Just like that, the end of the regular season is here and the playoffs are right around the corner.
The rarity with this year is that teams have known who they are playing in the first round, and even some of the teams matched up against one another have played each other knowing they will play again in the next week.
The playoffs are going to be a wild ride. Some regions have clear favorites, but others to this day are still up in the air with any team having a chance to make it to the semi-finals.
Today I will breakdown all 16 regions for girls' basketball and give my prediction for who will advance out dark horse teams, and potential upsets we could see in the next few weeks.
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1. Bishop Guertin
6. Manchester Memorial
10. Manchester Central
Teams: Portsmouth, Dover, Spaulding, Exeter & Winnacunnet
Region breakdown: The four teams that have a chance at advancing out of this region will have to play each other in the first round. In a normal year, Spaulding and Exeter are likely Final Four teams, but instead, they will have to play each other to have a chance at the quarterfinals.
Portsmouth has wins over every team in the region besides Spaulding. If the Clippers play defense like they have in years past and catch teams on the right night, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them get out of this region.
We got our first like at Winnacunnet on Tuesday night when they played Exeter relatively close. The Warriors consist of sophomores and juniors so they may be just a year away, but they will certainly be competitive.
The winner of Spaulding-Exeter is the team that most likely advances to the semi-finals. Exeter took both regular-season matchups, but Spaulding will have home-court advantage which could be a huge factor.
My dark horse pick: Portsmouth
Possible upset: Winnacunnet over Portsmouth
My pick to come out of the region: Exeter
Teams: Concord, Trinity, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial, Bedford & Goffstown.
Region breakdown: Two weeks ago you would have said that Bedford is the favorite to come out of this region. Today, I would still say that they are, but they certainly will have their hands full.
This is the toughest region in the state, and I give every team a fighting chance. Bedford hasn't been 100% healthy all season, and they got caught at the wrong time when Manchester Central handed them their first loss of the season. Memorial also played the Bulldogs tough in both matchups this season. The winner of Central-Memorial will get another shot at Bedford, and both certainly are capable of giving them a good fight.
Concord is the mystery team. Are they healthy? Is the chemistry where it needs to be? The Crimson Tide have been all over the map this season but seem to hopefully be back on the right track.
Trinity flipped the switched a few weeks ago and has been one of the scariest teams in the division. I give them a fighting chance with anyone in this region, and that is something I'm not sure I would've said at the beginning of the regular season. They will face a Goffstown team that beat them twice in the regular in the play-in game but I think this game will be different.
My dark horse pick: Manchester Central
Possible upset: Trinity/Goffstown over Concord
My pick to come out of the region: Bedford
Teams: Windham, Timberlane, Salem, Pinkerton, Londonderry & Merrimack
Region breakdown: The winner of Pinkerton-Windham is the team that likely gets out of Region 3. Again, this is a matchup that certainly shouldn't be a play-in game, but that is how everything ended up.
Windham picked up a huge win on Tuesday over Pinkerton and Sarah Dempsey has been on an absolute tear since hitting the 1,000 point milestone. If a team figures out a way to stop her, then Windham is certainly beatable, but the Jaguars haven't run into that problem as of late as they are winners of five straight.
Pinkerton was a top-four team heading into the pre-season, but COVID certainly has put a wrench into everything for the Astros. I think they have played enough games to where they should be in a good flow, but it has certainly been an unexpected year for them.
It is hard to bet against Londonderry based on what they did last season. Like Nick Theos told me in the pre-season, Londonderry is playing their best basketball come playoff time, let's see if that holds true this season.
My dark horse pick: Londonderry
Possible upset: Salem over Londonderry
My pick to come out of the region: Windham
Teams: Nashua South, Bishop Guertin, Nashua North, Alvirne & Keene
Region breakdown: BG was awarded the #1 seed and deservingly so. The Cardinals have been the best team in the division and should make it out of Region 4 unscathed.
Nashua South played BG to a 49-32 contest just this past Tuesday and can hopefully use that as momentum to try and get by them in the prelims. The only thing stopping them from getting to the prelims is a young and hungry Alvirne team. I think playoff experience will only help this team grow. If they can play how they did during their five-game win streak, then they have a shot to be the team to take on BG.
My dark horse pick: Nashua South
Possible upset: Alvirne over Nashua South
My pick to come out of the region: Bishop Guertin
3. Bishop Brady
10. Merrimack Valley
Teams: Coe-Brown, Pembroke Academy, Bishop Brady, Oyster River & Sanborn.
Region breakdown: This is yet another situation where the two best teams in the division (Brady and Sanborn) are playing each other in a play-in game. The winner of this game is the favorite to move onto the Final Four.
Sanborn hasn't been at full strength as of late and should hopefully have their full roster back for the playoffs. They are a team certainly capable of being one of the last four standing in Division II, but Brady has been one of the best all season.
