Tier One

  1. Green Level (22-0 (12-0))

The Gators are the obvious choice for the top spot once again in week 12, marking their 10th consecutive week atop our rankings. Izzy Eatman has truly come into his own throughout this season, shooting the absolute cover off the ball and taking a noticeable step up defensively. In the same vein, Isaac Ericksen has noticeably improved his motor, fluidity, and overall toughness on both ends, providing for what’s proven to be (arguably) the best one-two punch in the triangle. This team executes at an incredibly high level, they have multiple bench pieces who have proven they can play in big games, and they’ve been battle-tested by a variety of situations. They need just one more win (or a Panther Creek loss) to clinch the SWAC regular season title. This week, they play Middle Creek at home before visiting Apex Friendship, either of whom will be their matchup in the SWAC semifinals.

Week 13: vs. Middle Creek, @ Apex Friendship

  1. Millbrook (14-7 (7-1))

Millbrook has been utterly dominant since conference play began, earning a point differential of 23.5 PPG and going 7-1 during that span. What’s arguably even more impressive is how prolific their offense has been, averaging over 80 PPG in conference play. Colt Langdon is the favorite for Triangle Area Player of the Year while Alex Olander has proven to be a high-level second option. The biggest difference for the Wildcats has been their supporting cast showing up with consistency. Lawton, Bartney, & Heredia are all viable to carry a heavy offensive load on any given night while also anchoring one of the more athletic defenses in the area. They visit Wake Forest on Tuesday before their rematch against Knightdale in the season finale on Friday. Winning both (and the conference tournament) would cement them as a top-four team in 4A East.

Week 13: @ Wake Forest, vs. Knightdale

  1. Southern (17-4 (12-0))

Southern is a total of 23 points away from being undefeated and hasn’t lost since January 15th. They’re 3rd in the 3A East RPI rankings and sit squarely in the top tier of contenders for their region. Jackson Keith has (once again) been incredible this year while his supporting cast has taken a step up since the season began. Camren Daniels would be the best player on most teams in the area and has found his niche as the second option for the Spartans. They have a deep group of athletes behind their star duo, allowing them to defend at a high level and dominate in transition. They play Vance County and Louisburg this week and have already locked up the #1 seed in their conference tournament.

Week 13: vs. Vance County, vs. Louisburg

Tier 2

  1. Panther Creek (17-5 (10-2))

Four of the Catamounts’ five losses have come to teams who are currently ranked top five in RPI, with the other coming back in November when PC was missing two of their top six players and only lost by four. They’ve beaten a handful of playoff-caliber teams and were a couple of minutes away from beating Green Level and tying for first place in the SWAC. They’ve gotten valuable production from each of their rotation members with Cameron Hunter specifically stepping up as a key piece, currently averaging 9.4p, 9r, & 2.4 stocks per game. They have the scoring punch, the size, and the experience to play with anyone in the triangle and will be a team that no one wants to see come playoff time.

Week 13: vs. Holly Springs, @ Middle Creek

  1. Wakefield (18-4 (6-2))

Wakefield has proven to be one of the toughest and trickiest teams to play against this season, knocking off a wide variety of high-level teams on their way to this #5 ranking. Syncere Burnette has been a legitimate superstar this year, averaging 18.1p, 5.5r, 6a, & 2.7s per game. His dynamism as an overall play creation threat cannot be overstated. Outside of a puzzling loss to Broughton, they’ve only lost to teams ranked within the top five in RPI. In their two NAC losses, both to Millbrook, they shot the ball uncharacteristically poor. Their shooting is something that has been relied on as a strength throughout the majority of the season so look for that to play a key factor in determining their playoff success.

Week 13: @ Knightdale, @ Heritage

  1. Garner (16-6 (11-1))

Since the Trojans’ loss to Green Level on MLK day, they’ve been one of the hottest teams around. They’re on a seven-game winning streak, beating everyone in the GNRC once in that span and averaging a point differential of over 20 per game. They have a deep rotation full of skilled, versatile, and unselfish athletes, all of whom execute at a high level and dominate on the defensive end. Tayshaun Whitner, Cam Reyes, and Kingston Beale have been the leaders but Keaton Bloms, Geren Holmes, Rob Ogoke, Lucas Dowless, and Ghab Scott have all played an integral role. They have SE Raleigh and Corinth Holders this week and two wins would secure them back-to-back GNRC regular season titles.

Week 13: @ Southeast Raleigh, vs. Corinth Holders

  1. Cardinal Gibbons (15-5 (8-0))

Cardinal Gibbons is a team that is being severely overlooked right now, simply because of losses from earlier in the year. They’ve been nothing short of dominant in CAP-6 play, sitting at 8-0 and winning by an average of 18.6 PPG. After struggling to find a rhythm in the first half of the season, Cash McSweeney is currently the favorite for CAP-6 Player of the Year as he’s averaging 19.6p, 13r, 2.3a, & 1.9 stocks per game in conference games. Around him, the quartet of Aiden Smalls, Ronny Turner, Trey Jones, and Damon Phillips have all been significantly impactful in their own right. They’re peaking at the right time and just need one more win to secure back-to-back CAP-6 regular season titles.

