North Central High School boys basketball coach Doug Mitchell has called winning the Marion County tournament as difficult of an achievement as winning a state championship.
Mitchell would know. His North Central team will begin its quest for a fourth Marion County title in five years when it plays at Ben Davis Tuesday night, a rematch of North Central's 55-50 victory Friday night.
There are seven other first-round games Tuesday, four quarterfinal games Wednesday, two semifinal games Friday at Southport and the championship on Saturday at one of the participating schools.
Here are five things to watch this week at the county tournament:
Early-round showdowns: Like the state tournament, the county utilizes a blind draw. The best of the first-round matchups appear to be North Central (7-3) at Ben Davis (7-2), Park Tudor (8-1) at Perry Meridian (8-3), Decatur Central (6-3) at Speedway (9-0) and Brebeuf Jesuit (6-4) at Franklin Central (5-5).
The winner of the North Central-Ben Davis will likely get Warren Central (5-4) in the quarterfinal round.
The "best" draw: There is really no easy way to win the county tournament, but some draws are better than others. Class 4A top-ranked Pike (9-0) gets rebuilding Roncalli (5-4) in the first round, followed by Lawrence Central (2-6) or Southport (0-8).
Lawrence North (7-1) is on the same side of the bracket as Pike and gets Class A Lutheran (6-2) and the winner Brebeuf Jesuit-Franklin Central in the quarterfinal.
Not a horrible draw for the Red Devils or Wildcats.
Riding the hot hand: Looking for a team that rides the coattails of a star player to a deep tournament run this week? Park Tudor junior Trevon Bluiett (29.1 ppg) and Brebeuf Jesuit junior guard P.J. Thompson (24.8 ppg) are two players who have been scoring in bunches lately. Decatur Central senior Anthony Johnson (28 ppg) will go head-to-head with Speedway junior Justin Brent (23.4 ppg), a Notre Dame football recruit, in the first round.
There are several players in this tournament that will earn IndyStar.com Indiana All-Star consideration, including Warren Central's Devin Davis, Lawrence North's Basil Smotherman, Pike guards Zavier Turner, Jordan Pickett and Taishaun Johnson, Franklin Central's Forrester Sims, North Central's Darius Latham and Ben Davis guard Tony Wills.
Lutheran will try to pull the upset of Lawrence North behind high-scoring senior J.C. Faubion (36.7 ppg).
Friday night at Southport: One of the best nights of the high school basketball season is the semifinals at Southport. Possible matchups this year are Pike vs. Lawrence North and Park Tudor vs. North Central/Ben Davis/Warren Central. Those are heavyweight battles.
Predictions: I'll take Pike over Lawrence North in one semifinal and North Central over Park Tudor in the other. No. 1 Pike edges North Central in the championship, a rematch of the Red Devils' 82-77 win in the season opener.
Marion County Boys Basketball Tournament
Game 1: Roncalli at Pike, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Lawrence Central at Southport, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Lutheran at Lawrence North, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Brebeuf Jesuit at Franklin Central, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Decatur Central at Speedway, 7 p.m.
Game 6: Park Tudor at Perry Meridian, 7 p.m.
Game 7: North Central at Ben Davis, 7 p.m.
Game 8: Warren Central at Beech Grove, 7 p.m.
Game 9: Game 1 winner at Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 10: Game 3 winner at Game 4 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 11: Game 5 winner at Game 6 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner at Game 8 winner, 7 p.m.
Game 13: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 14: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 13 winner at Game 14 winner, 7 p.m.