Searching for the North Suncoast's version of the rough-and-tumble play of Big East basketball, where no team is safe from being upset by any of its conference foes?
Look no further than the Class 4A, District 7 tournament, which begins Tuesday at Wesley Chapel and features seven teams capable of reaching the title game and earning a spot in the state playoffs.
Hudson enters the tournament as the team to beat thanks to a 13-1 record in district play. But the Cobras, led by the guard play of leading scorer Richey Williams (19 points a game) and Jamal Branco (16) aren't a shoo-in to reach their third district final in four seasons. Of Hudson's past nine district wins, six have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
In last season's district tournament, Hudson was the third seed but upset by Anclote, a first-year program that had been blown out by the Cobras in two regular-season matchups.
Still, the Cobras, who this season are the No. 1 seed for the first time in school history, are the smart pick to win it all.
"We've seen both sides," Hudson coach Jason Vetter said. "Obviously, we know any team can get you on any night."
Any team such as Ridgewood, which has the tournament's most dominating post duo in Scott Kujak and Mike Wood, who each average 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Or Gulf, which despite its youth has developed into one of the area's most talented teams and lost by only four points to Hudson the last time the teams played.
Fourth seed Anclote has made steady improvement over the course of the season and can point to a victory over Ridgewood and a pair of wins over district quarterfinal opponent Mitchell to prove it has what it takes to advance.
Then there's Mitchell, the X-factor. The Mustangs were in line to earn one of the tournament's top seeds until Jake Driscoll, the North Suncoast's leading scorer, contracted mononucleosis over the holiday break and missed eight games. With Driscoll healthy and picking up where he left off before his illness, the Mustangs are as dangerous as any team on the North Suncoast.
"Mitchell's a lot better than a No. 5 seed now with Driscoll healthy," said Vetter, whose team's only district loss came at the hands of the Driscoll-led Mustangs.
And don't forget sixth-seeded Wesley Chapel and seventh-seeded Pasco. The Wildcats beat Anclote twice and Mitchell once during the regular season. Pasco won eight games a year after going 2-20.
"Pasco is the most athletic team out there," Anclote coach Jason Szymanski said. "If they could ever get something going to where they get on a hot streak, watch out."
Only Fivay appears to be on the outside looking in. Yet don't be so quick to write off the first-year Falcons.
They open against Hudson, a team that beat them by 22 and 33 points during the regular season. But the Falcons picked up their first win in school history on Jan. 29 against River Ridge and closed out the regular season with a string of narrow losses.
"I bet you (Fivay's) going to come out with more confidence," Szymanski said. "They'll probably come out even better than what Hudson might be expecting."
Other districts might have more teams capable of reaching the state semifinals, but none have the parity of 4A-7.
"There are so many good matchups. Any of these games could go any way depending on what happens with fouls and injuries," Szymanski said. "I'm interested myself to see how it's all going to shape up. It should make for a fun week of basketball. I can't wait to get started."
And we can't wait to watch.
Bryan Burns can be reached at email@example.com.
5A-7 at Ocala Forest
Wednesday: Ocala West Port (2) vs. Springstead (3), 6; Forest (1) vs. Central (4), 7:30. Friday: Final, 7.
The scoop: Springstead advanced to the state playoffs last season as the district runner up before falling to a strong Newsome team in the region quarterfinals. A return trip to regions for the Eagles, however, is contingent on upsetting West Port in the opening round. Springstead's Will Hill (25) and Naquan Inniss combined for 44 points in a 79-71 loss to the Wolf Pack on Dec. 7. That duo will need to duplicate or exceed that effort if the Eagles are to have a chance. Central went 0-6 in district play during the regular season, losing by an average of 25 points.
4A-7 at Wesley Chapel
Tuesday: Hudson (1) vs. Fivay (8), 6; Ridgewood (2) vs. Pasco (7), 7:45. Wednesday: Anclote (4) vs. Mitchell (5), 6; Gulf (3) vs. Wesley Chapel (6), 7:45. Friday: Ridgewood-Pasco winner vs. Gulf-Wesley Chapel winner, 6; Hudson-Fivay winner vs. Anclote-Mitchell winner, 7:45. Saturday: Final, 7.
The scoop: Write each team's name on a strip of paper, place each strip in a hat and shake it up. Now select one strip from the hat, and you're likelier to pick the tournament winner than if you spent a week pouring over matchups, statistics and past results.
2A-10 at Indian Rocks Chr.
Tuesday: Bishop McLaughlin (4) vs. Brooks-DeBartolo (5), 7. Friday: Calvary Christian (2) vs. Indian Rocks Christian (3), 6; Tampa Prep (1) vs. Bishop McLaughlin-Brooks-DeBartolo winner, 7:30. Saturday: Final, 7.
The scoop: Top-seeded Tampa Prep has advanced to the state semifinals in three of the past four seasons and last season lost in the final. The Terrapins are led by junior guard Devontae Morgan, a Butler commitment who scores 18 points a game. Bishop McLaughlin should have no problems against Brooks-DeBartolo, a team the Hurricanes routed twice during the regular season. A potential semifinal matchup with the Terrapins is another story, however. In two meetings this season with Tampa Prep, the Hurricanes have scored 25 points — total.
4A-8 at Nature Coast
Tonight: Sunlake (8) vs. Zephyrhills (9), 7. Tuesday: Land O'Lakes (4) vs. Lecanto (5), 6; Nature Coast (1) vs. Sunlake-Zephyrhills winner, 7:30. Wednesday: Citrus (3) vs. Hernando (6), 6; Wiregrass Ranch (2) vs. River Ridge (7), 7:30. Friday: Wiregrass Ranch-River Ridge winner vs. Citrus-Hernando winner, 6; Nature Coast-Sunlake-Zephyrhills winner vs. Land O'Lakes-Lecanto winner, 7:30. Saturday: Final, 7.
The scoop: Nature Coast's 13-game win streak ended Saturday against nationally ranked Winter Park. Despite the 36-point loss, the Sharks are favored to capture their second district title in a row. Wiregrass Ranch's only district loss came against Nature Coast. The Bulls are playing some of their best basketball, winning nine of their past 10. Points have been hard to come by for No. 4 seed Land O'Lakes. But the up-and-down Gators will be a tough out for any opponent. If one of their streaky scorers can get a hot hand, look out. Hernando hasn't won a game since Jan. 18. Its last victory, however, came against first-round opponent Citrus, the No. 3 seed.
A-8 at Bradenton Christian
Friday: Seffner Christian (2) vs. Citrus Park Christian (3), 5; Bradenton Christian (1) vs. Hernando Christian (4), 7. Saturday: Final, 7.
The scoop: Seffner Christian and Bradenton Christian advanced to the district final a year ago and should do so again. Hernando Christian faces an uphill battle. The Lions went winless in district play and lost to first-round opponent Bradenton Christian by 47 points on Jan. 7.
A-9 at Keswick Christian
Tuesday: Canterbury (4) vs. Tampa Bay Christian (5), 4:30; Keswick Christian (3) vs. Academy at the Lakes (6), 6; Cambridge (2) vs. Lakeside Christian (7), 7:30. Friday: Keswick-AATL winner vs. Cambridge-Lakeside winner, 6; Carrollwood Day (1) vs. Canterbury-Tampa Bay Christian winner, 7:30. Saturday: Final, 7.
The scoop: It's likely a three-team race among Carrollwood Day, Cambridge and Keswick Christian. AATL drew a difficult opening-round assignment against Keswick. The Wildcats lost by 32 and 34 points in the two regular-season meetings.