Week 13: vs. Sanderson, vs. Athens Drive

  1. Clayton (16-6 (10-2))

Clayton’s on a downswing right now after losses to Garner and SE Raleigh dropped them down to second in the GNRC race. Regardless, they’re still one of the most dangerous teams around as they have star power, size, depth, and versatility throughout their lineup. Andrew Grimes and Justice Mitchell are both competing for GNRC Player of the Year honors with seemingly equal claims to it at the moment. Ant Walters, Qua’shaun Williams, and Jeremiah Henson have all been impressive as on-ball initiators and secondary scoring options as they have a 2.2 A/TO ratio between them. They have Corinth Holders and Cleveland this week and will be favored to win both which will set the stage for a potential third matchup between the Comets and Garner in the GNRC championship game.

Week 13: @ Corinth Holders, vs. Cleveland

Tier Three

  1. Holly Springs (16-6 (8-4))

The Golden Hawks have sole possession of third place in the SWAC right now and hold an 8-1 record against anyone not named Green Level or Panther Creek. Will James Jr. continues to be exceptional, having recently surpassed 500 points on the season (good for 2nd most in school history), and only continuing to strengthen his SWAC Player of the Year candidacy. Their supporting cast has all stepped up considerably as the season has progressed which should bode well for their ensuing playoff run. The biggest question mark to answer is how they continue to supplement their offense when James Jr is being heavily focused on. Good teams will inevitably shift their focus to him in the playoffs and how he (and his teammates) handle it and adjust will be critical for hopes of a postseason push.

Week 13: @ Panther Creek, vs. Apex

  1. Knightdale (16-6 (6-2))

Knightdale earned a huge signature win over Millbrook on a ridiculous Jason Dickerson buzzer-beater a couple of weeks ago, firmly putting them one game back of first place in the NAC with two games to go. They’re one of the most deep and balanced teams in the area and they use that to its fullest advantage. Jason Dickerson has been arguably the best 6th-man in the area this season and currently leads them in scoring. Isaiah Green, who dominated on JV last season, is currently averaging an unreal four steals per game, spearheading their high-level defense. They have rematches with Wakefield and Millbrook this week and will need to win both to win the conference.

Week 13: vs. Wakefield, @ Millbrook

  1. South Garner (16-5 (7-5))

The Titans have fallen a bit since their red-hot start to the year and currently sit tied for third place in the GNRC. They are 1-5 in games against Garner, Clayton, and SE Raleigh and are 6-0 against all other conference opponents. Najai Hines has been outstanding all season long, establishing himself as one of the best rebounders and rim protectors in the area. Outperforming SE Raleigh this week is a must for them to earn the three seed in the conference tournament as SE Raleigh holds the common conference opponents tiebreaker.

Week 13: @ Cleveland, vs. Fuquay-Varina

  1. Riverside (15-7 (5-3))

Riverside has been one of the main culprits behind the absolute chaos taking place within the DAC right now. They’re in a three-way tie for first, hold a one-game lead on fourth, and hold a two-game lead on fifth with just two games left to play. They earned the highest ranking of their conference counterparts because, in their last three games, they’ve beaten Hillside, Chapel Hill, and Jordan, all of whom were ahead of them in the standings beforehand. They have an athletic group with a clear leader in Corey Hairston Jr. who is currently averaging 17.2p, 4.7r, 2.3a, & 1.5s per game on the year. They have East Chapel Hill and Northern this week who currently sit at 6th and 5th in the conference respectively. Both opponents are fighting for their playoff lives right now so each matchup should be a battle.

Week 13: @ East Chapel Hill, vs. Northern

  1. Hillside (15-6 (5-3))

Like Riverside, Hillside is one of the main culprits in turning the DAC into pure chaos. They currently sit in a three-way tie for first place and matchup against Chapel Hill (also in the three-way tie) and Jordan (one game behind the three first-place teams) in the final week of the regular season. Jayde Braswell has been on a tear recently, averaging 17 PPG in conference play. The Hornets’ depth has been surprisingly productive this year with numerous “unknown” names stepping up in noticeable ways. Sophomore Brendan Watley and freshman Ramir Goins have both handled point guard duties at a high level, averaging 8.7p, 5.9r, 4.7a, & 3.3s per game between them.

Week 13: @ Chapel Hill, @ Jordan

  1. Chapel Hill (16-6 (5-3))

Chapel Hill was in control of their destiny before dropping two of their last three and ending up in the aforementioned three-way tie for first. They have a must-win game against Hillside before they play their ever-tricky rivals East Chapel Hill in a game that could potentially determine if they win the conference or not. David Mirikwe continues to be electric, operating as the clear leader for this group while carrying a heavy burden on both ends of the floor. Their athleticism and experience have the potential to take them far in the postseason but a large part of that will be determined by their seeding which has the potential to change drastically in the next couple of weeks.

