For a month and a half, the high school basketball courts in Utah have hosted game after game of boys and girls hoops. Some featured heart-stopping finishes while others were one-sided.
Until the last week, however, all of the games had one thing in common:
They really didn’t mean anything.
“Like I told the boys, our record going into region play is 0-0,” Salem Hills head boys basketball coach Jimmy DeGraffenreid said last week. “Everything starts over.”
Some squads want to maintain the success they had in the preseason while others are looking to turn things around.
Here’s a brief look at how things are setting up for local teams as they start the games that really count:
Favorite: Pleasant Grove
The Vikings have cruised through the preseason with just a single loss (a setback to Bountiful) but tougher games are ahead. Pleasant Grove has a unique piece in 7-foot-3 center Matt Van Komen that gives the Vikings an edge.
Lone Peak won’t be easy to dethrone, however, and the Knights have some of the best guard-play in the state. Westlake, American Fork and Bingham all ended up with winning records, so the competition for the four playoff spots should be intense.
There might be no more wide-open league in the entire state. Each of the six teams in Region 8 have between three and eight wins, meaning there is no dominant squad but also no one that will be an easy win.
The Timberwolves have quite a few experienced players and that gives them the slight nod, but Springville, Skyridge, Wasatch and Provo are right there and Maple Mountain is very dangerous. Every game has the potential to be a thriller.
The Tigers took a little bit of time to round into form after football season but heading into league play, Orem appears to be clicking. The Tigers have won seven of their last eight games including starting league play with a pair of victories.
Salem Hills has kept pace with a couple of big wins of their own and the Skyhawks could push Orem for the top spot. Don’t count out Spanish Fork, Lehi and Payson either. Mountain View and Uintah will need to get on track quickly to have a shot at getting to the playoffs.
Timpview has gotten a little healthier and it has shown on the court as the Thunderbirds have the best record in Region 7 in non-league action. Corner Canyon appears to be the toughest competition for the region crown.
Maeser and ALA are already well into the Region 14 schedule in Class 3A and have struggled early, but have time to rally and battle for a playoff spot.
Rockwell has a good chance of a strong showing in Class 2A’s Region 17 while Merit Academy has a lot of improvement to make. Tintic and Telos will face plenty of challenges in Region 21 (Class 1A) but should be in the mix to make it to the tournament.
Region 4 Favorite: Westlake
Just about all of the teams in this league are probably thrilled to get a new start in region play. There were some rough times and even the Thunder, who got the most wins in the preseason, were only 9-6.
The parity, however, leaves the door open for everyone to be in the mix for both playoff berths and the league title. American Fork, Bingham, Pleasant Grove and Lone Peak will all have a say in who makes it to the tournament.
The Falcons have gotten off to a fast start with impressive wins over Maple Mountain and Provo, but there is a long ways to go.
The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles have the talent to be near the top, yet they can’t count out Wasatch. Springville and Timpanogos struggled early but have the talent to pull of an upset or two.
Favorite: Mountain View
The only reason the Bruins get the nod over Salem Hills is because Mountain View outlasted the Skyhawks in Orem on Tuesday. The reality is that both of those two teams are incredibly talented and either could win not just the league but state as well.
While those two squads have superstars and depth, they aren’t going to be alone at the top. Spanish Fork and Lehi will be right there and Payson is very dangerous as well. Orem and Uintah will have their work cut out for them to get to a playoff spot.
Timpview is figuring things out and there is no doubt the Thunderbirds have the ability to be a force in Class 5A and in Region 7. Their biggest competition will come from Corner Canyon, which has lost just once so far in 2017-18.
In Class 3A’s Region 14, ALA has gotten off to a solid start and is in the middle of the pack while Maeser is looking to improve.
In Region 17 (Class 2A), Rockwell and Merit are both near the top of the standings and should have a good shot of making the playoffs. Tintic is in a tough league in Class 1A’s Region 21 but is looking to make a push.