Today, the bracket play for the annual Hoopstate Championship officially begins with two highly intriguing matchups. Each year, this event serves as a battle to determine who ultimately comes out victorious as the top independent program in North Carolina. The field features Quality Education, New Life Christian, Winston-Salem Christian (National and Regional), Combine Academy (National and Regional), Piedmont Classical, NC GBB, Word of God, and 1 of 1 Academy. Following Moravian Prep winning the first championship in 2020, Combine Academy has taken home back-to-back titles over the last two seasons. However, it seems like this event could be more competitive this year than ever before. This article will preview the first-round matchups, starting with Quality Education versus New Life Christian. 

Quality Education (8) vs. New Life Christian (9)

Although both of these squads have played a ton of games this season, they actually haven't matched up with one another. Starting with Quality Education, they've been an extremely balanced group all season long. It's genuinely shocking that their senior grouping of Tyson Barrett, Nigel Okwakol, and Keyon Webb remained unsigned, especially given the way they've consistently led this group. Their junior duo of Bobby Cannon and Jermaurhiyun Anderson have also played pivotal roles while freshman Donyeh Baird has steadily emerged as a key piece. Add in Anthony Reeves, and the Fighting Pharaohs definitely have a quality rotation of guys. 

On the other side, New Life Christian has consistently played at a high level despite multiple personnel adjustments during the season. Where most teams would struggle integrating numerous incoming pieces, they've arguably been playing their best basketball since acquiring Cam Oates, Truman Claytor, and Jakwon Moore. Although their respective recruitments don't match their actual abilities, each of these guys should have a slew of programs in pursuit. However, the Monarchs also have a variety of talented guys with the likes of Jaheim Faison, Javian Grant, Kaleb James, and Malachi Travis. Both groups have a lot of pieces that should appeal to college coaches, so it'll be exciting to see who advances to the next round.