The NCHSAA basketball playoffs begin Tuesday and conclude with state championship games March 6 at Providence Grove and Wheatmore high schools. Here are the first-round matchups and outlooks for Triad teams (listed alphabetically with seeds):
No. 13 seed Class 3-A West, at No. 4 Boiling Springs Crest (13-1)
Outlook for the Panthers: Dudley and Smith decided to let the NCHSAA break their tie for second place behind Mount Tabor in the Piedmont Triad 3-A standings with a random draw. That worked out better for Dudley than for Smith, which did not make the 32-team Class 3-A field as a wild card. Speaking of draws, this is not a favorable one for the Panthers, who have to travel to a Crest team that has lost only to 2-A power Shelby in a rivalry game.
EASTERN GUILFORD (10-1)
No. 8 seed Class 3-A East, vs. No. 9 East Wake (12-2)
Outlook for the Wildcats: Eastern seemed to finally shake off the rust from a COVID-19 pause with three wins by an average of 28 points to close the regular season. Any team with Kadyn "K.D." Dawkins and Kamell Smith is going to be a tough out in the playoffs, but if the Wildcats win their opener a trip to Fayetteville and top-seeded Terry Sanford seems likely.
No. 11 seed Class 4-A West, at No. 6 Cary Panther Creek (12-1)
Outlook for the Whirlies: Grimsley has to travel to Cary, where it will try to contain Charlotte commit Daylen Berry, a 6-foot-4 guard who is averaging 20.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. The Catamounts are stingy defensively, giving up an average of just 44.8 points per game. The Whirlies will need a big game inside from Travis Shaw and Daniel Cooper.
No. 10 seed Class 2-A East, at No. 7 St. Pauls (13-1)
Outlook for the Panthers: The Panthers made the field as the top 2-A team in the split Mid-State Conference. Freshman guard Makel Smith has been a handful, but Morehead faces a 150-mile ride for a tough matchup with the Three Rivers Conference champs
NORTHERN GUILFORD (14-0)
No. 10 seed Class 3-A East, at No. 7 East Chapel Hill (8-4)
Outlook for the Nighthawks: If any team has a gripe with the random draw the NCHSAA used to seed conference champions this year it might be a Northern squad that outscored opponents by an average of 36 points. Yes, everyone knew the procedure going into Sunday's bracketing, but that doesn't soften the blow of going 14-0 and having to play at an 8-4 East Chapel Hill team in the first round. The good news is that if Northern wins its opener, it likely will be home against Fayetteville Westover in the second round because the Wolverines travel to Sanford to face a Southern Lee time they beat by 41 points in January. That's how strange the brackets are this year.
No. 5 seed Class 4-A West, vs. No. 12 Glenn (9-2)
Outlook for the Pirates: Page faces a Glenn team whose only losses were to Central Piedmont 4-A champion Reynolds by five points and two points, so this looks like one of the most attractive first-round matchups. The Pirates know what they'll get from West Point-bound guard Jaden Ellis every night. They key is the play of wings Josh Scovens and Zion Connor, and Page will have to hold its own on the boards against a Bobcats team that hits the glass hard.
No. 5 seed Class 2-A East, vs. No. 12 Red Springs (7-4)
Outlook for the Rams: Reidsville is more than just N.C. State-bound guard Breon Pass, but it's hard not to sing the praises of the player who's leading NCHSAA schools in scoring (34.5 ppg) and also ranks among the top 10 rebounders (12.8) and adds 5.4 assist per game. Rockingham County's all-time leading scorer should get in at least a couple of rounds of basketball playoffs before seeking another state football title with Reidsville.
BISHOP McGUINNESS (8-4)
No. 15 seed Class 1-A East, at No. 2 Bessemer City (8-4)
Outlook for the Villians: Bishop has to hit the road, but this is a matchup the Villains can win. It also beats making the 280-mile drive to Hiwassee Dam, which was Bishop's first-round opponent when the preliminary brackets were released. The Villains have to like their chances if sophomore wing Tate Chappell is healthy.
