The Division I boys' basketball tournament begins Tuesday night with eight preliminary-round games, all of which will be played at home sites.
Although the official tournament pairings won't be released by the NHIAA until Monday, the matchup between No. 7 Bedford (11-7) and No. 10 Pinkerton Academy of Derry (9-9) looks like the most intriguing game of the bunch.
Bedford is hot - the Bulldogs enter the tournament on a 10-game winning streak - and may be the lowest-seeded team with the best chance to play its way to Durham.
"Bedford is a team that's starting to peak, and they have a home game too," Manchester West coach Dan Bryson said. "I think Bedford is definitely a sleeper."
Bedford's winning streak includes a 50-48 victory over Pinkerton on Feb. 21. The Astros had a 14-point lead in the first half of that game, however, so an upset Tuesday certainly seems possible.
Pinkerton has one of the best players in the state in 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Luke Rosinski, who scored a game-high 28 points in the loss to Bedford. Pinkerton may have earned a top-eight seed had Rosinski not missed four games - all losses - with mononucleosis.
Projected Division I pairings (boys): No. 16 Alvirne (6-12) at No. 1 Manchester Central (18-0); No. 15 Concord (6-12) at No. 2 Trinity of Manchester (17-1); No. 14 Manchester West (3-15) at No. 3 Merrimack (16-2); No. 13 Salem (7-11) at No. 4 Londonderry (14-4); No. 12 Manchester Memorial (8-10) at No. 5 Bishop Guertin (13-5); No. 11 Spaulding (9-9) at No. 6 Winnacunnet (12-6); No. 10 Pinkerton (9-9) at No. 7 Bedford (11-7); No. 9 Nashua South (9-9) at No. 8 Exeter (10-8).
- - - - - - - -
There's also a good storyline attached to Tuesday's preliminary-round game between Londonderry and Salem. Londonderry coach Nate Stanton played for Salem, still lives in Salem and was an assistant coach under Salem's Rob McLaughlin last season.
There's also this: Londonderry was 9-0 on the road this season, but 5-4 at home.
- - - - - - - -
It looks like the Division I girls' tournament will feature an all-Manchester matchup between Memorial and Trinity in Wednesday's preliminary round. Each team went 11-7 during the regular season, but Trinity earned the No. 8 seed - and the home-court edge Wednesday - by beating Memorial 51-47 during the regular season.
In addition to Bedford, which went 18-0 to earn the No. 1 seed, teams that enter the postseason with momentum include Salem, which has won five in a row; and Winnacunnet of Hampton, which is 8-2 in its last 10.
Pinkerton, on the other hand, is 5-5 in its last 10 after an 8-0 start.
Projected Division I pairings (girls): No. 16 Keene (4-14) at No. 1 Bedford (18-0); No. 15 Exeter (4-14) at No. 2 Londonderry (15-3); No. 14 Merrimack (5-13) at No. 3 Bishop Guertin (14-4); No. 13 Spaulding (6-12) at No. 4 Nashua North (14-4); No. 12 Dover (8-10) at No. 5 Salem (13-5); No. 11 Manchester Central (8-10) at No. 6 Pinkerton (13-5); No. 10 Alvirne (10-8) at No. 7 Winnacunnet (12-8); No. 9 Manchester Memorial (11-7) at No. 8 Trinity (11-7).
- - - - - -
Londonderry girls' coach John Fagula called Dover and Spaulding of Rochester dangerous underdogs.
"Dover has a little bit of size and four or five kids who can shoot it," Fagula said. "On any given night you go, 'Wow. How did they have that weak of a record?'
"Spaulding is another team that has five good athletes and decent size. That's a team that doesn't mind running and gunning with you. If they're making some shots early they could play with you."
- - - - - - - -
Despite Friday night's 36-29 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover, Milford will be the No. 1 seed for the Division II girls' tournament, which starts Wednesday. Milford (16-2) won a tiebreaker (rating against tournament teams) with Hanover (16-2) to finish first.
Friday's loss ended Milford's 12-game winning streak. The Spartans haven't allowed more than 49 points in a game this season.
Projected Division II pairings (girls): No. 16 Plymouth (5-13) at No. 1 Milford (16-2); No. 15 Pelham (5-13) at No. 2 Hanover (16-2); No. 14 Kingswood (6-12) at No. 3 Souhegan (14-4); No. 13 St. Thomas (7-11) at No. 4 Merrimack Valley (14-4); No. 12 Oyster River (8-10) at No. 5 Lebanon (13-5); No. 11 Hollis/Brookline (9-9) at No. 6 Coe-Brown (13-5); No. 10 Goffstown (10-8) at No. 7 Portsmouth (12-6); No. 9 Windham (10-8) at No. 8 Pembroke (12-6).
- - - - - - - -
The brackets for the Division II boys' tournament will set up in a way that will allow Pembroke Academy to face Portsmouth in the championship game. Portsmouth (16-2) handed Pembroke (17-1) its only loss during the regular season (53-49). Pembroke and Portsmouth will be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds when the pairings are released Monday.
Projected Division II pairings (boys): No. 16 Souhegan (4-14) at No. 1 Pembroke (17-1); No. 15 Milford (4-14) at No. 2 Portsmouth (16-2); No. 14 Goffstown (5-13) at No. 3 Lebanon (15-3); No. 13 Merrimack Valley (7-11) at No. 4 Pelham (15-3); No. 12 St. Thomas (8-10) at No. 5 Bishop Brady (13-5); No. 11 Coe-Brown (10-8) at No. 6 Hollis/Brookline (13-5); No. 10 Windham (10-8) at No. 7 Plymouth (13-5); No. 9 Hanover (11-7) at No. 8 Kennett (13-5).
Roger Brown covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.