The AAA State Championship is a two-horse race, if the top two teams are placed on opposite sides of the bracket. On one side is the mighty Riverdale, the #1 team in Tennessee and in the nation, with arguably the best overall player in the state, University of Tennessee signee, McDonald's All-American, and probable Miss Basketball winner, Anastasia Hayes. Riverdale boasts a fearsome supporting cast as well, featuring the rebound, scoring, defending, and even at times coaching expertise of the "Do Everything Duo," Brinae Alexander and MTSU commit Alexis Whittington. Let's not forget the other suspects that make up the Riverdale machine: the team MVP's, the all dirty-work players, led by MTSU commit Amanda Whittington, the floor general Aislynn Hayes, old-steady Allie Mayeux, sharp-shooter Alasia Hayes, and backup point guard Jalynn Holcomb. This bunch gets the job done when it counts and is in line to be back-to-back AAA state champions if this train stays on the tracks.
Eagerly waiting for Riverdale to falter is Bradley Central out of Cleveland, TN. These two teams have been on a collision course to meet in the Glass House all year. Bradley is led by the do-everything guard, and possibly top player in the 2018 class, Rhyne Howard. Supporting Howard is perimeter player and highly versatile senior Halle Hughes, a Lee University signee. Bradley’s supporting cast is solid at every position and this team can make the plays necessary to upset Riverdale in the end.
Other AAA teams that will be coming in with hopes of winning a state championship are expected to be White Station, Memphis Central, or Germantown-Houston out of the Memphis area. All of these teams have the star power to make a lengthy tournament run. There are numerous teams from east Tennessee that have the potential to make a successful run, such as 2016 runner-up Oak Ridge, Morristown West, Jefferson County, Dobyns-Bennett, and Knoxville-Bearden. Each of these schools have great coaching and good players, key ingredients for an upset. The weakest area this year is the Nashville region. This region’s lead team is Wilson Central, who boasts a good record, but has played a very weak schedule. Some might say this is their coach’s MO to pad his win record instead of getting his team tournament-ready.
In conclusion, the AAA race will be a close one. It will be interesting to see who makes it to Murfreesboro. Nothing is certain until the brackets play out; only then will we truly see who will be playing for the AAA state title.