It's no surprise, folks, that from Week 1 the b'ball community was on the same page calling this season "wide open!" in Class 4A/5A boys hoops.
Those who follow Ball Fever also know we don't think this is a rare time for Colorado hoops, but a result of numerous factors leading to good basketball being played on our high school courts. This season didn't seem to have that "clear favorite" in 4A or 5A and we kind of like it that way!
The buzz about Colorado hoops is legit and we can thank a growing basketball community for that from our peewee rec leagues to competitive club ball, increasing individual personal training opportunities and truly dedicated high school staffs.
The basketball product hitting the Colorado hardwood is improving and colleges of all levels are taking notice! We have even started a little tracking of the college players with our Ball Fever "College Watch" on twitter at @BallFever_CO_Tr.
Great time to be a part of Colorado hoops and lets get to the madness!
Now, on to the tournament previews:
Bill Weimar Region
Overland started the season ranked No. 1 with the high expectations of top 2016 De'Ron Davis, Air Force commit Ryan Swan and Wyoming commit Austin Conway. With three Division I players in the starting lineup the expectations were well deserved, but the T'Blazers fell early to Regis and faced some tough out-of-state foes.
That was all early and Overland has now returned to the state's No. 1 spot as overall top seed in this region. The Blazers only loss upon return to Colorado came to Eaglecrest when De'Ron didn't play. They are one-loss Centennial champs who seem to be destined for Boulder on this hot streak.
Speaking of hot, Mountain Vista ended the regular season with huge wins over rivals ThunderRidge and Regis. Many believe they are the squad with the most momentum heading into the tourney, led by two college-bound players in Brady Subart and Ray Beresford. Coach Wood's intense, attacking style of play is fun to watch and can wear opponents down.
Favorites: Clearly the 1 and 2 seeds in this region are deserving. Many thought Mountain Vista was worthy of a 1 seed themselves with how they finished the season. Overland was preseason No. 1 and has been the Fever's pick to win it all.
Watch out for: Montbello has some serious length and lights out guard Malik Hart. That can be a strong tourney package. If they can get past Mullen, a tough Fort Collins squad with size of their own in Triston Von Nieda is waiting. We like Northglenn to advance with Jacob Mountour playing strong for them but eventually Overland awaits.
Jim Baggot Region
Regis Jesuit was our No. 1-ranked squad for a very long stretch of the season after knocking off the preseason No. 1 in the very first game of the season. When playing their best the Raiders can be lethal from the outside, hitting 16 3-pointers in one game this season. Precise "drive and kick" find-the-open-man offense is their strength. Senior Bryan Staerkal finds his favorite spot in the "corner 3" and his teammates know where to find him.
Boy oh boy, was the Rangeview Raiders' No. 2 seed debated via Twitter when brackets were announced. The Fever crew has seen the good and the bad of the Raiders this season and but believe their late-season surge, including undefeated in league play, will serve them well and expect to see these boys in the Sweet 16, at least.
Favorites: Regis looks to have a nice path here but please watch that No. 4 seed Cherokee Trail. We like Rock Canyon and defending champ Denver East, as well.
Rock Canyon may have gotten the short end of the stick as the 3 seed who could draw the unlucky task of trying to take down the Angels. Always tough to put out the defending champ who has the experience of "being there."
Watch out for: Have to go with Cherokee Trail at the top of the bracket with guard Jaizec Lottie and wing/forward David Thornton. They recently took down No. 1 seed Eaglecrest and can play with anyone. They are an overall young squad, though.
We like Highlands Ranch as a scary 10 seed but we hear Ryley Stewart, their sharp-shooting senior, may not be available and that will be key.
Brian Carey and his Angels will come into each game with the swag of a defending champ. The Angels suffered a late slide but coach Rudy Carey knows how to get it done in February/March. The Fever Crew believes in strong guard play come tournament time and if Carey/Buckmelter end up facing the Rock Canyon backcourt tandem of Tyler Garcia and Mitch Lombard, that just may be must see second-round hoops!
Ray C. Ball Region
Speaking of guard play, my friends! Eaglecrest has a brother tandem of Elijah (UCCS commit) and Colbey Ross who are as good of a tandem as any. With lefty Pete Anderson on the wing and the "utility knife" Blend Advili doing it all, the Raptors have all the tools for a trip to Boulder. This team battled in and out-of-state this year and the tough schedule just might pay off.
Legend was selected as the 2 seed in the Ball Region. Early on we advised folks to R-E-L-A-X regarding the early criticism of this squad and, sure enough, they have come on late. They have a list of juniors who seem ready to break out in Jared Small, Danny Garrick, and Monroe Porter. Is now the time we stop calling them the "young" Titans and they mature into the lofty expectations?
Favorites: Eaglecrest is the clear-cut favorite in this region in our opinion. The DPL city champ George Washington has a combo of young guards with good size inside that we've seen be successful in the tourney before but we have to include last year's runnerup Fossil Ridge as a favorite, as well.
The Sabercats have Ryan Quaid inside and the experience of being in Boulder a year ago. Coach Johannsen will have this crew ready to go.
Watch out for: Arvada West has a brother tandem of their own in Thomas and Luke Neff who can literally shoot the lights out. A-West as a 5 seed could be in a possible shootout with Fossil Ridge and Braxton Bertolette who can equally stroke "3's" from downtown.
Must include Aurora Central here who have their own set of guards with newcomer Daytone Jennings inside who would love to have an Aurora battle with Eaglecrest. Note to GW: if Cherry Creek advances you have a "Centennial Tough" squad coming your way.
Chauncey Billups Region
Despite a late stumble, we predicted ThunderRidge would still earn the No. 1 seed, and deservedly so.
