Posted: 7:14 pm Monday, February 13th, 2012

The Road to Lakeland: Predicting the playoffs, one class at a time 

By Jeff Greer

District tournaments are fun, but basketball season just got a bit more serious this week. It’s region playoff time.

First off, here’s the basic schedule for the next few rounds. You can click through the class-by-class brackets here.

Region tournament information:

Regional tournament quarterfinals – 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16
Regional tournament semifinals – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21
Regional tournament finals – 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25
Admission: $7 per game

And here’s the list of region quarterfinal games:

Fred Ross has his work cut out for him with a young team in a tough 8A region tournament.

Centennial at Orlando-Colonial
Spanish River at Jupiter
Dwyer at John I. Leonard

Port St. Lucie at Bradenton-Braden River
Venice at Martin County
Lake Worth at Palm Beach Lakes
Royal Palm Beach at Atlantic

Fort Lauderdale-Dillard at Jensen Beach
Suncoast at Plantation-American Heritage

Glades Central at Fort Myers-Bishop Verot
Fort Myers-Dunbar at St. Andrew’s

Pahokee at Fort Myers-Evangelical Christian
Naples-Seacrest Country Day at Benjamin
Weston-Sagemont at Summit Christian
Village Academy at Coral Springs Christian

Lake Worth Christian at Community Christian
Vero Beach-Master’s at Grandview Prep

Best matchups
I love the ones in 8A, with Spanish River and its four horsemen taking on Jupiter’s twin towers. Dwyer will have its hands full with John I. Leonard’s guards, but Leonard needs to find a contain-by-committee answer for Dwyer’s 6-foot-11 center Joel James.

Royal Palm at Atlantic is a nice game. So is Suncoast at Plantation-American Heritage.

Oh, and yes, that is Weston-Sagement, last year’s Class 2A state champ, playing at last year’s 1A state champ, Summit Christian. That should be one heckuva game.

Looking into the 8-ball
I hate predictions so much that I love them. Or something. So, I’ll take a stab at a few. I think Spanish River reaches the region final out of the four Palm Beach County 8A schools, but I don’t think we’ll see an area team in the 8A state tournament. Dwyer has the depth, Leonard has the guards and Jupiter has the frontcourt, but I think the leadership and talent mix at River puts the Sharks over the top. And if you were at the District 10-8A final on Saturday, then you’re hoping for another Leonard-River showdown.

Summit Christian will need Farad Cobb at his best to reach Lakeland again.

In 7A, Lakes should get out of the local grouping, but the Rams know the Atlantic-Royal Palm winner will be a tough out. Both teams have beaten Lakes this year. But don’t expect any of these teams to reach state: Nationally ranked Pompano Beach-Ely is in the same region. Martin County has the best shot of making states among the local 7A teams.

Suncoast and Jensen Beach have their hands full in 5A, with two very good opponents in the opening round. I’d call this group wide open. I don’t think either local team reaches the region final.

St. Andrew’s has a fantastic shot at the state tournament in 4A. Orlando Jones, Orlando-Lake Highland Prep and Tallahassee-Godby will be the favorites in this class, but they’re on the other side of the bracket. I like St. Andrew’s to get to Lakeland.

And then there’s 3A. Oh, boy. Summit Christian gets another state champ, Weston-Sagemont, in the opening round. Coral Springs Christian, which plays Village, is a state-ranked team in the same four-team pod. That won’t be any fun getting out. That Sagemont game is a bear, but at home, I’ll take the Saints. I like Summit reaching the state tournament, but falling in its repeat attempt.

Last but not least is 2A, where Grandview Prep has a great shot at returning to Lakeland. But once the Pride get there, big, bad Orlando Christian Prep should be waiting. That elusive Grandview state title will be missed again.

State champ picks
8A: Orlando-Dr. Phillips
7A: Pompano Beach-Ely
6A: Miami Norland
5A: Lake Wales
4A: Orlando-Lake Highland Prep
3A: Tampa Prep
2A: Orlando Christian Prep
1A: Chipley