This much we do know: The three top teams - Mount St. Joseph, St. Frances and Calvert Hall - clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack during the regular season, with each going undefeated against all other league foes. Thursday's quarterfinal round features McDonogh at Mount St. Joseph, Cardinal Gibbons at St. Frances, Archbishop Spalding at Calvert Hall, and John Carroll at Loyola. The semifinals will take place Friday, with the championship set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at UMBC.
The No. 1 Gaels (26-2) have been tabbed the favorites by going 14-0 in the league, but the difference between them and No. 2 St. Frances (17-8, 9-2) and No. 3 Calvert Hall (17-4, 8-2) is minimal.
"Basically, it comes down to which team is the most mentally and physically ready to play. It's win or go home, and each possession is going to be important," Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said.
The last big regular-season game had Mount St. Joseph earning a 69-68 win over St. Frances on Jan. 31. That game came down to the final seconds, and Sunday's title game - whichever teams advance - could provide the same suspense.
"The obvious concerns are conditioning, offensive rhythm and getting the kids playing together as a team," Calvert Hall coach John Bauersfeld said. "But I'm not worried about the kids being focused because this is what they wait for all year. We're going to have to make the timely shots and timely plays."
Here's a breakdown of the three top-seeded teams:
Mount St. Joseph: The Gaels have the league's most consistent and experienced player in All-Metro senior point guard Eric Atkins, who has been on varsity all four years. Versatile senior forward Ryley Beaumont has made big plays at both ends all season, and senior guard Matt Miller is a steady scoring threat. St. Frances has a 68-55 win over Mount St. Joseph in a holiday tournament Dec. 31, but the Gaels have avenged the loss with two league wins since. Mount St. Joseph routed McDonogh, 66-42, on Jan. 17, and if the Gaels advance, they would meet the John Carroll-Loyola winner in the semifinal round.
St. Frances: Coach Mark Karcher has plenty of athleticism and skills to work with, and the Panthers could successfully defend last year's crown if they play to their highest level. Senior small forward Dante Holmes is the team's do-it-all player, point guard R.J. Williams is a constant spark, shooting guard Wayne Sparrow can score in a hurry, and center Greg Lewis has emerged as a dominating presence inside. St. Frances could get a first-round push from Gibbons, which features sharpshooting senior guard Dylon Cormier and stayed close in a 57-50 setback against the Panthers on Feb. 3.
Calvert Hall: The Cardinals lost to Mount St. Joseph (60-53 on Jan. 15) and St. Frances (60-51 on Jan. 22) but have the goods to finish with the big trophy Sunday. Senior center Jonathan Graham is the league's most dominant big man, and forward Damion Lee presents matchup problems for any opponent. Forward Donya Jackson plays stifling defense, and Kyle Wise is a capable point guard. The Cardinals beat all league foes but the Gaels and the Panthers by 10 points or more.