Basketball brackets due out this afternoon

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By Mike Cote

This afternoon, the New Mexico Activities Association will release its 2011-2012 state boys and girls basketball brackets.
The NMAA’s seeding and selection committee will meet today and will release its selections on the NMAA’s website, nmact.org, at 5 p.m.
The playoffs are scheduled to begin with girls first round contests Friday night and boys first round contests Saturday.
Both Los Alamos teams are on the bubble for getting into the playoffs. The Hilltopper boys finished third in the final District 2-4A standing, while the Hilltopper girls were third during the 2-4A regular season and finished fourth in the district tournament.
Last year, the Gallup Bengals upset the Kirtland Central Broncos for the Class 4A girls hoops title, while the Española Valley Sundevils won their first-ever state title by defeating the Goddard Rockets.

State Playoffs Outlook

Boys Class 4A

What to Expect:

There is little doubt Goddard and Roswell will go 1-2 at the top of the bracket. And it’s a pretty good bet St. Pius X, Gallup, Santa Teresa and Capital will grab the next four slots in some order. For the rest of the bracket, most of the field is set with only one or two slots for bubble teams really in play. It’s likely — but hardly a sure thing — that Los Alamos will get into the playoff field, but toward the bottom, necessitating a very tough first-round matchup.

Why the Hilltoppers will get in:

• They have enough wins (11) and have played a tough schedule relative to many other non-automatic qualifying teams in 4A.
• They finished third in both the regular season and the tournament in District 2-4A, traditionally one of the toughest districts in the classification.
• They sport a senior-heavy roster with two solid 4A players in Thomas Russell and Nick Baker. Veteran teams have generally been rewarded in the past with playoff berths.
• They have no terribly egregious losses and played close contests with St. Pius X and Capital.
• They have three wins in four tries against the defending Class 4A champ, Española Valley and have beaten at least one district champ, Kirtland Central.

Why the Hilltoppers won’t get in:

• A sub-.400 winning percentage, as the Hilltoppers own, doesn’t exactly scream playoff-worthy.
• District 2-4A wasn’t THAT tough in 2011-12. Española Valley struggled more than some thought it would and Santa Fe didn’t perform up to expectations. Bernalillo had few marquee wins.
• Capital, rightly or wrongly, is lightly-regarded in 4A and may slip in the seedings for that reason. The further Capital slips, the harder it will be for Los Alamos to justify its inclusion.

Girls Class 4A

What to Expect:

Grants has been a wrecking ball in 4A all season and should be the top seed despite losing Friday night to Gallup. Piedra Vista stunned Kirtland Central for the District 1 regular season title this season and could well be in line for a No. 2. Kirtland Central should still make the top four in the seeding and Española Valley will be near the top as well. There is a lot of wiggle room beyond that, however, as many other teams have their pluses and minuses. Los Alamos is by no means a playoff lock heading into Selection Sunday.

Why the Hilltoppers will get in:

• They have a healthy record against 4A opponents (7-9) and most of their losses came against upper-echelon 4A teams like Kirtland Central and Piedra Vista.
• They have wins against St. Pius X and Albuquerque Academy during the regular season. St. Pius is a likely playoff entry and Academy is on the bubble. With a head-to-head win, the Hilltoppers would go in first.
• The Hilltoppers have been mainstays in the state tournament. A team with a long playoff history is rarely overlooked when selection time comes.
• Class 4A, frankly, wasn’t that good this year. With 12 wins on the season, the Hilltoppers have as many or more victories than several teams that are  going to make the field.

Why the Hilltoppers won’t get in:

• Class 4A, frankly, wasn’t that good this year. Given that, finishing 12-15 playing mainly 4A competition isn’t particularly impressive.
• Two late-season losses to Bernalillo, which didn’t crack the top 10 the entire season, will hurt. The loss to the Spartans in the 2-4A quarterfinals particularly could serve to drive down the Hilltoppers’ stock.
• District 2-4A was top-heavy this season with Española Valley and Santa Fe putting up two of the better won-loss records in 4A, but a big gap existing between them and the other three teams. It will be a tough sell to the selection committee to say four 2-4A teams deserve a playoff nod.

-Mike Maez-Cote