Here are the top five storylines for this week.
1. How will Mater Dei respond?
Mater Dei’s (Santa Ana, Calif.) girls’ basketball team sat atop the USA Today Super 25 for most of the season, but last Wednesday the Monarchs fell, 73-72, in overtime to Etiwanda (Calif.) in the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals.
This won’t hurt Mater Dei’s pursuit of a state title, but can the Monarchs bounce back or has the devastation of their first loss carry over into the state tournament?
Smart money’s on the former.
2. Can the Bulldogs complete the dream season?
Sometimes coaches don’t mind if their teams taste defeat, if for nothing else than to have them know what they don’t want to experience again. It’s too late for Southeast Raleigh’s (Raleigh, N.C.) girls’ basketball team to learn that lesson. The Bulldogs have been exceptional posting a 29-0 record headed into regional play this week.
But as the competition intensifies can coach Nicole Meyers’ squad rise to the occasion or will they fold under the mounting pressure?
Mark it down: The Bulldogs will win states.
3. Can Rocky Mount repeat?
Yes, Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount, N.C.) has won two of the last three boys’ basketball state titles, including last year. But any coach on any level will tell you that the only thing tougher than winning a title is repeating that feat the following season.
Can coach Michael Gainey beat the odds and lead the Gryphons back to the winner’s circle or will the bull’s-eye prove to be too big an obstacle for them to overcome?
Better start planning the back-to-back celebration.
4. Will Randle be “Lovin’ It?”
The McDonald’s All American selection committee has been following Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) forward Julius Randle’s progress since he returned from his broken foot injury two weeks ago. The committee will base its decision on whether to add Randle as its 25th member on his post-injury play/production.
In five games, Randle has averaged 28.8 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in route to leading the Lions, who no one gave a chance without Randle, to their second-straight state title. Randle, a senior who is ranked No. 2 in the Rivals150, averaged 32.5 points and 15.5 rebounds in the TAPPS 5A Final Four.
If ever there were a mere formality.
5. Will Jones make history?
Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) has never won a basketball title. Not in girls’ or boys’.
That doesn’t set well with junior point guard Tyus Jones.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in Minnesota and post a record of 25-1 making them the favorite to win the state title when the playoffs begin this week.
Can Jones, who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 60, bring Apple Valley its first hoops state title in the school’s history?
Expect the Eagles to “soar” past the competition and bring home the hardware.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY