The regular season ends tomorrow night, and while the path to figuring out the eight teams that will make up the FCIAC boys basketball tournament field is much clearer, the seedings below the top three spots are a mystery.
It likely will not happen, but it is possible there could be a five-way tie for the final spots. If that occurs, get your abacus out.
Wilton lost control of its destiny and sits right now on the outside looking in, but still has a decent chance — if it defeats Fairfield Ludlowe and Trumbull loses to Danbury. There could be a three-way tie for the final two spots that includes Bridgeport Central, and the Warriors would get their tickets punched in that scenario as well.
All we know right now is that Ridgefield is the top seed and Trinity Catholic and Danbury will be in the second and third positions. I’ll maintain that if every team plays its very best, the Crusaders will win the title. They have three of the top 10 players in the league.
But that is a big if. The Tigers play a style that is the perfect kryptonite for both the Crusaders and Hatters.
Right now the three schools will await tomorrow’s results. How valuable are their positions? That depends a lot on how teams finish below them.
If I am coaches Andrew McClellan, Mike Walsh and Casey Bock, these are the teams I would least want to play in the first round, in order.
1. Bridgeport Central. If the season ended today, the Tigers’ prize would be to open against the Hilltoppers. That would be a horrible draw. I expect the champion to be one of the top three seeds — or Central. Yesterday’s loss at Trumbull may have soured some people, but homecourt advantage has carried greater weight this season than any other time I can remember. The only problem for Central: six games these final two weeks before Saturday’s tournament opener. Will the gas tank be full?
2. Fairfield Warde. There are two factors here. One, the first round will be on the Mustangs’ court, and after Wilton and Ridgefield — which are not at the same levels as a year ago — Warde might have the most loyal following at home. Second, Sean Conway. Outsiders love Conway when he scores and the Mustangs win and criticize him when he scores and the team loses. Usually it is a negative for a team to be so reliant on one player, but this is not a normal season and one dominant player might be able to carry a team to a title.
3. Stamford. The guess here is if the vote were held today, Zach Smith would be selected as Coach of the Year. The Black Knights don’t excel in any one area but are not weak in any either. And the ability they have demonstrated to win close games might be one of the biggest intangibles held by any school.
4. Norwalk. OK, Bears, I see you on Twitter. You are right, I missed you with my preseason predictions. An overtime loss to Stamford two weeks ago ended up not hurting as much as we thought at the time. Norwalk is 0-3 against the top three seeds, 3-2 against the other schools in playoff contention. A 26-point win over Trumbull last week was impressive. The Bears and Stamford have similar pedigrees. Like everyone else, Norwalk wants to get into the 4-5 game.
5. Trumbull. Everyone thought a brutal final six-game stretch would knock the Eagles out of the picture, but they are 2-3 and now have control of their own destiny. Timmond Williams has had a strong second half of the season. It is worth noting that 2-3 mark: the wins have been at home, the losses on the road. Danbury is a favorite tomorrow night, but the game is on the Eagles’ court.
6. Wilton. The Warriors have been a mystery to the rest of the league. Talent-wise, they are one of the eight best teams in the league. But for some reason chemistry, a big asset for them in the past, has been absent this season. Something just isn’t clicking. Wilton has to take care of business tomorrow and hope for a Trumbull loss. One thing: no other coach wants to see the Warriors get past the first round and then get to play on their home court.