Coe-Brown gets the luck of the draw and will have home-court advantage throughout. We saw the Bears early this season get a very good win over Sanborn at home, but since then they have not been the same. Pembroke has been sneaky good recently and could give the Bears a good match if they are to meet in the prelims.
My dark horse pick: Coe-Brown
Potential upset: Sanborn over Bishop Brady
My pick to come out of the region: Bishop Brady
Teams: Souhegan, Manchester West, Pelham, Hollis-Brookline & Milford
Region breakdown: Pelham has been on a tear this year and should be considered the favorite.
The biggest key is what version of Hollis-Brookline shows up for the playoffs. Eliszbeth Stapelfeld has been one of the best players in the division, but she needs the rest of her teammates to step up to the occasion. Head coach Bob Murphy raved about the depth he had coming into this season and we have seen that depth at times this year, but it hasn't been consistent. If the Cavaliers can figure things out, they have enough to get over Pelham.
We have had a small sample size of Souhegan and the one thing we do know about that them is that they play hard every night. They played Pelham to a 51-45 contest last week and certainly, are capable of getting by the Pythons.
My dark horse pick: Hollis-Brookline
Potential upset: Souhegan over Pelham
My pick to come out of the region: Pelham
Teams: John Stark, Lebanon, Hanover, Bow & Con Val
Region breakdown: This is the toughest region in Division II and features three teams that are Top 6 teams in the division.
Hanover has been dominant all year, but we saw Bow and Lebanon give the Mauraders their closest games of the season just this past week. If Bow was on the other side of the bracket, I would say they would have a chance of making it through, but with Lebanon and Hanover on opposite sides of the bracket that is the quarterfinal matchup, we will most likely get. Also, if Bow had home-court advantage I would give them a slight edge to potentially upset Hanover, but having to go on the road will be tough.
Lebanon still has the mental advantage over Hanover with last year's upset in the semis. Catherine Cole has been terrific for the Raiders and scored 18 points against the best defensive team in the division in Hanover.
My dark horse pick: Lebanon
Potential upset: Lebanon over Hanover
My pick to come out of the region: Hanover
Teams: Merrimack Valley, Plymouth, Laconia, Kingswood & Kennett
Region breakdown: This is the most interesting of the four Division II regions. Laconia has dipped of just a bit as of late, but certainly are one of the favorites to advance alongside Kennett.
Plymouth and Merrimack Valley are the wild cards. Both have tough roads with potential games against Kennett and Laconia, but both are more than capable of securing upsets. Merrimack Valley's win over Bow cements them as the clear dark horse, but they will need a very consistent span of games to pull this off.
If Laconia and Kennett are to meet in the quarterfinals I think Kennett can beat them for the first time this season. They are a much-improved team from early January and haven't lost a game since those two losses to Laconia.
My dark horse pick: Merrimack Valley
Potential upset: Merrimack Valley over Laconia
My pick to come out of the region: Kennett
2. Fall Mountain
7. Prospect Mountain
Teams: Winnisquam, Newfound, Gilford, Berlin, White Mountains, Inter-Lakes & Belmont.
Region breakdown: This is Newfound's region to lose as it features several teams who are under .500. The Bears have won seven in a row since their opening night loss to Division II Plymouth and no one has had an answer for them.
The only game that sticks out is their 37-33 win over Gilford. Can Allison Carr and the Golden Eagles make a run? They will have to get through Newfound in the play-in game to do so.
Winnisquam has struggled against older and experienced teams this year, but their side of the bracket features Inter-Lakes, White Mountains, and Berlin. They may have a chance at the quarters.
Berlin-White Mountains will be a fun North Country matchup and could prove to be the game that features a quarterfinal team.
My dark horse pick: Belmont
Potential upset: Gilford over Newfound
My pick to come out of the region: Newfound
Teams: Newport, Fall Mountain, Kearsarge, Mascoma & Stevens
Region breakdown: Kearsarge gets the short end of the stick with an opening-round game with Fall Mountain. If they were in Stevens's position, I would consider them the dark horse to make it out of Region 2.
Fall Mountain has played the toughest schedule of any team in this region and is the most experienced of the five teams. The Wildcats should be able to make it out with no problems but Caroline Camp and the Cougars certainly won't be an easy team to get by.
My dark horse pick: Stevens
Potential upset: Kearsarge over Fall Mountain
My pick to come out of the region: Fall Mountain
Teams: Conant, Mascenic Regional, Monadnock, Hillsboro-Deering, and Hopkinton.
Region breakdown: In my opinion, Conant would be one of the favorites in Division II this season and would be a competitive team in Division I. That is how well this group has played this season.
The team that gets the unfortunate draw is Hopkinton, I could see them giving a team like Newfound in Region 1 a run for their money, but Conant, especially in the play-in game, is too tall of a task. Nonetheless, Pat Roye will have his group ready for battle.
