An influx of teams into the 2A ranks because of realignment has certainly changed the entire complexion of the classification this year.
Repeating as state champion was never going to be easy for South Sevier, but the newcomers make it much tougher.
Defending 1A state champion Wasatch Academy made the jump to 2A this year, while Richfield and Manti both dropped down from 3A. The trio are ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively in the most recent Deseret News rankings behind No. 1 South Sevier.
"Repeating as champion, we're going to have to get a little lucky to win it this year," said South Sevier coach Scott Hunt.
Emery is another quality program that dropped down from 3A this year, but for a variety of reasons the Spartans have struggled this preseason. Without the fresh faces, 2A might've been a one-horse race this year. Instead, Hunt believes there are probably four or five teams with a legitimate shot at winning the state title.
The Rams and reigning 2A MVP Race Parsons are right at the top of the list. Parsons is averaging 24.7 ppg, and he's led South Sevier to eight straight victories since starting the year with a 62-55 loss to Wasatch Academy.
Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan was as surprised as anybody about the outcome.
"It was a shocker to me cause I didn't think we were playing very well and we still won," he said.
Heading into the new year, both Hunt and Morgan believe their teams are struggling a bit despite their glossy records. Some of it is nitpicking, but with the quality of competition in 2A this year, it might take perfection in the state tournament to walk away with the trophy.
After beating South Sevier to open the season, the Tigers won five straight before falling to 5A school Weber at Salt Lake Community College before the break.
"We haven't been playing well, and we've been learning from winning, now we've got to learn from a loss," said Morgan.
Wasatch Academy's only returning contributor from last year's 1A title team is Fred Krajacic, who's averaging 13.9 ppg.
Like Wasatch Academy, South Sevier also played a 5A school this preseason knocking off Fremont 65-50.
Over the next two months, Hunt would like to see the Rams' team chemistry get better, along with his players getting both mentally and physically tougher. Otherwise Richfield could sneak up and steal the Region 15 title.
At 9-2, the Wildcats have enjoyed a very good preseason, with both losses coming to 3A schools. Balanced scoring and great defense have been keys to the hot start.
Wasatch Academy will have some competition of its own in Region 16 with Manti and Gunnison both expected to be good. Gunnison hung with South Sevier in a game before the break, and Hunt doesn't believe it was a fluke.
"One team that people haven't really looked at and who has a really solid team is Gunnison. They're big, they're strong and they have good guards. I think they'll give Manti and Wasatch Academy a run in that region," said Hunt.
Region 14 might not be as talented top to bottom as in year's past, but Waterford has the potential to be a sleeper team in 2A. The Ravens played Wasatch Academy very tough in a 56-51 loss earlier this month, and coach Reid Monson believes that as his largely inexperienced team gains confidence they'll develop into a quality team.
Waterford is the only team with a winning record this preseason from Region 14, while Beaver is the only team with a winning record from Region 13.
Note: Projections were picked by Deseret News staff, with input from coaches.
2. South Summit
3. North Summit
4. Rowland Hall
5. Maeser Prep
1. South Sevier
3. San Juan
1. Wasatch Academy
4. North Sevier
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