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Rich Stevens: A look at how boys basketball state tournament may shape up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The best postseason game prior to the state tournament could come in Class AA, where Westside will visit Bluefield in the Region 3 co-final.

That's what I think will transpire as the field gradually gets pared leading up to the 100th boys state high school basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.

There is nothing scientific about these predictions - by myself or our Prep Sports Editor Derek Taylor. Still, this will give you something to chew on leading up to one of the Civic Center's most attended annual events.

And it gives Derek and me something to talk about while we chase deadlines on a daily basis.

A Westside-Bluefield regional co-final would be fun and would make the Renegades the only thing standing between the Beavers and a state title. Suffice it to say, neither Wyoming East nor Westside wants to visit Bluefield.

The change in class will help former Class AAAs like Fairmont Senior, Robert C. Byrd and Bridgeport, but it won't be enough to overcome Bluefield.

The Beavers will survive the rigorous Region 3 and be awarded the No. 1 seed by beating Wyoming East in the regional co-final. Westside will be the best Class AA team not to make the state tournament.

The Beavers have plenty of state tournament experience and their only defeats this season were to Class AAA foes (Greenbrier once and Princeton three times).

Besides, their state tournament ouster last year came against Tug Valley, which dropped to Class A.

Life has been tough for Poca of late. The Dots have lost four of their last five games, but they should host the Region 4 co-final, which gives them the edge to earn a trip to the Civic Center. I expect Tolsia's state tournament experience from last year will give the Rebels an edge in Section 2 against Chapmanville, Mingo Central and Scott.

The seeds should go like this: 1. Bluefield, 2. Bridgeport, 3. North Marion, 4. Fairmont Senior, 5. Robert C. Byrd, 6. Wyoming East, 7. Tolsia, 8. Poca.

The state's smallest class suddenly became the most competitive. The additions of Tug Valley and Magnolia have amped up the attention on Class A and make Charleston Catholic's road to a repeat a rocky one at best.

The Irish will make the state tournament, but who knows what will happen after that? Defending Class AA champion Tug Valley gets a slight edge because of its disciplined play and exceptional shooting ability. The Panthers stuck it to Charleston Catholic at the Civic Center. The Irish didn't show any exotic defenses or any trickery and were without head coach Bill McClanahan. However, Tug Valley - a team that relies heavily on being able to hit jump shots with pinpoint accuracy - shot down any ideas that the Civic Center is a tough place to shoot.

The three teams to keep an eye on are Tug Valley, Magnolia and Charleston Catholic, but I'm saying Tug Valley comes out on top. Still, a Tug Valley-Magnolia championship game should be fun, huh?

Here are your seedings: 1. Tug Valley, 2 Magnolia, 3. Tucker County, 4. Charleston Catholic, 5. Parkersburg Catholic, 6. Wheeling Central, 7. Greater Beckley Christian, 8. Moorefield.

Tucker County and Charleston Catholic are interchangeable in the seedings, but as much as the regular season is considered a warmup for the postseason, taking one on the chin to Tug Valley and losing to Tucker County on Feb. 8 will be the difference between a No. 3 and No. 4 seed for the Irish.

 I didn't save the best for last, because competitively there is a big dropoff after the top three teams in the Class AAA field.

Martinsburg, Beckley and South Charleston stand alone as the best teams in Class AAA. However, the Black Eagles (20-2) have been an interesting study in unpredictability.

Their only in-state loss this season is to Beckley, but 10-win Wheeling Park had SC on the ropes in the regular-season finale. A Beckley-Martinsburg championship game is the most likely of title matchups among the three classes.

The Class AAA dark horse is Hurricane. All but one of the Redskins' five losses were by seven points or fewer, including a seven-point defeat to South Charleston.

Winfield will likely pay a visit to Huntington in the regional co-final. Winfield has won seven of its last eight games, with only an 11-point loss to South Charleston during that string of games. Remember, Beckley's last defeat before its 14-game winning streak came to Winfield on Jan. 10.

Martinsburg's only in-state loss is to Morgantown when the Mohigans were healthy. Since then, the Bulldogs have won nine of 10 games with all but two coming by 10 or more points.

Seeds in Class AAA: 1. Martinsburg, 2. Beckley, 3. South Charleston, 4. Parkersburg South, 5. Washington, 6. Hurricane, 7. University, 8. Winfield.

Beckley could finish first considering its recent run, but Martinsburg has been riding high most of the season.

It'll depend on how much stock the coaches put on the current level of a team's play or steadiness during the season.


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