Keynan Cutlip

Science Hill’s Keynan Cutlip, left, has helped the Hilltoppers reach 16 wins, the highest total in the state.

Even in a normal year, the first state basketball rankings are a difficult chore.

It takes research — usually in the form of “who did this team lose to, and how good is the team that beat it?” — and word-of-mouth recommendations from across the state.

As for the 2020-21 season, it’s even more of a challenge because some good teams may not have played very many games. Other good teams may have losses on their resume that are COVID-19 related.

Tradition probably plays a greater role in this year’s first rankings. If there is a muddle, it’s best to go with the school that tends to make postseason noise on an annual basis.

Here’s a class-by-class look at some notable rankings from the Times News and Johnson City Press for the Associated Press state poll.

BOYS

Class AAA

Top spot — Germantown Houston

The Mustangs (8-2) are like a double- cheese, double-bacon club sandwich. Yes, loaded. They have three Division I players in the lineup: Mason Miller (Creighton), Jerrell Colbert (LSU) and Jonathan Lawson (Oregon). With Shelby County schools out of the mix, Houston is the team to beat. (Poll rank: 1)

No. 2 — Bearden

The only loss for the Bulldogs (14-1) is to private-school power Knox Catholic. (Poll rank: 5)

No. 6 — Science Hill

No. 7 — Dobyns-Bennett

Unfortunately the issue between these two area powers won’t get any clearer Friday because the Indians have gone into quarantine status. Science Hill (16-2) leads the state, among all classifications, in victories. (Poll rank: Science Hill, 8; D-B, unranked)

No. 9 — Morristown East

Just a reminder that the Region 1-AAA tournament could be quite a battle. (Poll rank: unranked)

Class AA

Top spot — Jackson South Side

The Hawks (8-1) have won 40 of their last 41 games. They were 32-0 last year when the state tournament was canceled. (Poll rank: 1)

No. 6 — Elizabethton

This might be a little high for the Cyclones, but they are riding a 10-game winning streak and only two teams in the state have fewer losses. (Poll rank: 9)

No. 10 — Sullivan East

The Patriots have played a much tougher schedule than Elizabethton, so Friday’s game in Bluff City should be very interesting. (Poll rank: unranked)

Class A

Top spot — Loretto

Coming off a 27-5 season with a state berth, the Mustangs seem like a safe pick for now. They are 7-1 with a loss to a good Class AA team (Creek Wood). (Poll rank: 1)

No. 5 — North Greene

They have the most wins in the state among Class A teams with 13. Their losses were against two Class AAA teams (David Crockett and Daniel Boone) and private school Providence Academy. (Poll rank: 5)

GIRLS

Class AAA

Top spot — Murfreesboro Riverdale

Blackman and Bradley Central may be better candidates for this position, but the Lady Warriors (7-0) have a rich tradition. (Poll rank: 3)

No. 2 — Bradley Central

An 18-point loss to Upperman kept the Lady Bears (8-1) from our No. 1 spot. (Poll rank: 1)

Class AA

Top spot — Upperman

The Lady Bees sting. They are 17-0 with all but one win being double-digit margins. And they’ve beaten Brentwood, Bradley Central, Oakland, and other strong teams. (Poll rank: 1)

No. 9 — Sullivan East

The Lady Patriots were competitive in a loss to the No. 7 team (Grainger) in our rankings. (Poll rank: unranked)

Class A

Top spot — Gibson County

The Lady Pioneers are 17-1 with their lone loss coming against our No. 4 team (McKenzie). Those two teams along with Loretto (No. 2) are state-title threats. (Poll rank: 2)

No. 5 — North Greene

No. 9 — Cloudland

The Lady Huskies (10-3) have losses against Class AA foes Grainger, Northview Academy and Greeneville. Their one-point home win over Cloudland gives the Lady Highlanders a reason to belong in the top 10. (Poll rank: North Greene, 9; Cloudland, unranked)

STATE WRESTLING TOURNAMENTS

The state dual wrestling meet has been moved to four different sites: Nolensville, Centennial, Independence and Mill Creek Middle School. The events will take place Feb. 6.

The individual tournaments will return to Chattanooga after a 12-year absence. They will be held at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Feb. 18-20.

Changes were necessary because the Williamson County Ag Expo Center was unavailable this year. It has been in use as a COVID-19 testing center since last spring.

BASKETBALL HIGHLIGHT GAMES

BOYS

Tuesday

• Hampton at University High

Friday

• Elizabethton at Sullivan East

• Hampton at North Greene

Hampton will get a chance to see if its tough schedule will pay off in Watauga Valley Conference play.

GIRLS

Tuesday

• Science Hill at Volunteer

Friday

• Science Hill at Dobyns-Bennett

• Elizabethton at Sullivan East

The Lady Hilltoppers can take a big step forward in the Big Seven Conference race, or things could be thrown into a jumble.

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