but a team like Grove City, led by junior Nick Bapst, could play spoiler. Upper Arlington’s Kevin Vannatta is one of the toughest kids in the state.

District Favorites: Gahanna Lincoln and Upper Arlington
Sleepers: Grove City
Top Matchup: Franklin Heights vs. Mt. Vernon
Top Potential Matchup: Gahanna Lincoln vs. Upper Arlington
Our Pick: Gahanna Lincoln

Columbus 3 Upper vs. Columbus 3 Lower

No. 4 Zanesville (21-1) awaits the winner of No. 26 Tri-Valley and No. 29 Licking Heights. The Blue Devils recently beat familiar foe Tri-Valley. No. 11 Westerville South (15-5), a young and dangerous team, gets No. 35 Hilliard Davidson.

The rest of the bracket has No. 6 Pickerington Central (16-5), who will be playing without Ohio State signee Jae’Sean Tate, opens against No. 36 Columbus West and its star Charles Holland. The winner will play No. 34 Canal Winchester. The PC Tigers are (10-2) under interim head coach Eric Kruger and (3-2) without Tate, which was a one-point loss to Gahanna and a three-point setback to Newark.  On the bottom, No. 13 Olentangy Liberty (14-8) awaits the remains of No. 17 Marysville (13-9) and No. 32 Watkins Memorial.

Zanesville/Westerville South and Pickerington Central/Olentangy Liberty would make for a pair of very good district semis. Zanesville, who has just one loss on the year to Massillon Jackson, is dominated by a lineup featuring mainly football players, which is quite impressive for a DI team. Pickerington Central’s Connor Kern has been on a terror since Tate went out. The Arkansas State signee is capable of leading this team to the regional. Central junior Rodney Culver is a rising star.

District Favorites: Zanesville and Pickerington Central
Sleepers: Olentangy Liberty and Westerville South
Top Matchup: Tri-Valley vs. Licking Heights
Top Potential Matchup: Zanesville vs. Pickerington Central
Our Pick: Pickerington Central

Division II

The Central District has just two districts with one heading to the Athens Regional and the other going to the Kettering Regional. Last March, Columbus Bishop Watterson won Central Ohio its first DII state since the four-division inception starting in 1988. Columbus DeSales won the AA title in 1987.

All sectional games will be played on the higher seed’s home floor, while district semifinal action will take place at Olentangy HS for Columbus 2 District and Newark HS for the Columbus 1 District. Both district championship games will be played at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. The Columbus 1 bracket winner will head to Ohio University for regional play, and Columbus 2 will be directed to Trent Arena in Kettering.

Columbus 1 Upper vs. Columbus 1 Lower

Top seed Bishop Watterson (20-2) will await the winner of No. 13 Sparta Highland and No. 25 Linden McKinley. No. 10 Bexley will lock up with No. 16 Licking Valley (15-7). No. 7 Whitehall-Yearling (16-6) will meet No. 20 Hebron Lakewood.

No. 8 Columbus South (14-8) will start off with No. 22 Columbus DeSales with the winner getting No. 19 Buckeye Valley. No. 2 seed Columbus Brookhaven (17-4), who elected to hop in the same district as Watterson, opens up with Columbus Independence in a battle of two schools facing closure. No. 15 Jonathan Alder and No. 21 London will round out the bracket.

Watterson is limping into the tournament having undergone some key injuries to seniors Matt Lehmann and Matt Hughes. According to a source, the whole team is back and ready to go. The Eagles beat Brookhaven by three points in the regular season, but the Bearcats are confident after ending rival Northland’s long winning-streak and winning the Columbus City League Championship. Brookhaven chose to join Watterson feeling the Athens Regional was an easier path to Columbus in comparison to Kettering.

District Favorites: Bishop Watterson and Columbus Brookhaven
Sleepers: Columbus South
Top Matchup: Columbus South vs. Columbus DeSales
Top Potential Matchup: Bishop Watterson vs. Columbus Brookhaven
Our Pick: Bishop Watterson

Columbus 2 Upper vs. Columbus 2 Lower

No. 4 Johnstown-Monroe (18-4) elected for a bye and will await the survivor of No. 11 River Valley (15-4) and No. 17 Columbus Mifflin. No. 6 Bloom-Carroll (16-5) tangles with No. 24 Heath and No. 9 Columbus East (13-8) faces No. 23 Columbus Beechcroft.

In the bottom bracket, No. 3 Granville (18-3) takes on the winner of No. 12 Columbus Centennial (13-8) and No. 18 Big Walnut. No. 5 Eastmoor Academy (16-6) will get No. 27 Amanda-Clearcreek and No. 14 Columbus Marion-Franklin (11-7) will play No. 28 Utica.

This bracket has the honor of meeting some of Dayton and Cincinnati’s finest in regional play. Last year, Marion-Franklin got hot and made a run, and could do it again this season. To do so, the Red Devils will have to get by conference rival Eastmoor Academy. Teams like Granville, Bloom-Carroll, and Johnstown-Monroe are looking to make a run as well. The question remains, can those teams hold up against the athleticism of a M-F or Eastmoor? We shall see. This bracket should be fun with a lot of teams all about equal.

District Favorites: Eastmoor Academy, Marion-Franklin, Granville, and Bloom-Carroll
Sleepers: Johnstown-Monroe, Columbus East, Columbus Centennial, and River Valley
Top Matchup: Big Walnut vs. Columbus Centennial
Top Potential Matchup: Eastmoor Academy vs. Marion-Franklin
Our Pick: Marion-Franklin

Division III

Division III in the Central District also has just two districts that will be sent to two different regionals. Columbus 1 will head to the Bowling Green Regional and Columbus 2 will get to travel to Ohio University.

