1-AA setup generates confusion

By Tim Chambers

STAR Correspondent
   The District 1-AA basketball tournament can be described in two words: total confusion. Why do the boys have a different format than the girls?
   Give the girls credit. This is the way the bracket should be. The No. 1 seed plays eight, two seed plays seven, three seed plays six and four seed plays five.
   On the boys side, one and two receive byes until the semifinal round while third and fourth receives byes until the quarter-finals. Confused yet?
   The boys' format makes is much harder for a lower seed team such as Hampton or Johnson County to advance in the tournament.
   One win and you advance to the regional tournament in the girls' bracket. The bottom four teams must win two games to advance in the boys' bracket.
   Why not play the tournament at a neutral site? It's not fair for the third-place team to host the district games, nor any other team.
   Can you imagine the SEC men's tournament being held in Knoxville? Although the Vols can't win on the road, they are almost unbeatable at home.
   Central is starting to play well, and hosting the district games will be a huge advantage to the Cougars. The Unicoi Lady Devils are on a mission, and no one can seem to slow them down. The Lady Cyclones will have a much tougher time getting by the Cougars on their home floor.
   District 1-AA Forecast
   Winner: Sullivan Central
   Darkhorses: Sullivan North and Elizabethton
   To Advance: Central, Volunteer, Happy Valley and North or Elizabethton
   Winner: Unicoi
   Darkhorse: Central
   To Advance: Unicoi, Central, Elizabethton and Hampton
   District 1-A
   Unaka's brutal schedule is showing wear and tear on the Ranger boys, and many are wondering if this team has what it takes to advance in regional tournament play. Cloudland is playing with the utmost confidence at the moment and was undefeated at home this season.
   University High has vastly improved and owns a win over Cloudland while losing in overtime at Roan Mountain. Both boys' and girls' action should provide area basketball fans with much excitement, especially if the Rangers and Highlanders meet in the finals.
   Milligan College is the tournament site and this could favor both the Unaka boys and girls. The big floor will be a factor, as will speed and endurance.
   University High's boys boast three quick guards and this could be to its advantage on a big floor. The college floor seems to be a perfect fit for the Unaka Lady Rangers, who love to push the ball up and down the floor.
   The Cloudland boys are the hottest team at the present while questions surrounds the Unaka boys' team.
   Many Ranger fans thought this was the year for the Unaka boys, who are having trouble holding the lead in late games.
   To their advantage, the Rangers seem to win the games that count, and they have played only 10 home games thus far. I like Unaka when their backs are to the wall.
   District 1-A Forecast
   Winner: Toss-up, Unaka or Cloudland
   Darkhorse: University High
   To Advance: Unaka, Cloudland, University High, North Greene
   Winner: Unaka
   Darkhorse: University High
   To Advance: Unaka, Cloudland, University High, North Greene
   BenchTalk Facts:
   Did you know?
   The last appearance in the state tournament by the Cloudland boys was 1968.
   The last time for Happy Valley boys was 1974. Could this be the year for the 80-year-old Bayless?
   Unaka's Lady Rangers have never been to the state tournament. This could be about to change.
   BenchTalk Notables:
   Unaka's Rusty Chambers is shooting a blistering 87 percent from the foul line this season, hitting 132 out of 152 attempts.
   Boys Top Performance of the Week:
   Tim Whaley: 26 points and 14 rebounds vs. Unaka
   Girls Top Performance of the Week:
   Rikki Baughman: 22 points and 11 rebounds vs. Tennessee High
   Super "Star" Seven
   (Class A and AA only)
   1. Happy Valley -- co-champs Watauga Conference, "hottest team in the area."
   2. Sullivan Central -- 19 wins overall and playing at home in the district.
   3. Cloudland -- 19-6 overall with big wins over Unaka, Cosby and Daniel Boone.
   4. Volunteer -- lost to Cherokee and demolished by Central.
   5. Unaka -- champions Watauga Valley Conference.
   6. Sullivan North -- big win over South, could be the surprise in district play.
   7. Elizabethton -- Coach Hardin's best coaching job; this team plays defense.
   1. Unicoi -- Watauga Conference Champs.
   2. Unaka -- Watauga Valley Conference Champs.
   3. Elizabethton -- upset win vs. Tennessee High.
   4. Central -- took Unaka to the wire, will be tough at home in the district.
   5. Happy Valley -- talented and very dangerous.
   6. Hampton -- don't ever count out a Leslie Campbell-coached team.
   7. Cloudland -- a masterful job by coach Matt Birchfield after replacing five starters.