It’s been a strange start to the season for high school basketball in the Ozarks.
Just when we think we have a handle on the pecking order of teams, a few strange results pop up in the pages of the newspaper.
Just last week, the Glendale boys again shook up the scene with a victory against Rogersville, and the Fair Grove girls suggested maybe Ash Grove will have to wait to control the Mid-Lakes Conference chase, handing the Lady Pirates their first loss.
For the sanity of the experts and fans, maybe a little clarity will come through this week as holiday tournaments get under way. Or, maybe even more chaos will ensue, causing more uncertainty as the calendar gets ready to turn.
Either way, it’ll be fun. Take this all with a grain of salt this time of year, but here’s one man’s opinion on how things will turn out:
Blue Division: It’s all about Nixa in the Blue Division.
Coach Jay Osborne’s Eagles are gunning for their third straight title in the holiday event.
Fans should expect to see a good show from Austin Ruder, Jalen Norman, and Co., but probably not many games.
Teams such as Ava, Glendale, and Crane or West Plains will give it their best shot in the first three rounds of the event.
But I suspect the awe caused by the scoring outputs and margins of victory for the Eagles will once again be the most suspense in the early-round games. You can pretty much count on the Nixa machine to reach 100 in at least one game this week.
On the other half of the bracket, Thursday’s Ozark against Strafford and Rogersville against Mount Vernon could be the first very good games of the Blue and Gold week.
I’m going with upsets in both of them and forecasting the seventh-seeded Tigers and sixth-seeded Mountaineers to pull upsets and play in the semifinal.
Mount Vernon can’t be happy with the way the season started this year, but appear to be back on track now. I’m predicting the good momentum will continue, and going with Shane Williams and the Mountaineers to take on Nixa in the final.
There, however, expect the Eagles to reassert their area dominance on Saturday, the showcase night of hoops for the holiday season.
Gold Division: The thought going into the seeding meeting a couple weeks back was Parkview or Republic would be the top seed, but it might not matter as the teams will meet in the final anyways.
But coach Trevyor Fisher’s Tigers might have a rocky road to Saturday’s final, as a semifinal game with Willard or Branson will be a tough test.
For that matter, Parkview’s likely semifinal game against Bolivar or Clever (I say Clever) won’t be easy as well.
And in a four-day event, Parkview’s lack of depth could become a problem. But I think coach Bill Brown’s Vikings, led by the humble Erik Durham, should have enough talent to get to Saturday.
There, however, I’m going to take the Tigers. They fooled everyone last year by coming in the final as afterthoughts against Dorial Green-Beckham and Hillcrest, and controlling a slow-paced final.
I’m not going to let that happen again, as I’m picking a deep and sound Republic team to repeat its Gold Division championship.
Pink and White Lady Classic: Placing the out-of-town teams as the second and third seeds in both brackets pretty much assures that both of Saturday’s finals will be a local power against an unknown — and presumably elite — team.
The best of the out-of-town bunch appears to be Little Rock (Ark.) Hall, which features a highly regarded Rutgers recruit and a future Missouri State Lady Bear.
Glendale has the unenviable task of trying to take out Hall in the Pink Division first round, but it seems like Hall should cruise to a final berth against the winner of the Ozark/West Plains semifinal game.
Ozark is set up well for tournament play, with a deep roster of experienced players. So, I expect the Tigers to hand the defending Pink and White champion Lady Zizzers its first loss in a good semifinal matchup.
Hall should be too much for Ozark, though, meaning the Lady Tigers’ will move to 0-3 on the season in tournament finals.
As for the White Division, Republic, Nixa and Marionville are the best of a solid bunch in the top half.
The Marionville/Nixa second-round game could be good, but I’m taking the Lady Eagles to sneak through.
The early reactions about Republic this year from area coaches, though, is the Lady Tigers are even better than last year’s version: The Class 4 state champions.
On the other half of the bracket, expect imports Jacksonville (Ark.) and Bishop DuPont (Ky.) to play in the semifinal.
I expect Destony Curry and the defending state winners from Kentucky to reach the final for a championship battle between champs.
Republic should give Bishop Manual a good game, but I expect the out-of-town teams to travel away from Springfield with titles.
Contact Matt Schoch at 417-836-1191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MattSchochNL.