Week 13: vs. Hillside, vs. East Chapel Hill

Tier 4

  1. Apex Friendship (17-5 (7-5))

Regardless of lineup or roster construction, the Apex Friendship Patriots just find a way to be successful. They have one of the best records in the triangle and are a 2-0 week away from potentially finishing third in the SWAC. They’ve found success this year in typical Patriot fashion: balance. They don’t come and go with a single player and have 6-8 guys who could lead them in scoring on any given night. On top of that, AJ Gladieux is freshly back from injury and should provide valuable minutes in their postseason run. While it’s looking like they’ll take the 4th seed in the SWAC tournament, they’re a good or bad week away from 3rd or 5th. Finishing 5th could prove dire to their playoff hopes as Middle Creek would have to earn an at-large bid before them and the Mustangs are currently the first team out right now.

Week 13: @ Cary, vs. Green Level

  1. Sanderson (15-7 (7-1))

If Coach Roberson has proven anything in his (almost) two seasons at Sanderson it’s that he knows how to navigate the CAP-6. He’s 13-5 in conference games so far and is two wins away from earning a share of the regular season title. His teams execute on both ends at a high level and he continues to put his players in a position to be successful. Nate Fife is squarely in the mix for what would be his second consecutive CAP-6 Player of the Year award as he’s averaging 21.5p, 3.5r, 4.9a, & 1.8s per game in conference play and has his team already locked into at least second place.

Week 13: @ Cardinal Gibbons, @ Leesville Road

  1. Jordan (11-10 (4-4))

Jordan is the odd man out in the DAC title race right now after dropping to 4-4 last week. Regardless, two wins and a bit of luck can see them pull it out and, even if they stumble to the finish line, have as good a chance to win the conference tournament as anyone. Zion Wells continues to assert himself as one of the best shooting threats in the triangle while DJ Ross continues to assert himself as one of the best undersized point guards in the state. They’re well-coached, have a deep group of guards, and have one of the best freshmen around as their 6th man. It’s uncertain how the regular season will pan out for them, but this Jordan team is one that teams in the 13-20 seed range will not want to see in the first round.

Week 13: vs. Northern, vs. Hillside

  1. Heritage (13-9 (4-4))

The Huskies are the odd team out in the NAC title race after dropping their rematch with Knightdale on Friday night. Regardless, they’ve only lost to three in-state teams since November (Millbrook (2), Knightdale, & Wakefield) and have earned numerous quality wins. Levi Beckwith and Jon Mwanda have both been playing at a consistently high level since conference play began and sophomore Ryder Strand has been a huge bright spot as a 3&D threat all year. Their rematch with Wakefield in the season finale will hold relatively significant playoff-seeding implications as a win would see them jump a handful of spots in the RPI.

Week 13: vs. Rolesville, vs. Wakefield

  1. Southeast Raleigh (13-9 (7-5))

The Bulldogs are one of the more perplexing teams in the area, especially so over the past few weeks. They beat South Garner and Word of God Varsity then turned around and lost to Cleveland and Willow Spring. The next week, they beat Clayton by 22 and then immediately lost to South Garner by 23. After all the ups and downs, they sit at 26th in the RPI which is good enough to feel comfortable about making the playoffs but also bad enough to feel uncomfortable about where you’re seeded. Regardless, they have the athletes, shot makers, and depth to compete with anyone (as they’ve proven multiple times) and, should they click at the right time, are simply not a team you want to deal with in a win-or-go-home situation.

Week 4: vs. Garner, @ Willow Spring

Tier Five

  1. East Wake (18-4 (12-0))

East Wake cracks the rankings for the first time this year, slowly working their way up from 29th in the preseason. Ben Fox has been restricted with injury for much of the season and seems to be returning to form as the season winds down, evidenced by his 50-point game against Southern Wayne a few weeks ago. With seemingly everything clicking for the Warriors right now, evidenced by their current 14-game winning streak, it’ll be interesting to see where they fall in the final 3A East bracket. They’re currently projected to play a team such as Southern Lee, North Brunswick, Northern Nash, or First Flight as early as the second round, which would pose an interesting challenge to the young Warriors. Regardless, Coach Wilson has them rolling right now and there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Week 13: vs. South Johnston, @ Smithfield-Selma

Outside Teams to Monitor

Orange (12-11 (10-1))

Since Cole Cloer has returned from his preseason injury, the Panthers are 10-4 and currently hold a two-game lead atop their conference. Given Cloer’s absence and their non-conference strength of schedule, it’s safe to say that Orange is simply better than their record would suggest. They have arguably the best player in the triangle in Cloer, who’s averaging 24p, 8.1r, 2.7a, 1.4s, & 1.4b with shooting splits of 51/40/79. The raw production and efficiency he’s displaying are nothing short of excellent and will be what makes the Panthers such a tricky team to put away in the playoffs.

Week 13: @ Eastern Alamance

Middle Creek (11-11 (6-6))

The Mustangs might just be the most intriguing team to follow over the last two weeks of the season. They currently sit at 33rd in the RPI which puts them as the first team out if the playoffs started today. They have the tall task of playing Green Level and Panther Creek in the same week and winning either of these games would most likely move them into the playoff picture. Losing both wouldn’t necessarily eliminate them but they would need a very strong conference tournament showing to offset their (potentially) 6-8 conference record.

Week 13: @ Green Level, vs. Panther Creek