By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A total of 11 boys basketball teams head into the MHSAA Tournament today with perfect records.
But there are plenty of others expected to make strong pushes toward a trip to East Lansing in a little more than two weeks.
Below is a look at four teams from each class that look good to be in the hunt. Follow all of the scores and brackets in real time at MHSAA.com, and click for a glance at every team with three or fewer losses heading into the postseason.
Canton (20-0) – The Chiefs have improved from 15 to 16 to now 20 wins over the last three seasons, and after repeating as Kensington Lakes Activities Association South champions went on to win the league’s overall title with an overtime victory over Walled Lake Western. Canton also put up an incredible 35-point win in early January over Grosse Pointe South, which finished 17-3.
Detroit U-D Jesuit (20-0) – The Cubs might be the favorites after making the Class A Semifinals last season and losing to eventual champion Detroit Western International. Led by Mr. Basketball finalist guard Cassius Winston, U-D Jesuit has beaten an impressive slate including Class C contenders Flint Beecher and Detroit Allen Academy and last week Detroit East English by 16 points.
East Lansing (19-0) – A young Trojans team will have to be careful in a District featuring tough familiar opponents. But led by sophomore Brandon Johns, arguably the best in his class in the state, East Lansing hasn’t had a ton of trouble yet, with only five wins by fewer than 10 points (although that includes two in overtime).
Macomb Dakota (20-0) – The Cougars did go 21-3 before falling in the Regional Final last season, but haven’t been considered this strong of a contender arguably ever. They avenged that postseason loss on Dec. 15 by downing Clarkston by 11, and nonleague wins against Lansing Everett and Saginaw Arthur Hill also provided valuable experience against unfamiliar but solid opponents.
Lansing Catholic (18-1) – A game against East Lansing last week that would have been telling was canceled because of bad weather, but the Cougars have shown a great combination of post strength and perimeter play while facing most of the rest of the Lansing area’s best. The loss came to rival Williamston by three after Lansing Catholic won the first meeting in overtime by three.
New Haven (18-2) – Unlike last season, New Haven enters the tournament with losses – its first during 2014-15 didn't come until the Quarterfinal. But those defeats this time have come against Class A schools Utica Ford and contender East English (16-4), and the Rockets built their record against a Class A-heavy schedule.
Onsted (19-0) – Mr. Basketball candidate and sizable center Austin Davis gets most of the attention, and with great reason. But he’s also got plenty of help, especially in a veteran backcourt, and it’s paid off in a league with three teams that have won at least 14 games; Hillsdale’s only losses were twice to the Wildcats.
Wyoming Godwin Heights (17-3) – The reigning Class B champion has two more losses heading into the tournament this season than a year ago. But the three defeats came to Class A teams that have won 15, 14 and 19 games, respectively. Tonight’s opponent, Wayland (17-2) provides another tough challenge out of the gate.
Detroit Allen Academy (18-2) – Allen has taken a big jump from 11-11 last year playing a schedule that hardly resembles the typical for a Class C team. The Wildcats’ best wins were arguably against Class B River Rouge (17-3) by 11, Class A Saginaw Arthur Hill (14-5) by 20 and Class A Detroit Renaissance (16-4) by four.
Flint Beecher (17-2) – The Class C champion three of the last four seasons prepares by facing a number of larger power programs, and this winter was no different; Beecher beat East English by three but also played and lost to reigning Class A champion Detroit Western International and likely Class A favorite Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Kalamazoo Hackett (20-0) – Hackett earns the mention among four undefeated Class C teams because it saw the toughest competition; four of six other teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley won at least 10 games, and Kalamazoo Christian’s only losses were twice to the Fighting Irish. All of that said, only Christian once and Schoolcraft twice got within 10 points of Hackett this winter.
Southfield Christian (18-2) – The Eagles are regulars in later rounds of the tournament and fell to Beecher in a Regional Semifinal last season. They’ve again prepped for a long run by facing bigger opponents, with a win over Class A Belleville (16-4) and Southfield and that only loss by a point in overtime in December to Class A West Bloomfield.
Bellaire (19-1) – Aside from a loss to Class C East Jordan in December, Bellaire has dominated winning a Ski Valley Conference featuring five teams with at least 10 wins including Class C Johannesburg-Lewiston (18-2) and Class D Onaway (16-4). The Eagles won their four games against those two opponents all by double figures.
Frankfort (18-2) – The Panthers have made it to at least the Quarterfinals the last three seasons and the Semifinals in 2014, and there’s little reason not to anticipate a similar run. The losses this winter were in overtime to undefeated Class C contender McBain and also-Class C Traverse City St. Francis, and Frankfort has beaten its share of larger schools too.
Hillman (20-0) – The Tigers have made the Regional Finals three straight seasons and played in a Quarterfinal last year, losing to eventual champion Powers North Central. They opened this winter with a 17-point win against Cedarville and have allowed only one opponent to come closer than 11.
Powers North Central (20-0) – The Jets have won 47 straight games and 72 of their last 73 with junior Jason Whitens again leading a group that includes more teammates from their MHSAA 8-player football champion. North Central handed Crystal Falls Forest Park its only two losses and beat Class B Menominee (16-4); no other opponents came close.
PHOTO: Macomb Dakota defenders surround a Saginaw Arthur Hill player working to get to the hoop during a game earlier this season. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)