Commentary

Sizing up the Texas brackets

Updated: March 23, 2009, 1:53 PM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

Sure, college basketball has coined the term March Madness.

Meanwhile, in Texas, another type of March Madness is set to occur -- the Texas University Interscholastic League soccer playoffs. Simply put, no high school state soccer tournament is more grueling than the Texas 5A playoffs. Starting Tuesday, 128 teams will compete in a single-elimination event.

This year's boys' state playoffs will feature 10 ESPNRISE.com FAB 50 teams, while eight girls' FAB 50 squads will aim for a state title. Twenty-five of the 30 teams from the ESPNRISE.com Texas state boys' and girls' Top 15s rankings will be part of the Texas 5A tournament.

The Texas 5A state tournament will conclude April 11, and with it will come an end to the winter high school soccer season.

ESPNRISE.com sizes up the 5A brackets:

BOYS'

On the hot seat: Jesuit (Dallas). The Rangers, led by Nate Dombrowski and Alexei Reyes, have spent the entire season ranked No. 1 in the FAB 50, and now it's time for them to prove that ranking. Jesuit's draw, assuming the favored teams win, could lead to a second-round match against FAB 50 No. 26 Southlake Carroll (Southlake) and a third-round match against No. 32 Marcus (Flower Mound) just to reach the final 16.

Toughest road to the semifinals: Keller. A newcomer to the FAB 50, No. 30 Keller opens against a dangerous Hebron squad, followed by possible matchups with No. 37 Plano, No. 33 Coppell and then state-ranked and former FAB 50 Odessa Permian.

Easiest road to the semifinals: Clements (Fort Bend). The FAB 50 No. 2 team is in a 16-team regional draw that features only one other FAB 50 side -- No. 36 Kingwood (Humble). The 16-team draw opposite Clements does not have a single FAB 50 team. Therefore, Clements could reach the state semifinals without playing a single state-ranked team.

Bracket to watch: The bracket featuring regions one through eight includes six FAB 50 teams (all ranked 37 or higher), yet only one can reach the state semifinals.

Sleeper team: The Woodlands. This team has quietly turned in a strong season, winning the District 14-5A title. The draw leaves this unranked team without having to face a ranked opponent until the region semifinal.

GIRLS'

On the hot seat: Kingwood (Humble). Kingwood took over the FAB 50 No. 1 spot when Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.) lost in its section final in mid-February. Kingwood is coming off a playoff warm-up draw against FAB 50 No. 4 The Woodlands, and it's time to see whether its No. 1 ranking is warranted.

Toughest road to the semifinals: Coppell. Coppell has been in and out of the FAB 50 this season and will be a dangerous playoff squad with forward Chioma Ubogagu. The Cowgirls start postseason play against Keller, and -- if the seeds hold up -- will see No. 37 Allen and state-ranked Plano East before facing an unranked opponent in the region semifinals. A possible Coppell region final opponent will be No. 18 Hebron, No. 25 Boyd (McKinney) or state-ranked Southlake Carroll (Southlake).

Easiest road to the semifinals: Reagan (San Antonio). The FAB 50 No. 2-ranked team is the lone ranked squad in its 32-team regional draw. Reagan could benefit from the location of the region semifinals and final, which will be played in San Antonio.

Bracket to watch: Like the boys' draw, the traditional powerhouse bracket is the region's 1-8 pairing. This year's draw features three FAB 50 teams, led by No. 18 Hebron, five state-ranked teams and two other fringe state-ranked programs.

Sleeper team: Austin (Fort Bend). Although Austin does not see the day-in, day-out district competition that the likes of Dallas-area schools play, Austin remains undefeated and ranked No. 39 in the FAB 50. The team could get a shot at FAB 50 No. 1 Kingwood in the regional semifinals on April 3 at a neutral location.