Mick McCabe, The Detroit Free Press
The calendar still says February, but the Madness cannot be stopped by a mere calendar.
The boys basketball tournament begins Monday even if we won’t reach March until the district finals.
Because of the availability of the Breslin Center, the boys will begin state tournament play a week before the girls and finish at The Breslin in East Lansing on March 16.
If that isn’t confusing enough, for the first time since the tournament began in 1926 there will not be a Class A state champ ... or a Class B,C or D champ for that matter.
To align with the way most sports classify schools, we will have champions in four equal divisions.
If none of this makes sense to you, we’re here to help. Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the tournament and, at no increase in price, we’ve even included the eventual four state champions.
Defending champ: Clarkston. The Wolves, under the direction of someone not named Dan Fife for the first time in 36 years, lost virtually everyone who scored a meaningful point last season, but are on a 17-game winning streak. Tim Wasilk, who played and coached under the legendary Fife, has done a remarkable job considering the backcourt of Keegan Wasilk and Fletcher Loyer are freshmen and 7-foot junior Matt Nicholson barely played last season.
Toughest district: At Belleville. This district is absolutely ridiculous. With Ypsilanti, Belleville, Saline, Ann Arbor Huron, Ypsilanti Lincoln and Ann Arbor Pioneer there isn’t a bad team here. And with 6-9 Lincoln freshman Emoni Bates this will also be the best-attended and most entertaining district in any division.
Emoni Bates, who is a freshman this season, is already gaining national attention. Joey Delgado, Special to Detroit Free Press
Final four: Saginaw, Detroit Cass Tech, U-D Jesuit, Muskegon.
Darkhorse: Ann Arbor Pioneer. The Pioneers will have to survive the district at Belleville and could then get on a roll. They have a good inside/out game with 6-7 Kasean Pryor and point guard Drew Louder. To get to the final four it would have to get by a quality team like Cass Tech, but that isn’t out of the question.
State champ: U-D Jesuit. After a two-year absence, the Cubs take home another title. Daniel Friday and Julian Dozier have carried much of the load this season, and with 6-10 Jalen Thomas back in the lineup, the Cubs show why they were our No. 1-ranked team in the preseason.
Defending champ: Benton Harbor. After beating River Rouge recently, the Tigers look ready to repeat, but this will be every bit as difficult to win as last season’s title. A year ago, Carlos Johnson, only a sophomore, led the Tigers with 24 points and 10 rebounds. More importantly, he hit a 3-point shot with 10 seconds left in overtime to secure the win.
Toughest district: Mt. Morris. The opening game between Chesaning and Ovid-Elsie features two good teams and the semifinal between Corunna and Mt. Morris is even better. Flint Powers is the only team in this district that has struggled, but the Chargers played a much tougher schedule than any of the others.
Final four: Bridgeport, Benton Harbor, River Rouge, New Haven.
Darkhorse: Williamston. The Hornets played River Rouge in the regional finals in 2016 and ’17 and split the two games. With Sean Cobb, Jay Wallace, Mason Docks and Joseph Hahnenberg averaging in double figures, it is impossible to key the defense to stopping one player.
State champ: New Haven. Like Benton Harbor’s Johnson, New Haven’s Romeo Weems won a state title as a sophomore. A poor shooting game in the semis cost the Rockets a chance to repeat. Weems is better this season and so are his teammates.
Defending champ: Detroit Edison. At 10-10 last season, Edison became only the fourth team in tournament history to enter the tournament at .500 or below and win the title. Of course, last season’s team also won the Detroit Public School League title so the championship was not a shocker. This season’s team did not compete in the PSL, but still played a rugged schedule.
Toughest district: Iron River West Iron County. Right off the bat you’ve got a whopper of a battle of unbeaten Iron Mountain playing 19-1 Ironwood. The winner of the Norway-L’Anse game will have to play a good Calumet team, and the final could be Iron Mountain and Calumet, which would be an excellent matchup.
Final four: Maple City Glen Lake, Flint Beecher, Hanover-Horton, Pewamo-Westphalia.
Darkhorse: Hanover-Horton. For a lot of fans, the Comets are an afterthought here. But you need to realize their only loss came to Toledo St. Francis. Even better, last week it fell behind Division 1 Ypsilanti Lincoln 15-0 and came back to win. Don’t take the Comets lightly.
State champ: Flint Beecher. The Bucs are looking to win their sixth title in eight seasons, and don’t bet against them. They are led by a pair of exceptional juniors — Jalen Terry and Earnest Sanders. Terry may be the best player in his clas,s and Sanders may be the best athlete — holding Division I offers in football and basketball. And the duo has plenty of help.
Defending champ: Southfield Christian. The Eagles won their fourth state title in seven years last season. The star of the show was junior Harlond Beverly, who scored his team’s first 11 points on the way to a 23-point, eight-steals, seven-rebound, six-block performance.
Toughest district: Frankfort. Buckley should get past Forest area in the opener, but Bear Lake will be a tough test in the semifinal. Frankfort and Onekema will battle in the first round and the winner will face a solid Brethren team.
Final four: Brimley, Southfield Christian, Big Rapids Crossroads, Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian.
Darkhorse: Marcellus Howardsville Christian. Having the No. 3 scorer in state history — 6-4 Dylan Jergens — on your side helps. He had 47 points the other night, which is more than all of the students in the school, to top the 2,500-point mark for his career. He can carry this team a long way.
State champ: Southfield Christian: With Beverly returning, this was a forgone conclusion. But Beverly didn’t return, and neither did Caleb Hunter. Beverly took off for Montverde Academy in Florida, and Hunter transferred to U-D Jesuit. But the rugged nonconference schedule remained the same, preparing the Eagles for another long tournament run.
Mick McCabe is a former longtime columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.