Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.
Detroit Renaissance: Every team in this district is at least .500. U-D Jesuit has proved it’s a state-caliber program in the post-Cassius Winston years. The forgotten Cub is Eli Collins, since he’s going to MSU for football, but he’s an athletic, tough guard an an X factor for 17-3 U-D. They open Monday with Warren Fitzgerald. Where’s Carlos English when you need him? Awaiting the winner is Hazel Park, in its first year in Class A but fitting right in with an 18-2 mark and an athletic, senior-dominated lineup. The Vikings’ only two losses were to defending state champion Clarkston. The home team and lone PSL representative, Renaissance, is 12-6 and, like U-D Jesuit, features a pair of 2019 D1 prospects, 6-7 Carrington McCaskill and 6-5 Chandler Turner. Renaissance opens with Berkley, and the winner will have 16-2 Oak Park, which has won 15 straight games including a 43-point dismantling of Flint Beecher.
Detroit Western: 16-4 Cass Tech has a first-round bye and will likely play 10-6 Detroit King in the semifinals. That’s a grudge match, as MLK’s top guard, senior Marcus Gibbs, is a transfer from Cass. Mr. Basketball finalist leads 14-3 East English Village against Detroit Western in the other Monday game. Western didn’t win a league game in the regular season, but any team with 6-7 Tray Jackson, a top five unsigned senior, on the court and coach Derrick McDowell on the bench has a chance. Hamtramck will play that winner in the semifinals.
Ann Arbor Skyline: Skyline is undefeated this year — but its senior class has yet to win a district game. They’ll have to get their first one Monday against intradistrict rival Pioneer, which is dangerous with a healthy junior point guard Drew Lowder in the lineup. Look for his Skyline counterpart Brandon Wade to show the world why he deserved to be a Mr. Basketball finalist. 12-6 Romulus plays the winter, still stinging from a 40-point shellacking by Skyline last week. 15-5 Ann Arbor Huron should be a finalist in the other side of the district bracket. Its point guard, Lewis Willis, has been playing great down the stretch.
Salem: 12-8 Novi is the only team this year to have beaten 18-1 Canton. The Wildcats await Monday’s Canton vs. Novi Catholic Central winner in the district semifinals. Canton has the advantage at guard play with speedy juniors B. Artis White and Vinson Sigmon who average 28 points and 8 assists between them. CC counters with size, including bouncy 6-7 junior Justin Rukat one of the real sleepers in Michigan’s 2019 class and 6-7 all-around scorer Davis Lukomski. Novi has seniors and guard play, so could make up for a disappointing early regular season with a March run. On the other side of the bracket Plymouth will meet Salem or Northville in the semifinals.