All times Eastern
• Boyd-Buchanan (28-3) vs. Booker T. Washington (26-7), 5:30
• Meigs County (30-4) vs. Columbia Academy (28-4), 7
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - How quickly the players on Boyd-Buchanan's and Meigs County's basketball teams adjust to their surroundings could determine how long both teams remain in the state tournament.
The tournament tips off today at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center, and both the Buccaneers and Meigs' Tigers will play in the evening session of the Class A bracket. And while the goal of survive and advance is the same, their approach to tonight's opening round varies noticeably.
Boyd-Buchanan, which opens against high-octane Booker T. Washington at 5:30 EDT, will try to slow the pace of the game. By contrast, Meigs County wants a track meet in high tops in its 7 p.m. matchup against Columbia Academy.
"We want to go," said Meigs coach Sammy Perkinson, who has the Tigers in the tourney for the first time in 27 years. "We want to play like the game is on fast forward."
The idea of quickening the pace is in hopes of negating Columbia Academy's considerable size advantage, which includes 6-foot-9, 280-pound center Andrew Golden being guarded by a player seven inches shorter. A fast pace could also help Meigs force Columbia to need a bench group that Perkinson feels isn't as deep as his own.
The Tigers, who like Boyd-Buchanan haven't lost to a team in their classification this season, are on a 12-game winning streak with an average margin of 77-57 in that time. Mr. Basketball finalist Levi Woods, the team's lone senior, will be another determining factor for the Tigers. One of three players who averages more than 16 points per game for the Tigers, Woods isn't just a scorer, evidenced by his 11.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Conversely, not only does Boyd-Buchanan want to play at a slower pace in its game, but the Bucs will rely on a roster without one focal player. The Bucs have had eight players lead them in scoring in a game this season and have six who average 6-14 points per game. Austin Walker and Justus McMillan are the only two double-digit scorers.
The experienced Bucs, who own nine wins over teams in larger classes, have been able to adjust to a variety of styles thrown at them this season. They have proven they can run at times. However, they haven't faced a team that likes to press, trap and run as much at BTW, which has scored 80-plus points 13 times.
"Our kids are comfortable playing at whatever pace they have to, but we would definitely prefer to slow this game down more than Booker T. Washington wants to," said coach Cole Rose, who has the Bucs back in the tournament for the first time since they won the state title in 1996. "We are a very selfless team and that makes us tough to scout, hopefully.
"We played a tough schedule against a lot of different styles, and I believe that gave our guys a lot of confidence that they can play with anybody."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.