Where to buy your seat for the boys’ basketball tournament is a decision that is best made after evaluating what you like about the high school playoffs.
Are oodles of potential upsets your thing? The idea of a long shot reaching the final makes the hair on the back of your neck stand and salute?
Eastern Class A and the Augusta Civic Center are probably the place for you.
Willing to settle for a mild quarterfinal upset or two while celebrating excellence? Wanting to see a team at the top of its game run the floor in intuitive motion and dominate the show?
Western Class B in Portland or Western C and D in Augusta might be your best bet.
There’s something for everyone, of course. But if it’s high drama you seek, you probably will need to pick your spots.
Allow us to explain.
Eastern Class A
The popular sentiment is that no team has a free pass in the first round.
Hampden might be the exception, paired with an Erskine program making its first tourney noise since winning the Class B Gold Ball in 2004.
And true to this formless, unpredictable league, No. 2 Lewiston and No. 3 Mt. Blue already have lost to their respective quarterfinal opponents, Edward Little and Brunswick — this season.
Now, ticket buyers beware: After all that talk of parity, I don’t see it happening again. The Devils and Cougars are playing too well as of late.
Even the 4-5 matchup seems to favor the, um, favorite after Lawrence’s late-season leveling of Bangor. So, there it is. Chalk will reign in the bracket where everybody has warned us to write in pencil.
Stick around until the semifinals and the title game for your upsets. One team might have played just a tick beneath its potential all year long. Mt. Blue won convincingly at Lewiston and had a victory over Hampden taken away by a technical foul late in regulation.
Prediction: Third time’s a charm: Mt. Blue over Hampden by a bucket.
Western Class B
For being 18-0, Falmouth has a brutal draw. The Yachtsmen probably will have to pick off, in order, the three teams that gave them the greatest fits during the regular season: Poland, York and Yarmouth.
Spruce Mountain seems to relish having the disrespect card in its back pocket, so allow me to slide it to the top of the deck. The WMC top-to-bottom is a drastically deeper league than the MVC. But the Phoenix will find a way to ward off Wells.
York and Leavitt met in this round last year. Expect a physical battle and a similar result: The Wildcats win, not by much. Lincoln’s Cinderella story ends after a tougher-than-expected test of Yarmouth’s will.
Falmouth survives York again and Yarmouth shakes off Spruce to set up the dream final (well, somebody’s dream final, I suppose) in the WMC Invitational.
Prediction: Falmouth pulls away late to go 21-0 and make it two titles in three years.
Western Class C
The question probably isn’t who, but how much?
Your best bets for a quarterfinal upset are in the Monday afternoon bracket. Waynflete and Wiscasset played the game of the tournament a year ago, going to double overtime before the Flyers prevailed. The newly christened Wolverines recovered from a slow start and emerged as oine of the top teams in the MVC down the stretch.
Boothbay-Old Orchard Beach is a rematch of the 2011 semifinals, where the Seahawks’ quickness overcame the Seagulls’ size. Each of thiose factors is in place once again.
With all due respect to a team that eliminated Telstar to get here, Dirigo-Sacopee Valley could be the greatest mismatch in recent memory. Hall-Dale and Madison has the potential to be a fun, up-and-down contest between two clubs that know each other well.
Project the top four teams into the semifinals, where Dirigo again rolls and Boothbay maintains MVC mastery over the WMC by showing Waynflete the door.
Nobody in the draw is better equipped to give the Cougars a legitimate test than the Seahawks, third time around. But there’s only so much Boothbay can do before the dam breaks.
Prediction: Dirigo over Boothbay, by a margin that will explode from six or eight to 20-plus in the third-quarter blink of an eye.
Western Class D
Go with history.
History tells that us that Vinalhaven is the best bet for a first-round upset.
That Buckfield will shoot the lights out for a while and make Hyde earn its keep on opening day.
That Forest Hills’ tireless five finally will run out of steam in the semifinals.
That the grumbling about prep schools will begin with full force when the Phoenix fly into the final.
And that it’s somehow divinely ordained for Valley to join them.
Prediction: Hyde in a low-scoring whistlefest.