This week's Thursday Thoughts will have a bit of a change this week. We will still have Power Rankings for each division, but we will also take a look at the Regions that will be in effect for the playoffs and breakdown what we have learned so far and what we won't have any way of knowing with how this regular season has been set up.
I also encourage everyone to check out Dave's article where he shares his thoughts on the "picking out of a hat" playoff system that we have seen in both the fall and winter seasons.
Here are your regions for each Division. (Note: Winners from region 1 play winners from Region 2 in the semifinals, winners from Region 3 play Region 4 winner)
Region 1: Dover, Exeter, Portsmouth, Spaulding & Winnacunnet
Region 2: Bedford, Concord, Goffstown, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial & Trinity
Region 3: Merrimack, Londonderry, Salem, Pinkerton, Windham & Timberlane
Region 4: Alvirne, Keene, Bishop Guertin, Nashua North & Nashua South
Most difficult region: Region 2
Least difficult: Region 4
Region 1: Coe-Brown, Oyster River, Pembroke, Sanborn, & Bishop Brady
Region 2: Hollis-Brookline, Milford, Pelham, Souhegan & Manchester West
Region 3: Bow, Con Val, Lebanon, John Stark & Hanover
Region 4: Kennett, Kingswood, Merrimack Valley, Plymouth & Laconia
Most difficult region: Region 3
Least difficult: Region 2
Region 1: White Mountains, Belmont, Gilford, Berlin, Newfound, Inter-Lakes & Winnisquam
Region 2: Stevens, Kearsarge, Mascoma, Newport & Fall Mountain
Region 3: Conant, Mascenic Regional, Monadnock, Hopkinton & Hillsboro-Deering
Region 4: Somersworth, St. Thomas, Campbell, Raymond & Prospect Mountain
Most difficult region: Regions 2&3
Least difficult: Region 1
Region 1: Epping, Farmington, Newmarket, Pittsfield & Portsmouth Christian
Region 2: Hinsdale, Mount Royal, Sunapee, Holy Family & Derryfield
Region 3: Lin-Wood, Lisbon, Moultonborough, Woodsville, Franklin & Concord Christian
Region 4: Colebrook, Littleton, Gorham, Groveton, Pittsburg-Canaan & Profile
Most difficult region: Region 1&4
Least difficult: Region 3
1. Bishop Guertin- Not much new on this one, this is the best team until proven otherwise.
2. Bedford- Despite the Manchester Central loss (oh don't worry we will get to how crazy Division I was last Friday in just a moment), the Bulldogs are still contenders and one of the only threats to beating BG.
3. Exeter- The Blue Hawks grinded out wins against Trinity and Portsmouth and will have another good one with the Clippers on Friday night.
4. Pinkerton- We have finally gotten a big enough sample size where it makes sense to have this group back in the Top 4. The Astros are rolling.
5. Spaulding- The Red Raiders have a chance at the Final Four, they just need to solve the formula to Exeter.
6. Manchester Memorial- Trinity got the best of the Crusaders last Friday and Bedford just got the best of them on Wednesday night, but these are games that will prepare them for the toughest region in Division I.
7. Windham- This group plays hard-nosed basketball. Sarah Dempsey is the real deal and the Jaguars play really good team defense.
8. Goffstown- Two wins over Concord is a sign that maybe the Grizzlies are a year ahead of schedule in terms of competing in the playoffs.
9. Manchester Central- When you beat a team as good as Bedford you certainly deserve a spot in the Top Ten. The Little Green are going to cause absolute havoc in Region 2.
10. Concord- The Crimson Tide have lost four straight, but injuries have certainly played a part in their struggles. I'm still holding out hope that Concord figures things out by the playoffs by time is certainly ticking.
What have we learned: Trinity quietly had won three in a row before losing a heartbreaker to Exeter on Saturday. Colby Guinta is the real deal and an up-and-coming player for this group is Achol Tour. The Pioneers with the right matchup could certainly make a run to the quarterfinals...Manchester Central is the dark horse in the playoffs. They have the ability to beat every single team in their region and I wouldn't be shocked to see them playing for a chance at the semis...
What we still have no way of knowing yet? Who comes out of Region 3. Yes, the obvious answer is Bedford, but with how last week In Division I was I have confidence in five teams, it will all come down to matchups.
I don't think we will have any idea of how good a group Nashua South can be. At 1-2, we have only seen a small sample size, and won't have many more opportunities to see them before the playoffs.
1. Hanover- I don't know if there is a team in this division that can beat Hanover.
2. Pelham- Pelham took their first loss of the season to a good Nashua South team and just squeaked out a victory over a young Souhegan team. These next few weeks are very important for the Pythons.
3. Bishop Brady- The Giants were finally ousted by a very good Division III Conant team. I don't think this game affects their rank in Division II too much, but certainly, something to keep in mind.
4. Bow- The Falcons are good, but certainly still a young team. Games are a lot closer due to small mistakes and miscues. A matchup with Hanover will tell us how much of a gap there is atop Division II.
5. Laconia- Laconia has a real shot at the Final Four if they can play Kennett the same way they did to start the year.
6. Kennett- Speaking of Kennett, this team is certainly a different team, a lot healthier team at that, than they were to start the year and are on the rise.
7. Hollis-Brookline- The Cavaliers have beat the teams they were supposed to and have lost games to teams that were either better or at the same level as them. The schedule for HB to end the season is on the easier side which doesn't help them in a playoff setup like this season.
8. Sanborn- A rematch with Pelham next week will be a telling one. A win there and Sanborn is considered a real threat.
9. Lebanon- Two wins over Kearsarge were good to see but at 3-0, we just haven't seen enough of Lebanon just yet.
10. Merrimack Valley- The Pride hung with Bow on Monday night and even had a shot to win that game. Region 4 really suits MV, don't let them get hot.
