What to watch for in the high school basketball playoffs

The NCHSAA championships tipped off Tuesday night

The NCHSAA 2019-20 basketball playoffs began on Tuesday night across the state. While the results came after press time, here’s a look at some of the items of interest across the brackets.

Top seeds: The top seeds in the four brackets are Garner (21‑5) and North Mecklenburg (26-1) in 4A, Westover (26-0, opening round 90-48 win over Northeast Guilford) and Mount Tabor (24-3, 70-61 win over Ashbrook) in 3A, South Granville (27-0, first round 74-32 rout of Croatan) and Forest Hills (26‑0, 79-49 opening win over Pisgah) in 2A and North Edgecombe (24‑2, Round 1 83-47 win over Franklin Academy) and Lincoln Charter (25‑2, 89-42 win over Highlands on Tuesday) in 1A. Every undefeated team in the state got a top seed in their class.

Slipping in: A total of 36 teams made it into the playoffs despite having a losing record. The worst record belongs to Carolina International, which got a No. 30 seed in the 1A bracket despite a 7-23 record. The Comets lost to Mountain Island Charter 83-68 on Tuesday. The highest-seeded team with a losing record is Mitchell, a No. 8 seed in 1A despite a 9-12 mark. The Mountaineers won their opening game 49-44 over Andrews.

Defending champs: All of last year’s state champions and 15 of the 16 teams that made their final fours are back to try to defend their titles.

Bishop McGuinness, who took last year’s 1A title as a No. 9 seed, was a No. 21 seed but lost its playoff opener 58-57 to Pine Lake Prep. The team McGuinness beat last year, Henderson Collegiate, is back as a No. 6 seed. The Pride routed River Mill Academy 87-23 Tuesday to improve to 22-10. Washington County (10 seed, 95-36 Round 1 win over Tarboro) and North Rowan (7 seed, 70-67 win over North Stanly) are also back from last year’s final four.

In 2A, defending champion Farmville Central is a No. 3 seed. The Jaguars won their tournament opener 92-60 over Jordan-Matthews to improve to 25-2. Runner-up Forest Hills is an undefeated top seed and won 79-49 over Pisgah in the opening round. Final Four teams East Lincoln (10 seed) won 55-38 over East Burke, but Greene Central (19 seed) lost 57-50 to Washington.

At 3A, champion Southwest Guilford was the 22nd seed at 12‑13 but was ousted 78-69 by Hickory on Tuesday. Runner-up Williams (No. 23 seed) also lost 81-64 to Southern Durham. Final four team Cox Mill (2 seed, advanced with 92-46 win over Stuart Cramer) is back, but semifinalist Eastern Alamance didn’t make the cut.

In 4A, South Central could not defend its title from the 24th seed, losing 59-54 to Lumberton. West Charlotte, who made the title game as a No. 6 a year ago, is a No. 14 seed and won its opener 53-48 over Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology. Semifinalists R.J. Reynolds (5 seed) and Millbrook (7) return.

Boys/girls double: Several teams will look to win boys’ and girls’ state championships. A total of five teams have a top-four seed for each program.

Holmes is a second seed in 1A for boys and No. 4 for girls (who won 67-37 Tuesday over North Stanly). In 2A, Farmville Central is a third seed for boys and the girls, the top seed, won their bracket opener 79-57 over Nash Central. Kinston is a second seed for boys (68-47 victory Tuesday over East Duplin) and third for girls (61-34 winners Tuesday over West Bladen).

Freedom is the best bet in 3A. The boys, who topped Asheboro 73-43 in Round 1, are a No. 3 seed, and the girls improved to 26-0 with an 81-32 win over South Iredell on Tuesday and are the No. 1 seed

In 4A, Northwest Guilford boys have a second seed, while the girls are at fourth.

Of the 32 teams with top-four seeds in their various brackets on the boys’ side, 27 are also in the girls’ playoffs. North Edgecombe, East Carteret, West Columbus, Hilbriten and South Granville are the only schools whose girls didn’t make the cut.

College prospects: Several top college prospects will be in action in the NCHSAA playoffs. Apex Friendship features 2020 three-star power forward Nick Farrar, an NC State signee. Apex Friendship is a No. 8 seed in 4A with an opening round bye.

North Mecklenburg, top-seeded in 4A, features Georgia Tech signee Tristan Maxwell, a three-star shooting guard and son of former NBA star Vernon Maxwell. North Meck also has a bye in the first round.

Two-seed Olympic, with a bye in the first round of the 4A playoffs, has VCU signee Josh Banks at shooting guard. Georgia State signee Kaleb Scott, a small forward, and No. 20 Holly Springs lost its first round matchup, 53-39, to Laney. Uncommitted senior small forward Silas Mason is on 3A Ben L. Smith, which holds a No. 9 seed and won its opener73-44 over Alexander Central.

Rutgers commit Dean Reiber plays power forward for No. 3 Northwest Guilford.

Among the top juniors in the brackets is Leesville Road’s Carter Whitt. The four-star point guard is the top prospect in the state for the class of 2021. Kinston small forward Dontrez Styles and Millbrook small forward Eric Van Der Heijden are next.

Farmville Central includes NC State class of 2021 commit Terquavion Smith at two-guard.

The playoffs began Tuesday night, and the first four rounds will continue through next week. Regionals start on March 7, and the state championships will be held on March 14.