Seed: Region 1, No. 1.
Opponent: Region 3, No. 3, Evans, Augusta (21-8)
When/Where: 6 p.m. at Bainbridge
What: second round state playoffs (Sweet 16)
Game analysis: Bainbridge's players are dropping fast. The Bearcats lost point guard DaVario Thomas last week to a wrist injury and its other guard, Rohan Gaines, rolled his ankle in Bainbridge's opening round win against Ola last week. However, two players stepped off the bench to make a difference. Dontavious Marshall, a freshman who was just added to the roster after Thomas was hurt, hit three 3s, and James Hudson replaced Gaines and scored 10 points against Ola. Can the Bearcats win their 19th in a row without their two starting guards? A lot will depend on the bench. Expect another big game from Devon Baulkmon (20 points and 9.2 rebounds a game this year), who is Marshall's older brother and leader of this team. Bainbridge doesn't know if Gaines can go or not, but if the Bearcats win, they expect him to be back by Friday in the Elite 8 round. Evans had to go into OT to beat Wayne County in the opener.
X-Factor: The Bainbridge gym. It's magnificent, and it holds some magic for the Bearcats, who have never lost in their new gym and haven't lost a home game in two years. Evans faces a long drive from Augusta (more than five hours) and it won't be easy to win on the road in Bainbridge, where everyone is pulling even more for the boys, ranked fifth in the state, now that the state-ranked girls were upset in the tournament.
Coach says: Bainbridge's Ricky McCullough, "Playing at home is a big plus, but we're going to need the bench. That's why you have 15 players. It's going to be a challenge. We're just getting injuries at the wrong time.''
If win: Advance to the Elite 8 at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Fort Valley State against the winner of Region 4, No. 1 Stockbridge and Region 3, No. 2 Glenn Hills.
Seed: Region 1, No. 1.
Opponent: Region 2, No. 2 Kendrick (20-8)
When/Where: 6 p.m. at Westover
What: Second round of the state playoffs (Sweet 16).
Game analysis: Timothy Dixon. Write that name down, because that's all they've been hearing about at Westover. Dixon, a 6-foot-9 post player, can dominate a game, but if you want to beat Westover you better be ready to run -- and run all night. The Patriots, ranked sixth in the state, weren't happy after seeing a 23-point lead evaporate to an 8-point win over Woodland in the opening round last week, so look for these kids to bounce back and bounce back hard. Shevren Keaton and Anthony Ball have to set the torrid pace, just the way they did in their big wins this season, and the big guys inside -- Onochie Ochie and Chris Wheeler -- have to beat Kendrick to the ball on every loose rebound, and then beat Kendrick up and down the court. The Pats need another big game from Malcolm Sapp, and will probably get a 20-point night out of the hot-shooting junior.
X-Factor: Ochie could be the big factor. He was ready to have a monster game in the opening round, but picked up two quick fouls. Still, he took over that game in the second quarter and finished with 18 points. Look for a big night from Ochie and Wheeler, who will both step up after hearing about Dixon all week.
Coach says: Westover Dallis Smith, "He (Dixon) is a pretty good player. He's a good shot blocker and he can hit that 12-foot jumper. We're going to have to put a body on him. It's like the Michael Jackson (movie), 'This is it.' You've got to play now or go to the house. I think they know what the magnitude of these (state tournament) games mean.''
If win: Advance to Elite 8 at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Columbus State for a possible rematch from last year's state title game against Region 4, No. 1 South Atlanta, or Region 3, No. 2 Washington County.
Seed: Region 1, No. 2.
Opponent: Region 2, No. 1 LaGrange (28-0).
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. as part of doubleheader with the Monroe girls (6 p.m., also against LaGrange) Wednesday at LaGrange.
What: Second round of the playoffs (Sweet 16)
Game analysis: If Monroe had never played Westover and was still unbeaten, this would be the most talked about game in Georgia. Because the Tornadoes were ranked No. 1 in the state ahead of No. 2 LaGrange when they lost to Westover. It's still big enough, especially for Monroe, which can knock off the state's No. 1 ranked team on the road. Monroe has the size and talent to beat any AAA team in the state, so forget LaGrange's top-ranking and 28-0 record. This is a game Monroe can win. Why? The Tornadoes have the size inside with Robert Arnold, Brandon Johnson and Rontavious Gilbert, who is arguably the best big man off the bench in the state. And the Tornadoes (No. 7 in the state poll) have enough outside shooting from Brandon Blakely and Carlos Brown to make teams pay.
X-Factor: That's Mr. Arnold. It's always Arnold for Monroe. No player in Southwest Georgia has carried his team as much as Arnold, who is the biggest reason the Tornadoes stayed undefeated until the final week of the season. He simply takes over games and will do whatever he has to do to win. That includes making steals at midcourt, diving for loose balls, ripping down 12-to- 15 rebounds a game, beating teams up inside, making game-winning free throws in the final seconds, or even hitting a 3, like the one he made to help beat Terrell County on the road earlier this season. LaGrange may be undefeated, but it hasn't seen a player with more determination to win than Arnold.
If win: Advance to Elite 8 at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Columbus State against the winner of Region 1, No. 3 Dougherty-Region 3, No. 1 Liberty County.
Seed: Region 1, No. 3.
Opponent: Region 3, No. 1. Liberty County (27-1)
When/Where: 6 p.m. at Liberty County.
What: Second round of state playoffs (Sweet 16)
Game analysis: It's not fair to call Dougherty a surprise team, because despite their record, the Trojans have played everyone tough this season, and led Monroe late in the region semifinals before losing for the third time to the Tornadoes. They knocked off Crisp to earn the No. 3 seed and beat No. 2 seed Eagle's Landing in the opening round. But a win over Liberty County, which has been ranked in the state's Top 5 all year, would make the whole state take notice of the kids from Albany. Liberty County lost one game back on Jan. 23 to Washington County and avenged that loss in the Region 3 title game, 78-65 before beating Shaw 90-82 in the state tournament's opening round.
X-Factor: Arabian Williams can change any game. The 5-6 guard can have that kind of impact and if Dougherty hopes to pull off the upset, Williams needs to hit the court flying. Macarthur Gaines has come on in the stretch to be a factor, and he is also going to need to have a big game for the Trojans, who can run the floor with anyone.
If win: Move on to Elite 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Columbus State against the Monroe-LaGrange winner.