The Grizzlies are led by big man Zack Pirog, a Nebraska-Omaha commit who has been on a tear on the inside. Strong guard play on the perimeter and a stud junior Austin Mueller on the wing is this squads strength.
As some teams get "3-happy" we like the Grizzlies' inside/out balance. Perhaps most importantly, they stress defense. As Pirog has stated, "Good defense beats good offense."
A sneaky, sneaky 2 seed in the B-B-B-Billups region in Dakota Ridge. Some around the state don't have a lot of faith in Jeffco once tourney play starts and this team looks to quiet those claims.
Favorites: Chaparral has seniors Jake Holtzman (DU-commit) and Chris Moody who "showed out!" taking down No. 1 T-Ridge on their senior night and they won't mind seeing the Grizzlies again. Even as a 3 seed, the Wolverines are a potential favorite. T-Ridge would surely welcome another shot at Chap for "all the marbles."
Watch out for: Monarch, like Dakota Ridge, purposely haven't given us much to follow stat-wise and will be a bit of mystery 5 seed. They face a real scorer in Kolton Peterson from Lakewood they better be ready for.
Followed Andrew Romero and his Mountain Range crew all season, who may face a big step up at Chap.
Michael Sparks and Jose Arenas would love to travel to Dakota Ridge and prove city ball can earn that win for Abraham Lincoln if they can advance vs. Loveland.
Smoky Hill and Horizon will beat each other up but the winner may not have much left for T-Ridge.
The last "mystery" of this region is Donovan Oldham and his Ramprt crew coming out of Colorado Springs as a 4 seed.
Maceo Brodnax Region
Our overall top seed is unquestioned in 4A as Longmont ran the table and enters tourney play undefeated behind play maker Justinnian Jessup and crew.
Valor Christian seems to have a new player stepping up every time we check them out. Khameron Davis is averaging 14 points per game and made 21 3-point shots this year. The Eagles will rely on the versatile wing, along with Dylan McCaffrey, to lead them.
Favorites: Longomont and Valor clearly deserving 1 and 2 seeds here. This region could play out with 1 and 2 meeting.
Watch out for: Got to watch Sand Creek battle a tough 5A Montbello squad midseason this year and they have the goods with up and coming D'Shawn Shwartz going strong to the left!
Mark Randall Region
Holy Family battled overall 4A No. 1 Longmont to a classic last-second battle late in the season. Have to imagine they wouldn't mind another shot in the Final 4. Chris Helbig and Luke Golter tandem for 17 points per game for this region's top squad.
Sierra is a 20-win 2 seed from Colorado Springs that has athletes all over its roster. Two average double-figure scoring and lead point guard CJ Jennings will run the show.
Favorites: Seeds 1-4 here all have shot folks! More parity on display as Vista Peak and battle tested Pueblo South will battle in this stacked region.
Watch out for: Vista Peak has been traveling all over this season in the Colorado 7 league and may be the underrated 4A surprise. Wow — Pueblo South has 5, count them, 5 players who average double figure scoring! Again, this region is stacked.
Richard Tate Region
Golden had a special season and Ryan Thistlewood's points per game has been a large part of their surge. It seems that we will call each region "loaded" here in 4A as Golden will be tested right away on their home court.
Air Academy is the 2 seed in Tate region and David Louthan leads 3 AA scorers in double figure scoring, averaging 17 per game with Paul Ambuul not far behind at 15 per.
Favorites: Golden has to be the favorite but DPL-tested Thomas Jefferson and Pueblo Central's "scoring duo" could keep them alive in tourney play.
Watch out for: Michael Ranson and Kobi Betts have had "off the charts" scoring efforts for Pueblo Central and if they catch fire can beat anyone.
However, our top squad to watch is the Spartans of Thomas Jefferson who have been beat up and tested thoroughly by the gauntlet of city ball. They are senior led by player of year candidate Josh McNair who gets "to the rack" when he wants, along with smooth Sergio Garcia and versatile Jalen Rose who does it all.
Guy Gibbs Region
Folks, these Denver South Rebels might have the momentum of none other coming into 4A play. Their last regular season victory came against 5A defending champ Denver East on the Angels' court where Chudier Bile scored 37 points.
Bile's buddy down low is big man Chuck Gavin who is the state's picture of consistency down low, averaging a double-double vs. top competition. Point guard Devontae "Moo" Loggins makes it all work for the Rebels and it's no surprise for him to produce point/assist double-doubles himself.
Have to be honest in the fact that due to geography we haven't seen this 2 seed Pueblo West but we have certainly followed "super soph" David Simental who leads this squad into tourney play. Simental averaging 18 points per game by the way, folks.
Favorites: Must go with the size of Chuck Gavin and Chudier Bile for Denver South in this region. College-bound big men who will be hard to match up with for any 4A!
Watch out for: There's at team in D'Evelyn that has produced some tremendous defensive efforts this season and if they keep that "shut-down" mentality in post-season they can be a problem. Senior Grant Witherspoon can lead the scoring as the team unites in their defensive theme.
There's another Scott brother at Lewis-Palmer? Answer = yes! Jonathon Scott has led the Rangers this year and they know what the road to Boulder looks like ... obviously.
This season had no shortage of surprises, upsets, and crazy individual performances. Not a lot of guarantees in life but one is that this next few weeks of big-school ball will keep us glued to the results and our "wide open" theme won't let us down!
Does Overland ride their big stars and get that Gold Ball they so desire? How about Longmont? Can they run the table and finish UN-DE-FEAT-ED in 4A?
Only one way to find out: get out there and support all of our awesome schools, coaches and players!