The underdogs have their work cut out for them in districts.
Look at the new Top 10. Only three teams have lost to a team with a losing record, most recently No. 6 Omaha Westside on Saturday. Millard South (9-11) won 52-48.
The others were No. 9 Papillion-La Vista South, 71-65 to Omaha Benson (9-14) when the Bunnies had a healthy Marcus Shakeer, and No. 8 Millard West, 64-58 at Omaha North (9-12).
Class A’s districts start Friday with the play-in games for Districts 1, 2 and 3. Semifinals are Saturday, with finals either Monday, March 1, or Tuesday, March 2.
Official seedings and pairings will be released Tuesday, but why wait? Here’s the projections:
A-1: No. 29 Columbus (1-19) at No. 28 Fremont (4-17); winner at No. 1 Bellevue West (20-2); No. 15 North Platte (9-11) at No. 14 Lincoln North Star (11-9).
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A-2: No. 30 Lincoln High (1-16) at No. 27 Norfolk (7-15); winner at No. 2 Millard North (21-2); No. 16 Grand Island (12-1) at No. 13 Gretna (11-9).
A-3: No. 31 Omaha Northwest (1-21) at No. 26 Omaha Bryan (3-16); winner at No. 3 Omaha Creighton Prep (20-2); No. 17 Elkhorn South at No. 12 Kearney (13-8).
A-4: No. 25 Omaha South (4-14) at No. 4 Lincoln Pius X (17-2); No. 18 Lincoln East (8-12) at No. 11 Lincoln Southeast (13-7).
A-5: No. 24 Omaha Burke (6-16) at No. 5 Omaha Central (19-5); No. 19 Lincoln Southwest (7-10) at No.10 Papo South (13-9).
A-6: No. 23 Bellevue East (6-13) at No. 6 Papillion-La Vista (15-6); No. 20 Millard South (9-11) at No. 9 Lincoln Northeast (14-6).
A-7: No. 22 Omaha Benson (9-14) at No. 7 Omaha Westside (16-6), No. 21 Omaha North (9-12) at No. 8 Millard West (15-5).
Until Millard South’s win over Westside, Millard North was going to be the No. 1 seed for districts. It’s possible that the Mustangs will retake the No. 1 seed for state, honestly the more crucial seeding.
Barring a team winning twice on the road to be an unexpected state qualifier, Millard North will be the No. 1 seed if it plays Norfolk (7-15) and not Lincoln High (1-15), then wins its district or loses its district and Bellevue West also gets upset. In that latter scenario, Bellevue West stays home.
As the top seven seeds begin setting up district schedules, it says here the athletic directors should agree on a common night for the finals. Class A is the only class left with a wild-card qualifier in the state tournament. There shouldn’t be any temptation to “block” a team from qualifying.
Let’s say Bellevue West has a Monday final and loses. Millard North has a Tuesday final. The Mustangs shouldn’t be put in that position of losing legitimately and have a cloud of suspicion traveling with them to Lincoln. It could happen down the line, too.
A wild-card berth is never a sure thing. When I was in high school, all district finals were played Friday night. Benson lost to Omaha South but was going to qualify if undefeated Lincoln East — the defending state champ led by Alex Stivrins (that’s NU volleyball player Lauren Stivrins’ dad) — won its district. It lost to Lincoln Southeast. East went to state on the wild card, and promptly lost to Omaha Northwest. Which went on to a most unexpected state title.
A-7, which includes the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, always is one to watch. This time it’s Westside and Millard West. In the regular season, Westside drilled the Wildcats 59-38. A-5 could be a third meeting between Central and Papio South. Central needed overtime in the last meeting.
Class B: Either unranked Alliance (17-5) or No. 2 Norris will be the top seed for Saturday’s district final regardless of what happens in subdistricts Monday and Tuesday. The eight subdistrict winners and the next eight in the point standings play in the winner-take-all district finals.
Other classes: In each, the 12 subdistrict winners and the next four in the point standings play in the winner-take-all district finals. Projected to be playing in district finals regardless of their subdistrict fate include Auburn in C-1, Yutan, Grand Island Central Catholic and Bridgeport in C-2, Burwell, Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family and North Platte St. Patrick’s in D-1 and Lincoln Parkview, O’Neill St. Mary’s, Humphrey St. Francis and Mullen in D-2.
The price for the first all-day pass offered by the NSAA for the girls and boys state tournaments, necessitated by the move to single-game sessions due to pandemic protocols, will be $25 plus a handling fee. Single-game tickets remain $7 for adults and $5 for students, plus fees. All must be purchased online, where they will be available after the tournament brackets are set.