Monadnock will be awaiting either Hopkinton or Conant in the prelims and will look to use their tough schedule to their advantage come playoff time.
My dark horse pick: Monadnock
Potential upset: Monadnock over Conant
My pick to come out of the region: Conant
Region four: St. Thomas, Somersworth, Prospect Mountain, Campbell & Raymond.
Region breakdown: Campbell has played a total of zero Division III teams and still sits at 7-2. The Cougars should be able to handle business as they have favorable matchups on their side of the bracket.
I think their most likely opponent will be Prospect Mountain who has picked up great wins like 54-51 victory over Laconia but have also lost head-scratchers like their 46-34 contest with Moultonborough. The Timberwolves are deep and may have the size to matchup with Campbell but I think the Cougars have a bit more experience.
The mystery team is St. Thomas. They sit at 9-4 but have also played a fairly easier schedule. They have also lost two straight to PCA and Epping in Division IV, so we will see what we get out of the Saints.
My dark horse: Prospect Mountain
Potential upset: Prospect Mountain over Campbell
My pick to come out of the region: Campbell
Division IV standings, Gold Level Coaches & Top 20 Scoring Leaders
10. Concord Christian
Teams: Epping, Farmington, Nute, Portsmouth Christian, Newmarket & Pittsfield.
Region breakdown: I wouldn't be shocked to see any of Epping, Farmington, PCA, or Newmarket move onto the semifinals.
If we continue to see the same Brianna Filion we have seen over the last few games I think the Mules should be able to find a way out. The winner of Newmarket-PCA may be the team to beat. PCA has been sneaky good all season and certainly are capable of earning a trip to the Final Four.
The crazy thing is that the winner of the Newmarket-PCA play-in game will face Epping, who I think could upset either of those squads. Epping has the tools, but they are also relatively young. We will see if the nerves dictate their outcome.
Farmington has the easier side of the bracket and should be awaiting for either Epping, Newmarket, or PCA in the quarterfinals. The Tigers feature two of the best players in the region in Chloe Weeks and Jaclyn Peaslee. The key to victory for them will be their role players stepping up and giving them at least 6-10 points as a unit.
My dark horse pick: PCA
Potential upset: Epping over PCA/Newmarket
My pick to come out of the region: Newmarket
Teams: Derryfield, Holy Family, Mount Royal, Wilton-Lyndeborough, Hinsdale & Sunapee
Region breakdown: Hinsdale's only three losses are to Conant, who has arguably been one of the best teams in the entire state this season. Other than that they have taken care of business and should roll into the semi-finals
The only real threat is Derryfield. I would have loved to have seen the Cougars battle it out in Region 1 as I think this is a team that deserves to be in the Final Four.
It would take a perfect game for Derryfield to beat Hinsdale, but Courtney Cheetham has done a great job of having her team be competitive in games with teams like Campbell and Pelham. With a healthy Shawna Lesmeries, I think the Cougars have a real shot, but it will be tough without her.
My dark horse pick: Derryfield
Potential upset: Derryfield over Hinsdale
My pick to come out of the region: Hinsdale
Teams: Lisbon, Franklin, Concord Christian, Woodsville & Lin Wood
Region breakdown: There are dark horse picks and an upset prediction, but I don't see any team that can compete with Woodsville. The Engineers had two very convincing wins over Colebrook and are certainly atop the Power Rankings with Hinsdale.
They return all 9 rotation players from last year's runner-up team and the chemistry has only gotten better. As I've said in past columns, Graci Kaiser looks a lot more comfortable in this system and that has done wonders for this group.
If there is a team that could brew a potential upset, it's Lisbon. Head coach Nikki Woods set out the goal to pull one off in the pre-season and we will see if the Panthers can do just that in the postseason.
My dark horse pick: Lisbon
Potential upset: Lisbon over Woodsville
My pick to come out of the region: Woodsville
Teams: Littleton, Groveton, Pittsburg-Canaan, Gorham, Colebrook & Profile
Region breakdown: The Mohawks have come back down to Earth just a bit after losing two-straight to Woodsville, but they are still the team to beat in this region.
It is rare to have two players on a team where one can score 31 points one night and then the other follows that up with a 31-point performance of their own. That is what Sage Smith and Sam Howe did just this past week. The offensive firepower between those two is undeniable. The concern is where the rest of the scoring comes from for Colebrook.
Woodsville has set out the blueprint on how to defend Colebrook and I am sure Tim Haskins and Dale Prior will try their best to implement that into their gameplans. The only negative that we have seen through the regular-season matchups is that Groveton and Littleton may not have the personnel to matchup with Colebrook.
If either squad can catch Colebrook on an off-night, they have a fighting chance. If not, Colebrook should be going back to the Final Four.
My dark horse pick: Littleton
Potential upset: Littleton over Colebrook
My pick to come out of the region: Colebrook