Thanks to the format of the brackets of the state high school basketball tournament and the simple luck of the draw, there will always be interesting early-round matchups.
Such was the case in the first round last weekend, and more are in store when the second round gets under way with girls action in all five classifications tonight.
"Regardless whenever it is, you've got to play (the best teams) to win it," said Shiloh boys coach Kim Rivers, whose No. 3 state-ranked Generals face one of the second-round's marquee matchups when they travel to top-ranked Milton on Wednesday night, following their first-round win over Mill Creek on Saturday. "You've got to play everybody that's somebody to win a state championship. We played a tough schedule this year. They played a tough schedule. We've just got to go out there and may the best team win."
Rivers speaks from experience.
Thanks to a loss to fourth-ranked Berkmar (22-7) in the Region 8-AAAAA championship game, the Generals (25-4) fell into a quadrant of the Class AAAAA bracket that forced them to battle a scrappy Mill Creek team before escaping with a 51-48 win and being "rewarded" with a second-round matchup at Milton (25-4), last year's state runner-up and the 2010 state champion, which also appears in several national rankings.
And it won't get any easier for the winner, which will have to take on another ranked team in either No. 8 North Gwinnett (20-9) or No. 9 Wheeler (17-10) in the quarterfinals.
And it's not just the Class AAAAA boys bracket that features matchups worthy of the later rounds.
In Class AA boys, eighth-ranked Buford (22-7) hits the road to take on No. 9 Dawson County (24-6).
Meanwhile, girls matchups between second-ranked and two-time defending champion Norcross (24-5) and No. 10 Marietta (24-4) and No. 4 North Gwinnett (24-3) and No. 9 Woodstock (21-8) in Class AAAAA, plus No. 6 GAC (20-8) and top-ranked Model (27-1) in Class AA are also eye-catchers.
You will hear very few complaints from coaches of the teams left standing, who will point out that any team that qualifies for the postseason is dangerous regardless of record or seeding.
There were plenty of local examples in the first round.
In addition to Shiloh's close call, North's boys and Parkview's girls were among several teams to survive after being pushed by lower-seeded opponents.
In fact, Parkview trailed Duluth heading into the fourth quarter of last Friday's opening-round game before pulling away for a 53-41 win.
It was the first time the unbeaten (29-0) and second-ranked Panthers had trailed after three quarters all season.
But combined with a similar test posed by Brookwood in the Region 8-AAAAA finals a week earlier, Parkview coach Tony Watkins hopes Friday's test will prepare them for bigger battles between his team and its goal of a state title, beginning with tonight's second-round matchup at home with North Forsyth (21-8).
"We haven't been in the situation (we were in) the last two games (often)," Watkins said after Friday's win. "So, I was pleased. ... We're playing (tonight). So, that's the most important thing."