"Feb. 28

Noblesville Sectional

Noblesville High School, $5, 6 p.m.

This year’s boys’ basketball tournament is wide open and not just because Greg Oden is finally in college. No one (or two or 10) teams have emerged to dominate the field. Meaning not only are there about 15 legitimate state contenders, this could be a year that sees the emergence of a serious darkhorse. A first-round match worth checking out Wednesday is Carmel vs. North Central (7:45 p.m.). Presumptive Mr. Basketball Eric Gordon has proven he’s the best player in the state (31.6 ppg), but his North Central Panthers (15-4) have not always looked as up to the task. They tagged Carmel by 10 in December but have proved themselves very beatable since then, while the Greyhounds (14-6) have been playing their best ball of late, earning impressive wins over Warren Central and Terre Haute North. Add in the fact that they upset Gordon’s team in last year’s sectionals and this one becomes a no-brainer. The 6 p.m. game features Broad Ripple against the host school.

 

March 2

Franklin Sectional

Franklin High School, $5, 6 p.m.

The Lawrence Sectional boasts the deepest field in the city (if not the state: five out of the seven teams could win it). But Franklin offers perhaps the single best match up: Barring any first-round miracles, Franklin Central (20-2, ranked No. 3 in the state) and Center Grove (17-3, No. 7) should tangle at 7:45 p.m. Friday. Franklin Central won the regular-season version handily, but that was back in November. Center Grove has earned a lot of wins since then, including a big one recently over North Central. Franklin Central is one of the few teams in the state with two legit go-to guys: 6-foot-10 center JuJuan Johnson (21.8 ppg) and 6-foot-3 wing John Ashworth (12.2). Center Grove’s big gun is guard Tyler Kitchell (18.6). It’s also a chance to see one of the last games played in Franklin’s wonderful powder-blue Vandivier Gymnasium (1961), which is being retired in a few months. Southport plays Franklin in the opener, which should likewise be a close game.

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