Central, Central, Central.
The rest of the state can’t help the feeling that it’s middle sister Jan Brady when it comes to Omaha Central.
Marcia, er, the Eagles, have been perfect — 30-0 last season. Attractive, too — a starting lineup teeming with Division I talent is why Central was invited to a big pre-Christmas tournament in Florida and also the reason for its game in February in Grand Island against Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy, last season’s national No. 1 team.
Marcia had her “Oh, my nose” moment, though. And isn’t that what the Eagles need to avoid — getting their nose bruised at an inopportune time? It’s still the games against their in-state competition that matter the most. None of the special games count toward their points in the Class A standings.
The Jan Bradys aren’t going to roll over, either, just because Central got a game with Oak Hill. But the Omaha Souths, Papillion-La Vistas, Omaha Bensons and other elite teams in Class A have ground to make up on the Eagles. Only one team out of the past 30 — Omaha Bryan in the first round at state — lost by single digits (56-52) to Central.
Coach Eric Behrens’ Eagles are the only logical starting point for the preseason Top 10. Akoy Agau is bound for Louisville and newcomer Nick Billingsley signed with UNO. K.J. Scott and Tra-Deon Hollins will draw recruiters who also will be watching talented junior Tre’Shawn Thurman. Deandre Hollins-Johnson has started alongside Agau and Hollins the past two seasons.
Omaha South, last season’s runner-up, had minimal losses and will have a bench deeper than the Eagles. It would be no surprise to see a rematch for the 2013 state title.
For the second straight year, Papillion-La Vista has picked up two transfers who could be immediate starters. Benson has a front line that won’t give away inches to Central or South.
Millard North, Lincoln Southeast, Millard West, Omaha Creighton Prep, Bellevue West and Omaha Burke — the other Metro teams in the preseason ratings — return a majority of their starters.
Two other 2012 state champions head the ratings in their classes, Scottsbluff in Class B and Giltner in Class D-2. The other preseason No. 1s are Norfolk Catholic in Class C-1, Norfolk Lutheran in Class C-2 and High Plains in Class D-1.
Here are some key events on this year’s schedule:
City of Palms Classic, Dec. 17 to 22: Central goes on a national stage for the first of two times this season. The Eagles open with McDonough (Ga.) Eagle’s Landing, which has at least two Division I recruits.
Metro Holiday final, Jan. 3: Will this be the first Central-South meeting of the year? Or does it happen earlier in the holiday tournament, which returns to its first home, the Civic Auditorium, for perhaps the final time for the semifinals and finals. Look for more in December on the tournament’s 50th anniversary.
Nebraska Prep Classic, Jan. 11 and 12: There’s some intriguing matchups in the two-day showcase at the new Ralston arena. Omaha Benson-Boys Town is the Friday night headliner, with Sioux City Heelan-Papillion-La Vista and Bellevue West-Topeka (Kan.) Highland Park the top games on Saturday night.
Heartland Hoops Classic, Feb. 9: National power Oak Hill Academy ventures into flyover country to play Central at the Grand Island arena. Oak Hill, last year’s USA Today ratings champion, is eighth in the preseason while Central is outside the Top 25.
State tournament, March 7 to 9: Will these be the last finals held in the Devaney Center? Will this be the last three-day tournament that uses high school gyms for opening-day games? Expect changes for 2014, when the Pinnacle Bank Arena will be the place to play. It’s foreseeable that the NSAA switches to a four-day, two-site format using only Pinnacle and Devaney. For sure, there will be no more Pershing Center. Maybe goodbye, too, to relegating small schools to the high school facilities.
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