Round 2 of the North and South half playoffs tips off tonight, with teams gathering at host sites. Eleven sites will have NeMiss teams in the gym – East Webster’s boys are in the South, for some reason – and here’s my “expert” opinion on what to look for. I’m not sure the coffee’s kicked in yet, so bear with me.
• Class 5A, at Starkville: This one starts Friday. The host Yellowjackets probably will get more action against Provine than they did in that 17-12 thriller against Olive Branch. Provine is the defending state champion and is led by UConn commit Scottie Haralson. Frankly, I don’t know who’s going to guard him. He could have a big night.
• Class 4A, at Oxford: The biggest game of the weekend, anywhere, will be the loser-goes-home New Hope-Oxford showdown. The host Chargers won 74-68 on Dec. 15 in an intense, physical affair that did not end amicably. The Trojans are coming off a big in over Lanier, but I think a more disciplined Oxford team will come out on top.
• Class 3A, at Booneville: Aberdeen (30-3) hasn’t lost to a 3A team all season, and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. Ripley’s got the best shot – that would be a Friday semifinal matchup – but the Tigers won’t be able to match the Bulldogs’ depth and athleticism. Check this out: Aberdeen’s scoring 71.8 points per game, but only Steve Curry (14.0 ppg) is in double figures. It’s called balance.
• Class 2A, at Baldwyn: Four NeMiss teams play tonight – none against each other – and I could see all four losing. Wow, hosting a tournament for two more days without local flavor. Awk-ward.
• Class 1A, at Hickory Flat: Don’t freak out that we’re not covering this one tonight. We’ll hit them Friday and probably Saturday. Six of the eight teams are NeMiss squads, and there is no favorite. Myrtle is looking to be in fine shape, but assuming the Hawks get past Calhoun City – and that’s no guarantee – a semifinal clash with Okolona is likely. This is gonna be fun.
• Class 1A South, at East Webster: I don’t know a durn thing about any of the other teams. I just know East Oktibbeha, the defending state champ, is sitting at home.
• Class 5A, at Tupelo: Tupelo will have to win the consolation game Saturday to reach Jackson. Because the Lady Wave ain’t beating All-American LaSondra Barrett and Murrah on Friday.
• Class 4A, at Gentry: My plan is to make the long hike to Indianola on Friday to watch the Game of the Year between Gentry and Pontotoc, our No. 1-ranked team. Don’t mess around and lose tonight, girls.
• Class 3A, at Alcorn Central: This has been one of our stronger classes – Aberdeen, Alcorn Central and South Pontotoc have been in our top 10 all season – and I think all three can advance to state.
• Class 2A, at H.W. Byers: Expect a Byers-Belmont rubber match in Saturday’s final. Belmont won the regular season game, but Byers got payback in the Region 1-2A tournament. Both have good depth and balance.
• Class 1A, at Coldwater: Nobody’s got anything for Coldwater, the unbeaten, defending 2A champ. Falkner will try tonight. The other NeMiss teams, Biggersville, Houlka and Pine Grove, have not greatly impressed me this year. They all might stay home. Hope I’m wrong (I probably am).