FIELDER’S CHOICES: Brackets back in form for state semifinals, and so are my picks

How do your playoff brackets look in the wake of Absentgate?
Mine have more chicken scratch and notes in the margins than last year’s brutal final in biology.
A multitude of oh-by-the-way forfeits scrambled the Class 4A Sunrise Region boys and girls brackets into a mess last week.
But now that (hopefully) forfeits are a thing of the past, it’s time for what we’ve all been waiting for: the state tournament.
Who are your picks to win? By how much? What will the keys to victory be? I’m dying to hear your thoughts.
I spend much of my time looking around the classroom for someone to talk NIAA hoops with.
Here are my humble picks for the state semifinals:

Eldorado vs. Palo Verde — Eldorado has a team-of-destiny look about it, but Palo Verde has overwhelming talent.
Palo Verde won the regular-season meeting 102-93, so don’t be surprised if an up-and-down pace ensues.
The game could come down to who goes to the foul line more. It could come down to who has the hot hand. It could come down to who has the ball last. Palo Verde by 2.

Bishop Gorman vs. Hug — Hug could only beat Desert Oasis by 11 during the regular season.
Gorman beat Desert Oasis by 29 and 25, and it could have been worse.
After beating Cheyenne and Palo Verde in the Sunset Region playoffs, Gorman is the odds-on favorite to win the state title. Gorman by 13.

Green Valley vs. Bishop Gorman —
The bracket reads “No. 1” seed for Green Valley, but we all know who the favorite is here.
The Gaels blasted a solid Silverado team (which Green Valley beat by 10) by 29 in the play-in game.
Oh, by the way, Gorman hammered Green Valley by 32 during the regular season. Gorman by 24.

Centennial vs. Reno — In a season of 50- and 60-point victory margins over nearly everyone in Southern Nevada, Centennial only beat Reno 67-53 in December.
Sure, 14 points is 14 points, but it’s an indication the Huskies can at least hang with the Bulldogs.
But Centennial has come too far to trip up in the semifinals. See you for Centennial-Gorman Part II when the lights are brightest Friday night. Centennial by 16.

Moapa Valley vs. Spring Creek — The Pirates made an eye-opening run through the Class 3A Southern League tournament, and I admit my foolishness for overlooking them.
It was a tough league to get a read on all season, but Moapa Valley has left little doubt it has what it takes to win state.
The Pirates lost three of their final four regular-season league games, then turned around and went 2-0 to win the league tournament.
Go figure.

The guy Moapa Valley has to watch is junior guard David Morrell, who leads Spring Creek with 21.2 points per game. Moapa Valley by 6.

Lowry vs. Boulder City — OK, I admit, I haven’t seen the Buckaroos play this season. I actually couldn’t tell you what a Buckaroo looks like. I think I’ve been called one a few times.
What I do know is they are 18-9 for two reasons: offensive balance and defense. Only four teams have cracked 60 points against Lowry all season.
Boulder City has heart, but it’s hard to see an upset unfolding here. Lowry by 8.

Boulder City vs. Lowry —
This one is simple. Boulder City has the best player (Caiti Forrester), but Lowry has the better team. Lowry by 10.

Spring Creek vs. Virgin Valley — The Spartans have lost once all season, by three points to Hug.
However, just like Virgin Valley, Spring Creek hasn’t blown out as many opponents as its 26-1 record suggests.
Spring Creek is the favorite, but the undersized Spartans must devise a way to match up with Rachel Morris in the paint. Spring Creek by 8.

Agassi Prep vs. Rite of Passage —
Quincy Brown has been gobbling up points and rebounds in the paint like a man possessed.
And with DeShawn Battle’s range from the outside, James Turner’s defense and Jacoby Whitehead’s slashing ability, this team has all the pieces to win its first state title.
The Stars’ challenge will be to slow down Rite of Passage sophomore sharpshooter Deonta Robinson, who is basically the Dantley Walker of the Class 2A Northern League. Agassi Prep by 3.

Incline vs. Needles — After the upset loss to Agassi Prep in the league tournament final, Needles coach Jeff Plank told, “I feel really sorry for the next team we play.” And I believe him. Needles by 13.

Lincoln County vs. Incline —
The Lynx have been playing a hard-nosed brand of ball in their mission to hoist a state title trophy. I see no reason why that will stop, though an epic rematch against Needles in the state final is brewing. Lincoln County by 14.

Pershing County vs. Needles — For whatever reason, Needles had a poor showing in its league tournament. But now the Mustangs know the postseason won’t be a cakewalk, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get another shot at Lincoln County. Needles by 12.


Lake Mead vs. Owyhee — Coach Jeff Newton always has his team fired up, and the mentally tough Eagles are as battle tested in the postseason as anyone in Southern Nevada.

There is no way Lake Mead is denied a second straight state title. Lake Mead by 11.

Smith Valley vs. Pahranagat Valley — The Panthers are almost as good on the hardwood as they were on the football field, which says something.

But Smith Valley is 25-5 for a reason, and Jordan Fletcher and Trevor Carrasco will be tough for the Panthers to keep in check. Smith Valley by 9.

Pahranagat Valley vs. Owyhee — The Panthers made a huge statement by stopping Lund in the Class 1A Southern League tournament final.
They’ll make another statement here. Pahranagat Valley by 4.

Virginia City vs. Lund — The Mustangs were having a dream season until losing the league tournament final.
It won’t get any easier against the Muckers, who have been blowing out opponents with regularity. Virginia City has to be considered the favorite to win state. Virginia City by 15.