Tourney time revs up
Welcome to potentially the busiest sports month of the year.
The maddening month of March.
It’s got everything – all the high school championships being decided; the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball and hockey tournaments, the opening of the Major League Baseball season, plus key NBA/NHL late regular season games and, of course, NFL free agency.
It will be crazy.
Let’s give you a few of the key dates to look at as your potential guide:
It was an important two days on the ice, first as the Souhegan girls were beaten by Exeter, 4-0, in the opening round of the playoffs.
Nashua North-Souhegan, first time for that co-op, now in its fifth year, traveled on Wednesday to Salem’s Icenter for a battle with Windham High in the Division I playoff opener.
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Another busy high school day with the boys hockey quarterfinals that could include as many as four local teams (including Division II Merrimack and III Hollis Brookline-Derryfield, both contenders), plus the Division I girls hoop quarterfinals at both Bishop Guertin and Merrimack.
It’s step one toward what the Cards hopes is a fifth straight Division I crown, and the second-ranked Tomahawks would love to be the team to ruin that.
Also that night, the Boston Bruins’ second game of the week with their main contender for a potential Eastern Conference crown, the Tampa Bay Lightning. This one is at the TD Garden.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11
Fasten your seat belts, this could be one busy night. First, it’s the night of the boys hockey semis for all three divisions, and we think there’s a good chance there could be a local in all three – possible BG in Division I, Merrimack in II, and HBD in III. The sites are Manchester’s JFK Coliseum, Concord’s Everett Arena, and Plymouth State in that divisional order. For basketball, the Division I boys basketball prelims will be played, and that could potentially mean home games for Bishop Guertin, Nashua North and South, and road for Alvirne and Merrimack (maybe an all-local matchup or two). And in girls hoop, Hollis Brookline hopes to be in the Division II semis – somewhere. We’re supposed to find out today where that would be.
THURSDAY, MARCH 12
The Division I girls hoop semis will be played, hopefully Merrimack and BG will be there. But if you’re into the Celtics, circle this date as they visit the Eastern Conference’s likely No. 1 seed Milwaukee that night.
SATURDAY, MARCH 14
A potentially huge championship game day. BG will more likely than not be playing for a Division I girls hoop title at noon, and Hollis Brookline could be doing the same thing in Division II in a 3 p.m. game. Where we still obviously don’t know but will learn today. But we know where hockey will be – at Manchester’s SNHU Arena, with title game times at 10 a.m. (girls), 12:15 p.m. (Division III), 2:30 p.m. (Division II) and 4:45 p.m. (Division I). The bet here is that for the first time since 2016, there will be at least one local team playing. Maybe two or three.
It doesn’t stop there. The Division I boys hoop quarterfinals are also that night, and the guess is if they survive the first round, there will be home games at least for BG and North. It’s going to be a wild day/night.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15
It’s NCAA Selection Sunday for the event that March Madness is based on, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tourney. Who will be the top seeds? Kansas and Baylor seem to be locks, but is it possible that San Diego State could be one? Should be interesting after all the conference tourneys. Oh for the good ol’ days of the 32 team tourney when you had to win that conference tourney to get in. In case you’re wondering, the Final Four is April 4-6 in Atlanta.
MONDAY-TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY MARCH 16-18
Get ready for the real Madness. That Monday NFL teams are permitted to begin talking to agents of players who are free agents, and that means unless he’s agreed to a new Patriots deal by then, it’s open season on one Tom Brady. Oh boy. It’s going to be crazy no matter what. You’ll hear of deal agreements but players can’t sign until the league year starts after 4 p.m. on the 18 th .
Meanwhile, Tuesday and Wednesday will be time to head over to the University of New Hampshire, where the Division II boys hoop semis will be on Tuesday and the Division I semis on Wednesday. Bet there will be locals in both. Don’t forget about red hot Hollis Brookline which is currently 13-3 and riding an 11-game winning streak in Division II.
SATURDAY MARCH 21
The final day of the local high school winter season, with Division I finals at noon and Division II at 3 p.m. at UNH’s Lundholm Gym. Should be fun.
THURSDAY, MARCH 26
Believe it or not, it’s Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, with all 30 teams playing, the third year in a row everyone starts on the same day. But March? Way too early. Your Boston Red Sox will be indoors at Toronto. Foolishly, the New York Mets will be outdoors and home vs. the Washington Nationals. MLB still can’t get this thing right.
But they do join the Madness. Hopefully we can all enjoy March.