Rarely is the Division I district boys basketball tournament as unpredictable as it was a year ago.

Rarely is the Division I district boys basketball tournament as unpredictable as it was a year ago.

Not only did top-seeded Northland lose in shocking fashion to 15th-seeded and eventual district champion Westerville South in a semifinal after its best player was benched, but sixth-seeded Newark used the district tournament as a format to begin a run to its first state championship since 1943.

To those of you looking to find the latest sleeper at the district level, I send this word of caution: There is little room for one this year.

Northland, which again is the top seed, has a power combination inside that no one in central Ohio can match. And this time, you can bet that junior Ohio State-recruit Jared Sullinger will be in uniform for every important game the Vikings play on their way to the lower-bracket title.

In the upper bracket, there's a lot to love about third-seeded Grove City. With one of the area's best big men in senior Jon Smith, a talented sidekick in senior Ryan Cosgray and with height and experience, the Greyhounds shouldn't struggle much despite having a road that likely will include Beechcroft or Dublin Coffman.

That leaves the middle bracket, where always-intriguing second-seeded Dublin Scioto and No. 4 Newark are the headliners.

First off, it seems unlikely that the Wildcats can make another run like last year. Greg Avery, a 2008 graduate, was the heart of that team. Newark then lost a huge piece when 6-foot-9 senior post player Dane Kopp left the team Feb. 12 because of a school issue.

Until they won their first district title last year, the Irish perennially were the team that entered the tournament as a high seed but somehow always stumbled.

Can their defense-first approach help them make it two in a row, or is there another team in the middle bracket that could surprise?

The next-highest seeds in the bracket are No. 7 Upper Arlington and No. 10 Reynoldsburg. Both have been impressive at times followed by mysterious bouts of inconsistency.

That leads us back to Scioto, and the potential that the top three seeds all will win. It would set up a memorable regional, considering the state's third-ranked team, Middletown, would be in line to join the trio.

Projected champions: Scioto, Grove City and Northland

•DIVISION II -- Upsets aren't uncommon in this division. As recently as 2005, Linden-McKinley entered the postseason with six wins but made it to state.

With no disrespect meant toward top-seeded DeSales or No. 2 Canal Winchester, improved play in the OCC-Capital Division could help create another wide-open tournament.

In the upper bracket headlined by Canal Winchester and third-seeded Lakewood, New Albany and Olentangy Orange both look dangerous. One thing that doesn't bode well for the Indians and Lancers is that before the Indians won last year, only two MSL teams had won Division II district titles since 1991.

Orange has one of the district's better backcourts in Zack Joseph and Taylor Rieger and needs only to overcome youth to earn a district title in its first season.

In the bottom, sixth-seeded Big Walnut should emerge to set up a battle with DeSales in the district final. However, it will be tough to get past the Stallions. They have played a difficult non-league as well as CCL schedule, feature a nice talent in Nick Kellogg and have height and depth.

Projected champions: DeSales and Orange

•DIVISION III -- The district's 25 coaches were right to reward Hartley the No. 1 seed. Although the Hawks had four losses at the time of the drawing Feb. 8, they play one of the toughest schedules in Division III.

The Nos. 2-6 seeds then went to the other bracket, leaving Hartley in the same bracket with -- gulp -- one of the area's better stories this year, North Union, and defending district champions Ready and Columbus Academy.

With Cameron Baker and Max Hoster providing as good of a duo as anybody in Division III, the battle-tested Vikings are ready to make another run.

In the lower bracket, second-seeded Madison Plains returns three of its top players from a team that finished as a district runner-up last year and should get it done this time.

Projected champions: Columbus Academy and Madison Plains

•DIVISION IV -- One of these years, Tree of Life will follow an impressive regular season with a district championship run. Considering the Trojans are in the same bracket with top-seeded Newark Catholic and Africentric, this isn't likely to be the year.

The Nubians are just 8-11, but play mostly Divisions I and II teams and should provide a tough test but come up just short against the Green Wave.

In the lower bracket, whichever team survives the second-round matchup between fourth-seeded Fisher Catholic and No. 5 Harvest Prep won't get by second-seeded Worthington Christian, which has an individual talent in Brian Hecker that no one else in this district possesses.

Projected champions: Newark Catholic and Worthington Christian