There aren't many teams in Class 4A with a realistic shot at winning the basketball state championship, and it's debatable whether an Olympus team that was ranked No. 1 for a good chunk of the season is one them.
Sure the Titans are talented enough to win it all, an 18-3 record and a victory over Bingham are proof of that, but they're banged up heading into the 4A state tournament and face without a doubt the most difficult path to the title of any other contender.
That's the reality of losing twice to Bountiful and finishing second in Region 6.
Now, despite winning 18 games, Olympus must open the 4A state tournament on the road today against a Sky View team that finished second in Region 5 and won 16 games.
Olympus coach Matt Barnes, who was an assistant at Sky View for several years in the early 90s, knows how difficult it can be for visiting teams in Smithfield. Nonetheless, he believes his players are ready for the challenge after their heart-breaking loss to Bountiful in the region finale last week.
"Our main goal this year is to make a run at the state championship, and as disheartening as it was to lose to Bountiful, our main goals are all still there," said Barnes.
Achieving those goals has become a bit more difficult. The UHSAA tweaked the state tourney format this year, and instead of all eight first round games being played at a neutral site on the same day they'll be played tonight at the higher seeds. Those eight winners advance to Thursday's quarterfinals at Weber State University beginning at 2:15 p.m.
Barnes believes his team is one of five or six capable of cutting down the nets at the Dee Events Center on Saturday night, but others definitely have more momentum heading into the playoffs.
Lehi finished the regular season with an 18-3 record and is in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. Provo, meanwhile, split the season series with Lehi and claimed the outright Region 7 championship.
"Utah County plays great basketball. Anytime you lock up with teams down here you're going to have great games," said Provo coach Craig Drury.
Mountain Crest started the year 0-3 against some tough competition, but it won 15 of its next 16 games to win the Region 5 title. Bountiful, which starts five juniors, is another team that started slow, but the Braves hit their stride in the new year and beat Olympus twice to claim the Region 6 title.
Two dark horses with the potential of duplicating West's improbable title run from 2009 are Timpview and Springville.
Timpview finished third in Region 7 with a 15-7 record, but it split the season series with Lehi and narrowly lost to Provo 51-49 back on Feb. 19. On any given night, the T-Birds have proven they can play with anyone.
Springville is another enigmatic team. It impressively beat Wasatch and Pleasant Grove on back-to-back nights in December, as well as suffering narrow three-point losses to Provo and Lehi in the preseason. The Red Devils, however, also lost to Copper Hills by 22 and finished the season by dropping two of their last three games. Now they must open the playoffs on the road at Pine View.
Led by superstar point guard Kyle Collinsworth, who leads 4A in scoring at 23.2 ppg, Provo is regarded as a slight favorite heading into this week's 4A state tournament. Of the Bulldog's three losses, two came in overtime against 5A's Alta and American Fork and the other was a two-point loss to Lehi in region play.
With experienced players like Collinsworth and Ryan Durrant, Drury said he likes Provo's chances in tight games but he refuses to look past Woods Cross.
"The state championship for us is (today). You cannot win a championship unless you win the first game," said Drury.
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