By Dave Ruden
We are nearly at the midway point of the boys basketball season, and there is an analysis on the way where I will hand out my midseason awards.
To show the kind of year it has been, I emailed all league coaches to get their feedback for the All-FCIAC Team, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year to date. I’ve heard back so far from six coaches, who have come up with 11 different choices for All-FCIAC and three each for the best player and coach.
Right now Bridgeport Central and Greenwich are the only remaining unbeaten teams, and Fairfield Warde is the lone team without a win in conference play.
Fourteen of the 19 schools are within three games of each other. On my personal scorecard, I have three teams labeled sure-things for the league playoffs and five that can be written off. That would leave 11 schools for five spots.
It is going to be a wild finish because of the parity. The final night of the season could see a number of games determine teams qualifying for the playoffs. It is likely only a couple of top seeds will be determined at that point.
We will save the serious analysis for another few days. For now, out in the field you get a number of questions from fans and topics that come up in conversations with coaches.
Here are five:
1. Can Anyone Beat Bridgeport Central? The Hilltoppers winning a second straight FCIAC title has been a foregone conclusion since their season ended last March. The short answer is, of course. No team is unbeatable.
Central received a scare on Friday night from Ridgefield, and Norwalk and Brien McMahon at least caused a few drops of sweat to pour.
The Hilltoppers are easily the league’s deepest and most talented team. If they are on top of their game, they won’t be touched. But they have also become very frustrated by the steady diets of zone defenses they have seen and will continue to see.
Central shoots well from the outside, but if someone can catch them on an off night…
I’m just not betting on it.
2. Can St. Joseph Or Trinity Catholic Earn League Playoff Spots? Right now their first concerns should be getting to eight wins and the state tournament.
As poorly as they have played, the Crusaders are just two games and the Cadets 2 1/2 from being a No. 8 seed. St. Joseph may actually have the better chance if transfer Arkel Ager, who is due to return this week, is as good as advertised. One impact player will have an even greater effect this season.
The Crusaders have some good pieces that haven’t meshed yet. The question is will they — and if so is the hole they are in too deep?
3. Which Player Has Surprised You The Most? I will give you two. Wilton’s Eric Houska. No one expected him to step up and become this dominant. He is a big reason the Warriors, a team on no one’s radar in the preseason, is in the playoff hunt.
And count me a big Matt Brennan fan. The Ridgefield guard is one of the best perimeter threats in the league and shoots with confidence.
4. Which Team That You Haven’t Seen Interests You The Most? Wilton is definitely one. Norwalk is another. It is hard to tell yet if the Bears are legitimate contenders. They have the personnel to be a high seed.
I will give you one more on the radar: Trumbull. It has been many, many, MANY years since I have seen the Eagles play. They have some good young players and, at 4-3 in the FCIAC, may be the biggest surprise so far. Are they in the race for the long haul? We’ll see.
5. CJ Byrd or Alex Wolf? If you had the first pick in a mythical high school basketball draft, which Greenwich star would you take. The copout answer: you really can’t go wrong either way. Two different type players who have been of equal value to the Cardinals.
No. 1 Bridgeport Central (8-0) vs. No. 8 Wilton (6-3). Giving the Warriors the nod here over Norwalk based on performance to date.
No. 2 Greenwich (8-0) vs. No. 7 Bassick (5-3). The Lions always seem to catch fire after mid-January. We will see if that trend continues.
No. 3 Westhill (7-2) vs. No. 6 Ridgefield (5-3). Sure, the Tigers have lost three straight, but to Stamford, Greenwich and Central, all close games. Their stock is still a strong buy.
No. 4 Stamford (6-3) vs. No. 5 Warren Harding (6-3). The Black Knights were due for a clunker, and it came on Friday against Danbury. How will they react to it?