No. 7 seed Class 3-A West, vs. No. 10 Charlotte Catholic (10-3)
Outlook for the Panthers: Dudley was another team that was hurt by the random draw for seeding among conference champions. The Panthers dominated opponents during the regular season, winning every game by at least 18 points behind Division I signees Mariah Frazier (Appalachian State), Quinzia Fulmore (Towson) and Diamond Monroe (Elon). Charlotte Catholic's Blanca Thomas, a 6-foot-4 freshman who averages 18.4 points, 13.1 rebounds and 6.3 blocks, will be the best post player Fulmore has seen all season and should present an interesting matchup.
No. 2 seed Class 2-A East, vs. No. 15 North Lenoir (9-1)
Outlook for the Phoenix: This matchup illustrates what can happen with split conferences when it comes to the playoffs. McMichael did not have a good season, but all the Phoenix had to do was finish ahead of 0-13 Morehead, the only other 2-A team in the Mid-State, to not only make the postseason but get a home game against a 9-1 team. It says something when the highest seed among area teams went 4-8 and 14-0 Northern Guilford boys team is seeded 10th.
NORTHERN GUILFORD (12-1)
No. 15 seed Class 3-A East, at No. 2 Greenville D.H. Conley (11-0)
Outlook for the Nighthawks: A double-overtime loss to Eastern Alamance back on Jan. 15 was the difference between a No. 3 seed and a No. 15 seed for Northern. The Nighthawks not only face an unbeaten Conley team in the first round, they have to travel 180 miles to do it. If they can win, a second-round matchup with an Asheboro team they beat by one point in the first round of last year's playoffs is a distinct possibility.
NORTHWEST GUILFORD (12-1)
No. 5 Seed Class 4-A West, vs. No. 12 Charlotte Independence (5-2)
Outlook for the Vikings: A win over Ragsdale on Friday night in a tiebreaker game earned Northwest a home game in the first round against an Independence team whose season was abbreviated because of a COVID-19 pause in Mecklenburg County. This is the last dance for Vikings leaders Aniston Greene, Jadyn Murray and Shaena Riddles. All three have been a part of some big postseason wins in their careers and would like nothing better than to add a few more.
No. 13 seed Class 4-A West, at No. 4 East Forsyth (12-1)
Outlook for the Tigers: A loss to Northwest Guilford in a tiebreaker game for the Metro 4-A title cost Ragsdale eight spots and a home game in seeding, but at least the Tigers don't have to travel far to face East Forsyth. The Eagles won a playoff game of their own with West Forsyth for the Central Piedmont 4-A championship, so both of these teams have already felt postseason pressure.
No. 4 seed Class 2-A East, vs. No. 13 Wheatmore (10-3)
Outlook for the Rams: Reidsville didn't exactly dominate the Mid-State 2-A, but the Rams won the regular-season title and benefited from the random draw. They will be home against a Wheatmore team that has won its last eight games.
SOUTHEAST GUILFORD (6-5)
No. 11 seed Class 3-A East, at No. 6 Rocky Mount (10-0)
Outlook for the Falcons: Southeast has taken a step back after winning the 2019 Class 3-A championship and sharing the 2020 crown with Fayetteville E.E. Smith when the title game was canceled. The Falcons will have to rely on the playoff experience of Gabby McGough, Mayayla Poole, Millayna Redd and Sydney Roberts against a very good Rocky Mount team.
SOUTHWEST GUILFORD (8-2)
No. 15 seed Class 3-A West, at No. 2 Enka (13-1)
Outlook for the Cowgirls: Southwest has a 75-49 win at Ragsdale on its resume, but that was back on Jan. 7 and the Cowgirls were no match for Piedmont Triad 3-A champion Dudley. If they can complete the 340-mile round trip to Enka with a win, their second-round opponent could be the Panthers.
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraSports on Twitter.