We have made are way to at least the district semi-finals in boys basketball in Ohio. This where the games get tougher, and the cream usually rises to the top. In the state of Ohio, especially this season, there really isn’t a dominant team that one can confidently predict will cut down the nets in Columbus the third weekend in March. There are very good teams, teams that have put together a pretty impressive resume throughout the season. Any one of these three teams could win the whole ball of wax. One of these teams SHOULD take home the title as Ohio’s best team for 2015-16. There is also one “sleeper” team that many have forgotten about, but is talented enough to win the state title. Starting with the favorites:
Huber Heights Wayne
The Warriors are the defending state champions, and haven’t missed a beat. Despite losing All-State performer Ahmad Wagner to the University of Iowa, the Warriors have put together an unbelievable season. They are undefeated at 24-0, and haven’t really been challenged. They are led by a trio of big time players. Forward Trey Landers leads the bunch from his small forward position. He will continue his college career at the University of Dayton. Point guard Rodrick Caldwell may only be 5’10”, but is a terror trying to bring the ball upcourt against. The potentially best of these three may be the “man-child”, 6’6″ sophomore L’Christian “Blue” Smith. Smith already has dozens of offers from Division I colleges for his exploits on the football field as a wide receiver. How good has Wayne been? They have won their first three tournament games by the scores of 100-24, 90-31, and 97-47. They take on Lakota East Saturday at Wright State University for a spot in the Cincinnati regional.
Potential difficulty: A Centerville regional semi-final, or a Moeller/Mason/Wilmington regional final.
Gahanna Lincoln has always been one of the power programs coming out of Columbus, and this season is no exception. They are loaded with talent. Leading the way is 6″8″ center Nick Ward. Ward has committed to play at Michigan State next season. The REAL player to watch is 6’6″freshman Jordan Mitchell. The Kevin Durant clone has already received an offer from Ohio State. They are currently ranked 6th in the state and sport a 22-2 record, with losses to two other teams that have been ranked in Newark and Pickerington Central. They have cruised through their first two games, winning both by over thirty points, 103-53 and 81-49. They shouldn’t be challenged until the regional.
Potential difficulty: A big time matchup with Columbus Northland in the regional semi-final, and potentially Westerville South in the regional final.
The Spartans have been moving along quite nicely this season, pretty much under the radar. They are the #2 ranked team in the state, and sit undefeated at 24-0. They have beaten their first two opponents in the tournament 91-42, and 70-45. They press and want the tempo as fast as possible. Scoring machine Xavier Simpson, a Michigan recruit, leads the high powered offense. He has had games of 59 and 65 points this season. They have beaten state ranked Toledo St. John’s twice this season, so they know how to beat good teams. They also own a win against perennial power Dayton Dunbar. They take on rival Toledo Whitmer in their district semi-final.
Potential difficulty: The Whitmer game won’t be easy, and a potential third meeting with St. John’s in the district final will be even harder. Throw in a possible regional final against potentially Canton McKinley/Massillon Jackson, and the Spartans will have really earned their way to Columbus.
Not a whole lot has been said about Garfield Heights this season. The Bulldogs made it all the way to the final four last season, and returned almost everyone to this year’s team. There have been some high and lows for the Bulldogs this season, but they are definitely a team that needs to be paid attention to. There is talent all over the place. Missouri recruit Willie Jackson is a double-double machine. Louisville commit Frankie Hughes is solid at both ends of the floor. The junior backcourt of Shawn Christian and Marreon Jackson are outstanding two-way guards.
Garfield will have success if they are consistent with two things: Taking care of the ball, and defending. In their loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, they didn’t take care of the ball. In their loss to Beachwood, they didn’t defend. If the Bulldogs do those two things, they will be a headache for ANYONE, including the three favorites.
Potential difficulty: Garfield should breeze through the district, but will face a stiff challenge in the regional with a possible matchup with state ranked Warren Harding.
Anything can happen in a “one and done” format, but these four teams are definitely ones to keep an eye on..