No topic has created a bigger buzz around the BCAA Big 8 boys’ basketball tournament than the three perennial county basketball powers and huge box office draws who didn’t make the cut.
Big 8 regulars Dillard, a five-time state champion, Deerfield Beach, a 2012-13 Class 8A state semifinalist, and Northeast did not qualify for the tournament, which tips off at Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday.
Those glaring omissions keep with a theme of just how unpredictable this season has been.
What the BCAA Big 8 loses in star power — along with the throng of faithful and vocal fans who travel well with Dillard, Deerfield Beach and Northeast — it gains with two fresh faces: resurgent Flanagan (14-5) and Class 8A No. 8 McArthur (15-5) trying to prove they belong among the Broward blue bloods.
For that to happen, both programs can’t just be satisfied with getting a ticket to the Big 8 dance and bowing out in the first round without a fight.
If Flanagan and McArthur want to send a message they have indeed arrived, the stage is theirs to at the very least, push their top three state-ranked first round opponents to the brink, if not pull an upset.
Flanagan and Kyanti Blyden get thrown into the fire at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday when they face Blanche Ely star guard Lance Tejada III and the two-time defending Class 7A state champion Tigers (18-2).
Ely is not in a good mood after losing for the second time to archrival Boyd Anderson last week and dropping from No. 1 to No. 3 in the 7A state poll.
The Rodney Simeon-led Cobras (18-3), who leapfrogged Ely for the No. 2 spot in 7A, open their Big 8 bid against Cypress Bay and Russ Barnes at 6:30.
McArthur hopes explosive guard Derric Jean can keep speedy point guard Jose Morales occupied when the Mustangs faces Class 5A No. 3 Cardinal Gibbons (18-5) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Class 6A No. 5 Pines Charter, led by 6-5 guard Haanif “Mr. Triple Double” Cheatham, plays resurgent St. Thomas Aquinas (13-8) and Sidney Umude at 8 p.m.
• University School hired Phoenix Christian (Ariz.) Prep coach Brandon Harris as its new coach, athletic director Paul Herfurth said. Harris, 46, replaces Roger Harriott, who resigned a month ago to become an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic.
A former University of Idaho receiver who also was a member of the Denver Broncos’ practice squad and played for Sacramento of the World Football League, Harris has 19 years of college and high school coaching experience.
• Adam Ratkevich has been named the football coach at Western. Ratkevich, who coached at Northeast and Deerfield Beach with a combined record of 47-73 over eight seasons, was an assistant at Western from 1994-98 under Ray Buscemi.
• Arkansas has received oral commitments from four South Florida players in two days.
Dillard safety Randy Ramsey announced his pledge to Arkansas on Sunday with Miami Norland wide receiver Kendrick Edwards, Miami Gulliver Prep receiver Cornelius Floyd and Miami Killian defensive end Anthony Brown following suit Monday.