If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past couple of years, it’s that the model, while scarily accurate, isn’t perfect. There’s upsets every year, which is what makes the tournament amazing. Plus, the model doesn’t know everything. It doesn’t factor in injuries and other, um, factors. So, just like last year, let’s pick against the model.
Favorite: Skowhegan (68%)
Skowhegan is 18-0 and they haven’t even been tested. They played the 34th toughest schedule in the state and in their worst game, they posted a Win% of 84.7% (Bangor). They were over 95% (i.e. the JVs start playing in the 3rd quarter) in 15 of their 18 games. The obvious choice is #2 Hampden, but Skowhegan crushed them in both of their meetings (see also: Lawrence, Messalonskee, and Erskine). There’s really no good answer here, so I’m going to take a shot and say Gardiner. The Tigers have won 5 of 6, including a win over Lawrence. They have 2 close loses to Messalonskee and Hampden. If they can get hot, they’ve got a shot.
Favorite: Greely (77.5%)
If you think Skowhegan’s had a good year, the defending champs played the 6th toughest schedule in the state and out-scored it by 504 points. That’s a lot. They blew out a Brunswick team over Christmas break that was missing their best player (Marley Groat) and since then, Brunswick has been on a roll, winning 12 straight, including a 11-point win over Edward Little. Oh, and they just happen to be the last team to beat Greely. The hero in that game? Marley Groat.
Favorite: Oxford Hills (59.7%)
Oxford Hills has been dominant. They beat Gorham by 12. They beat Lawrence by 26. They beat Edward Little by 18. But, they’re 0-2 against the top 10 (Greely & South Portland). They beat Bangor twice early in the year, dropping the Rams to 3-4. Since then, Bangor has gone 8-3, finishing the year with a murder’s row of Skowhegan/Hampden/Edward Little. Sure they went 1-2 in those game, but they were in all of them. They won’t get a stretch that hard in the tourney.
Favorite: South Portland (61.1%)
South Portland lost to Greely and then never looked back, rattling off 15 straight wins to finish the season. In those 15 games, they were above a 95% Win% in 12 of them. They’re the favorite for a reason. One of those games was a 12-point win against Gorham. But, you know what? I’m not picking against Mackenzie Holmes. Give me Gorham.
Favorite: Hermon (32.1%)
Hermon won 12 straight to open the season in dominant fashion before losing 2 straight (to Old Town & MDI) and then regaining their footing against the easier stretch of their schedule. Even then, they struggled against a Presque Isle team they drew in the first round. If they can get past Presque Isle, they’ll likely have to play a 19-0 Waterville team. The thing is, Waterville played the easiest schedule in Class B and while their %Perfect of 81.1% is very good, it isn’t as good as Hermon’s 83.4%. Over on the other side of the bracket, Old Town has been on a roll. In addition to that win over Hermon, they nearly beat the 1 seed MDI. They’ve played MDI tough twice already. Can they finally get there in the semifinals? Let’s say yes.
Favorite: Gray-New Gloucester (45.7%)
It’s not hard to make a case for GNG. They have 2 losses, both to Greely. They didn’t have a lot of trouble against the rest of their schedule, blowing out everyone except for NYA and Cape Elizabeth. The top 2 competitors have different issues. Freeport, led by Caroline Smith, does a lot of things well, but they’ve been beaten badly by GNG in both matchups. Oak Hill went 16-2, with one loss being a close-ish one to Boothbay, but they largely played a Class C schedule, and not a particularly tough one. Yarmouth also lost to Greely (who hasn’t?), but they’ve won 5 straight. They get a Wells team in the first round they’ve beaten handily twice this season. They were within 10 of GNG mid-season. The model thinks they’ve gotten better since then. I’m taking a chance on them.
This might be the most wide-open bracket I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s not even a consensus on who the favorite is. The team with the best chance to win the region isn’t the one with the best chance to win it all, and I’m not even sure how that’s possible. Nine(!) teams in this region are ranked between 19th and 48th in the Power Rankings and the one who played the toughest schedule (Penquis Valley) didn’t make it to Bangor. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and go with Stearns. They’ve won 13 out of 14, including a road win over Penobscot Valley. And because why not?
Favorite: Boothbay (39.3%)
You can make a case that Boothbay is one of the best teams in the state. They’re 11th in the Power Rankings and they’ve been a solid top-20 team for as long as the Power Rankings have been a thing. They’ve hit 100% in Win% in 13 games. Their %Perfect of 96.68% is 2nd in the state (Skowhegan). They’re also 2nd against the Top 50 and the Top 25 (Skowhegan, both times). It’s also starting to shape up as their year, since C South is the early upset special bracket. But to truly be the upset special bracket, the 1 has to lose, so let’s assume that happens. Monmouth has a new coach this year, which is always an unknown in the tourney. Winthrop is the 2 seed with only 2 loses, but one of them was a blowout loss to Boothbay. But NYA, flush with players from the Now Closed School Formerly Known As McAuley, played one of the toughest schedules in Class C and posted the 2nd best scoring differential in the region, even after losing to Greely by a lot. But they won’t have to play Greely here.
Favorite: Southern Aroostook (40.6%)
The defending champs coasted to a 16-2 record against a mix of C and D opponents, even avenging both of their loses later in the season. They’ve won 7 straight. Deer Isle-Stonington has actually been the more dominant team (%Perfect of 89.6% vs 82.8%), but they’ve played the easiest schedule in the state and I’m not picking the team that played the easiest schedule in the state. Not happening. That leaves me with Schenck and Woodland. Woodland finished the season with a solid win against #29 Madawaska and that’s good enough for me.
Favorite: Rangeley Lakes (39.4%)
Rangeley Lakes outscored their opponents by 501 points this season, easily the best in the region. But they played the 2nd easiest schedule in the state. Temple outscored their opponents by 250 against the 3rd easiest schedule. But Greenville? Greenville was +254 against the hardest schedule in D South. They have 2 very bad losses, but they beat #19 Penobscot Valley and nearly knocked off #48 Penquis Valley. That’ll do.