What have we learned: As I said above, Hanover has not met their match and I don't think they have one. Pelham has had tight games as of late, Bishop Brady can be outscored, and Bow is still very young. A team like Laconia or Kennett should make it to the Final Four, but their strength of schedule has not prepared them for a team like Hanover...
What we still have no way of knowing yet? Lebanon's ceiling this year. Other than that I feel as if we know a lot about this division. The only other surprise we may see come playoff time is Plymouth, they have been sneaky good this year and can really score it. Everything has been laid out for Division II, now we just need to see how the dominos fall.
1. Conant- The Orioles continue to build quite an impressive resume after a great win over Division II Bishop Brady.
2. Fall Mountain- Lebanon handled the Wildcats pretty soundly, and that certainly has to do with the inconsistent schedule Fall Mountain has played. I think this group has gotten too comfortable playing weaker teams and playing with that same style when they play the Hanover's and Lebanon's. They will need to fix things up quickly.
3. Campbell- The emergence of Karleigh Schultz has brought this team's level of play up a notch.
4. Newfound- I finally got a look at this team and it is hard to put them at #4, but the strength of schedule is what separates Campbell and Newfound. Everything runs through Paulina Huckins in the high post for this team and she has proven to be a tremendous playmaker.
5. Kearsarge- This is the sleeper team that can crack the Top 4 when this is all said and done. Caroline Camp can score the basketball if you didn't know that already. Her play alone makes this team dangerous in Division III.
6. Stevens- The Cardinals move down a spot, but it doesn't mean they are trending in the wrong direction. Hanover got the best of this team in two meetings, but I like their chances in Division III, especially their region.
7. Prospect Mountain- Four Division IV games won't tell us much more about Prospect Mountain unless a team like Farmington can get the best of them. The Laconia win stands out, but so does the Moultonborough loss.
8. Monadnock- The Huskies are 1-5, but I think they should be happy with where they are. Sophomore Mea Carroll-Clough has really come on the last few weeks and Monadnock will be one of the most battle-tested teams in the playoffs.
9. St. Thomas Aquinas- The Saints don't have that marquee win on their schedule, but playing mostly lower division schools certainly isn't their fault.
10. Winnisquam- The Bears are young, but they also have a lot of fight. They are still a year or two away, but Mark Dawalga is doing a terrific job with the Bears.
What have we learned: Is it crazy for me to say that I think Conant would be a Top 2 team in Division II and could definitely be competitive in Division I? They have the wins to back it up... With how the regions play out I think it is fair to say the four favorites coming out would be Newfound, Fall Mountain, Conant, and Campbell. The darkhorse as I said above is Kearsarge, but that is all dependant on matchup and if they have other scorers emerge. Division III in a normal playoff setting would be a fun and competitive first few rounds, but the regions favor the four best teams in this division...
What we still have no way of knowing yet? The gap between Conant and the rest of the division. Conant hasn't played any other team in the top four, but they have also handled and beaten teams in Division I and II. For all we know there is a very sizeable gap between Conant and #2 Fall Mountain.
Division IV standings, Gold Level Coaches & Top 20 Scoring Leaders
1. Hinsdale- Three losses to an exceptional Conant certainly doesn't change how good of a team Hinsdale is in Division IV.
2. Woodsville- The Engineers passed their first big test with flying colors. What made their 47-42 win over Colebrook even better was that it was on the road. Now we know just how good of a group Woodsville is.
3. Colebrook- The Mohawks suffered their first loss in 30 games. Yes, 30 GAMES. Sage Smith and Sam Howe did all they could, and this game showed they need a third scorer to emerge.
4. Derryfield- The Cougars are the 4th best team in this Division, but they may not have the chance to show it with Hinsdale in their region.
5. Littleton- The Crusaders finished off last week with a good win at home over Groveton. This group is experienced, but will certainly have their hands full in the playoffs.
6. Newmarket- The Mules found their offense with a good win against Farmington. They have a real shot at making it out of Region 1, but inconsistent play may be the only thing holding them back.
7. Farmington- The Tigers have a similar issue that we have since discovered with Colebrook. When teams figure out how to shut down your two best options (Chole Weeks and Jaclyn Peaslee), they are going to have success against you. A third player must emerge for this group.
8. Groveton- The Eagles, like Littleton, will need to be playing their best basketball come playoff time.
9. PCA- This is a sleeper Final Four team. The regional play certainly benefits them and I think they have a good shot of making it out of their region.
10. Concord Christian- This is a young but fun team that really likes to spread it around. A taste of the playoffs will be very beneficial to this program.
What have we learned: The biggest thing we learned is that Colebrook really misses Mackenzie Scherer. At the end of games last season she was the go-to option with Sage Smith and Sam Howe generating so much pressure. She was also a perfect third-scorer for the Mohawks. Someone of Emma McKeage, Ariana Lord, or Sierra Riff must put together consistent performances offensively if Colebrook wants a shot at a repeat... We also learned that Olivia Sarkis of Woodsville might be the best player in the division. A matchup between Sarkis and Angelina Nardollilo of Hinsdale would be quite the back and forth, but Sarkis' gutsy performance in Colebrook really impressed me...
What we still have no way of knowing yet? We don't know the gap between Hinsdale, Woodsville, and Colebrook. I think Round 2 between Woodsville and Colebrook will certainly be telling, but is Hinsdale a far better team than those two? We can't base anything off of similar opponents because there aren't any. If either Woodsville or Colebrook is to see Hinsdale in the finals (which is the likely outcome) we could have anywhere from a blowout to a tight back and forth game and I wouldn't be surprised.