Can you feel it?
It’s in the air all around you.
It’s March Madness.
Sure, the NCAA event is still six weeks away or so, but the Arkansas state high school playoffs are so close that you can reach out and touch it.
Making matters even better? All four local boys teams looks like a player to win at least a game in their respective brackets, and some have higher aspirations even than that.
Let’s dive in and see what each team’s respective resume looks like.
West Memphis Blue Devils (13-9 overall, 6-3 7A/6A-East) Resume wins: At Marion, Cabot Key losses: Pine Bluff, Earle Overall, West Memphis is about where they should be, in my opinion. They haven’t lost any games that they should have won. The Earle loss may be a headscratcher to some because they’re a Class 2A school, but the Bulldogs are very good and have beaten a lot of teams, and should beat a lot more.
Marion Patriots (11-9 overall, 6-3 7A/6A-East) Resume wins: At West Memphis, Cabot, at Cabot, At Mountain Home, Key losses: Pine Bluff, Maumelle, North Little Rock Marion’s resume depends upon how you value Cabot. The Panthers are 54 after their second loss of the year in Marion last night, but Cabot’s league losses have come against Marion (twice), at West Memphis and against Jonesboro. They’ve also swept North Little Rock.
The resumes of Marion and West Memphis are basically the same, right down to their identical conference record.
I also think that each will end up with at least the No. 2 seed in their respective state tournament, with West Memphis having a real shot to nab a top seed, and a first-round bye, if they can beat North Little Rock at home by 13 points or more.
Earle Bulldogs (22-1 overall, 16-0 district) Resume wins: West Memphis, Helena-West Helena, Little Rock Episcopal twice Key losses: El Dorado The most impressive thing about Earle’s resume wins is that they’re all against teams at least a classification higher than they are. I didn’t even post the big wins in their conference, such as Marked Tree and Buffalo Island Central twice.
A lot of people got fired up about the loss to El Dorado at the Lendel Thomas Tournament in Harrison during Christmas break, but the Wildcats are expected to make a run in the Class 6A tournament and boast six-foot-ten-inch Daniel Gafford, who’s committed to the University of Arkansas. El Dorado was just too big for Earle.
The Bulldogs are unlikely to face another player that big or that talented again, which means that they could return to the state semifinals and maybe even the state final for the first time since 2012 when the school won its last state championship.
West Memphis Christian (21-4 overall) Resume wins: Marshall Academy, Oak Hill Academy, Magnolia Heights twice Key losses: Marshall Academy twice, Oak Hill Academy Any talk about West Memphis Christian’s resume is mute at this point. The Black Knights are in the state tournament, yet their seed is still to be determined.
West Memphis Christian has reason to feel good about a run in the postseason, however. They didn’t play any weenies in the non-district slate, and they picked up some nice wins.
If the Black Knights can post another win against Oak Hill and Marshall this weekend, then West Memphis Christian will enter the state bracket with a No. 1 seed. Not a bad deal.
By Chuck Livingston