All sectional play will be held at the higher seed’s home gym, while the district semis will be at Delaware Hayes HS for Columbus 1 and Hilliard Davidson HS for Columbus 2. The district championship games will be held at the Columbus Fairgrounds.

The Central District has never won a Division III state championship, but teams like Hartley and Ready are looking to change that.

Columbus 1 Upper vs. Columbus 1 Lower

No. 5 Marion Pleasant (15-6) opted for a bye and will get the winner of No. 8 Cardington-Lincoln and No. 12 Mt. Gilead. No. 7 Worthington Christian (14-7) gets No. 14 Columbus International in other top half of the bracket contest.

In the bottom half of the district, No. 3 Grandview Heights (16-4) meets No. 17 Marion Elgin and No. 4 North Union (19-3) entertains No. 18 Horizon Science with the winner getting No. 19 West Jefferson.

This bracket should be interesting with what we believe to be four teams with the possibility of winning this district in North Union, Worthington Christian, Grandview Heights, and Marion Pleasant. Grandview beat Worthington Christian twice by a total of six points, and three of Grandview’s losses came by a combined eight points. North Union’s three setbacks were by five points, a point along with a nine-point defeat to Ready.

District Favorites: North Union, Worthington Christian, and Grandview Heights
Sleepers: Marion Pleasant
Top Matchup: Worthington Christian vs. Columbus International
Top Potential Matchup: Worthington Christian vs. North Union
Our Pick: North Union

Columbus 2 Upper vs. Columbus 2 Lower

No. 2 Bishop Ready (16-5) gets the bye up top and will get the winner of No. 13 Columbus Academy (10-12), a much-improved team, and No. 15 Galion Northmor. No. 6 Centerburg (14-7) meets No. 16 East Knox.

No. 1 Bishop Hartley (14-7) gets No. 20 Madison Plains and No. 10 Fredericktown locks up with No. 11 Johnstown Northridge with the remains getting Liberty Union (12-10).

Much like Division II, the top two teams are in the same district. Bishop Ready, who lost to Hartley twice in the regular season by a combined 13 points, elected to jump in the Hawks bracket electing for a tougher district in hopes of an easier regional path to Athens. This should be a two-horse race, and we would be surprised if it wasn’t. Hartley’s guard tandem of Chris Moxley and Drew Onega will make the Hawks a tough out. Ready is an experienced team that has been together at the varsity level for the better part of three years. Josh Gantz is a Division I signee (UMASS Lowell).

District Favorites: Bishop Hartley vs. Bishop Ready
Sleepers: Liberty Union
Top Matchup: Fredericktown vs. Johnstown Northridge
Top Potential Matchup: Bishop Hartley vs. Bishop Ready
Our Pick: Bishop Hartley

Division IV

Division IV in the Central District has two districts that will meet up with the duo of Southeast District squads for regional play. All sectional games will be held on the higher seed’s home floor with district semis for Columbus 2 being slated for Hilliard Bradley HS and Columbus 1 at Reynoldsburg HS- Summit Campus. The district finals will be at the Columbus Fairgrounds, and all regional action will take part at Ohio University.

Columbus 1 Upper vs. Columbus 1 Lower

No. 2 Newark Catholic (17-5) will play host to No. 19 Millersport with the winner taking on Delaware Christian. No. 6 Gahanna Christian (16-5) plays No. 11 Fisher Catholic.

No. 8 Tree of Life awaits the remains of No. 10 Grove City Christian and No. 13 Morral Ridgedale. At the bottom, sits No. 1 Harvest Prep (21-1), who gets the victor of No. 14 Powell Village Academy and No. 15 Columbus Wellington School.

Gahanna Christian, Grove City Christian, and Tree of Life could make this bracket interesting, but we would be surprised if Newark Catholic doesn’t meet Harvest Prep for a trip to the regionals. HP led by junior David Dennis Jr. and Newark Catholic paced by senior Conor Keck and sophomore shooter Max Hogue.

District Favorites: Harvest Prep and Newark Catholic
Sleepers: Gahanna Christian, Grove City Christian, and Tree of Life
Top Matchup: Gahanna Christian vs. Fisher Catholic
Top Potential Matchup: Harvest Prep vs. Newark Catholic
Our Pick: Harvest Prep

Columbus 2 Upper vs. Columbus 2 Lower

No. 4 Columbus Africentric opens tournament play with No. 21 Patriot Prep Academy with the survivor facing No. 21 Westerville Northside Christian. No. 7 Shekinah Christian (13-7) and No. 12 Granville Christian meet in the other sectional opener.

No. 3 Fairfield Christian (16-6) locks up with No. 16 Groveport-Madison Christian with the winner getting No. 18 Milford Center Fairbanks. No. 5 Berne Union (13-6) and No. 9 Danville, who made last season’s regional after upsetting Africentric, will meet up in the other sectional opener.

We expect a more focused Africentric team this tournament run after last year’s upset to Danville. The Nubians will likely have to get through last year’s state semifinalist Fairfield Christian, who is led by one of the better DIV players in Ohio, Steven Carpenter. Africentric’s Jaquan Harrison is one of the more improved players in Ohio.

District Favorites: Columbus Africentric and Fairfield Christian
Sleepers: Berne Union
Top Matchup: Berne Union vs. Danville
Top Potential Matchup: Columbus Africentric vs. Fairfield Christian
Our Pick: Columbus Africentric

 

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