The first step of the AHSAA state tournaments is complete. 50% of teams in Alabama now know that they will not be able to win a state title in 2021, while the other half are just beginning the long road to Birmingham. For classes 1A-6A, the Round of 32, or “sub-regional” round begins on Monday and Tuesday of this week. For all classifications, the Sweet 16, or “regional semifinal” round will take place this weekend. Let’s take a look at the Round of 32, and the teams that I believe will advance to the Sweet 16 this weekend. Home teams denoted in bold.
Fairfield (Area 9 champion) vs Hayden (Area 12 Runner-up), 2/16; 6:30 – Fairfield upset one of the best teams in the state during the area tournament, beating a very good Pleasant Grove team 38-36 in the first round. They backed it up with a convincing 69-62 win over Wenonah to win the area title. I like Hayden in this one, but Fairfield is getting hot at the right time, so they could certainly avoid the upset.
Center Point (Area 12 champion) vs Wenonah (Area 9 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – Center Point won their two area tournament games by a combined five points. Wenonah didn’t beat John Carroll too convincingly in the area semi. Give me the Eagles in this one, but Wenonah could certainly pull off the upset.
Ramsay (Area 10 champion) vs Moody (Area 11 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – Sorry, Moody, but you don’t stand much of a chance against this Ramsay team. No disrespect to the players and coaches, but the Rams are insanely good this year. Ramsay won their area tournament games by a combined 71 points. If Ramsay doesn’t play for a blue map this year, I’ll be shocked. Ramsay wins this one by a lot.
Alexandria (Area 11 champion) vs Parker (Area 10 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – What I’m about to say may shock you. Parker made the playoffs by winning a basketball game 6-4. Yeah, you read that right. 6-4. Alexandria, on the other hand, made the playoffs by beating St. Clair County 75-37. Parker lost 79-42 in the area final against Ramsay. I don’t think Parker has what it takes to win, or else they wouldn’t have held the ball for forever against Carver. Give me Alexandria to move on to the Sweet 16.
Clay-Chalkville (Area 12 champion) vs Muscle Shoals (Area 14 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – I have really messed up. I should’ve given the Cougars and Head Coach Jeremy Monceaux more attention as of late. I had the pleasure of watching Clay-Chalkville at the Oak Mountain Invitational over Christmas Break. The Cougars beat Oak Mountain by 17 on Friday, and turned around to beat Spain Park by 17 in the title game on Saturday. Players like Isaiah Daniel and Donovan Shangase are game-changers. That Clay team could win it all this year. Muscle Shoals could get it done, but I don’t see Clay losing at home. Give me the Cougars in a close one.
Hartselle (Area 14 champion) vs Pinson Valley (Area 12 Runner-up), 2/16, 7:00 – Brody Peebles. 3,000 career points. Pinson won’t win if they can’t contain him, and nobody has in Peebles’ illustrious career. Hartselle will prove why they’re ranked #1 in 6A, and move on to the Sweet 16.
Mountain Brook (Area 9 champion) vs Jackson-Olin (Area 10 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – Mountain Brook has continued to be dominant in 2021. The Spartans haven’t lost in a very, very long time. I like the Spartans in this one, but Jackson-Olin could certainly put up a fight.
Oxford (Area 13 champion) vs Woodlawn (Area 11 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – I’ve seen both these teams in person numerous times this year. Oxford has dismantled every team they’ve played, including numerous 7A teams. Oxford is my pick to win the Northeast region and play in Birmingham in a few weeks. They start that journey with an easy win over the Colonels.
Minor (Area 10 champion) vs Homewood (Area 9 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – I don’t know much about either team, so I’m going to default to the area champion. I think Homewood could do it, but the Pats did not play well down the stretch.
Huffman (Area 11 champion) vs Springville (Area 13 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – Huffman won state last year, and could certainly do it again. The Vikings play with a lot of tempo, and I believe that will be problematic for Springville. I’m tempted to pick Springville, considering the fact that I’ve gone chalk for most games, but I really like Huffman in this one.
Calera (Area 6 champion) vs Benjamin Russell (Area 5 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – I’ve really liked Calera all year long. The Eagles can score with the best, or they can engage in a tough defensive battle. I don’t know if Calera makes it out of the region alive, but I think they’re good enough to advance to the second round.
Wetumpka (Area 5 champion) vs Pelham (Area 6 Runner-up), 2/16, 6:30 – Pelham has been heating up down the stretch. Sure, the Panthers lost to Calera the other day, but Pelham has what it takes to go south and get a big win. I think they’ll do just that, and advance to the Sweet 16, with a chance to host that game, should Spanish Fort win over McGill-Toolen on Tuesday.
I don’t love picking chalk like I did, but I truly think that those area champions are extremely good this year. Now, I mentioned that Pelham could host in the Sweet 16, so let me explain how location is determined for that round.
Normally, the Regional Semis-State Title are played a neutral sites. Due to Covid, the AHSAA has decided that only Regional Championships and the State Final Four will be hosted at neutral sites. Hosting rights in the Sweet 16 will first be awarded to whatever team had to travel in the first round. So any team that pulled off an upset would get to host, unless the corresponding game also sees a runner-up beat a champion. At that point, the team on top of the bracket would get to host.
Let me know what you think of my picks, I’d love to hear how you think this round will go down. Follow me on Twitter @gforee16, and let me hear it!
CLASS 5A Bracket: https://www.ahsaa.com/Sports/Basketball/2021-5A-Boys-Basketball-Playoff-Bracket
CLASS 6A Bracket: https://www.ahsaa.com/Sports/Basketball/2021-6A-Boys-Basketball-Playoff-Bracket
CLASS 7A Bracket: https://www.ahsaa.com/Sports/Basketball/2021-7A-Boys-Basketball-Playoff-Bracket