Cardillo here (dramatic pause).
I’ve got a little time to kill before heading out to cover the SWC girls championship game later tonight, so why not look ahead to Saturday’s boys basketball league playoffs and make some predictions, observations, etc.
Dave Ruden offered his breakdown of the league here, so be sure to read that too if you haven’t already.
(All games at Fairfield Ludlowe.)
No. 3 Westhill v. No. 6 Wilton, noon – Tough one to call and the teams played — but it was the first game of the season back in December. The Vikings enter losers of four of five, albeit to St. Joseph (by two points), Trinity Catholic and Ridgefield. I only saw the Vikings play once but they left an impression on me for playing good, solid, team-first ball with sophomore Jeremiah Livingston a very smooth player leading the way. Seems like they’ve run out of gas. Wilton is solid and played their way into the tournament with four straight wins. Is this the classic scenario of two teams going in different directions? I still like Westhill in this one, despite the recent trends.
No. 2 Trinity Catholic v. No. 7 Norwalk, 2 p.m. – The FCIAC tournament always has one surprise and if Norwalk upset Trinity it would count as a Mike Francesa-level yooooooge surprise. This one seems very straightforward for the Crusaders and point guard Schadrac Casimir. Put it this way, are you going to bet against Casimir in the quarterfinals? The Bears do have talent in Jabari Dear and Roy Kane Jr. who can each put up around 20 points a night, but Norwalk seems a little too scatter-shot to spring an upset. If this is close down the stretch the old cliche of veteran experience probably wins out, but overall I think Trinity takes this with relative ease.
No. 4 Central v. No. 5 Ridgefield, 5 p.m. – I covered the regular season between these two, which was … well … not exactly a classic. Neither team played great with their top players — Kurt Steidl and Tyler Ancrum — playing most of the game in foul trouble. The Tigers come into the tournament with six straight wins, following their loss to the Hilltoppers on Feb. 1 — however only their season-closing win vs. Westhill was against a playoff team. Call this one a toss up, but the way I look at it, if you’re drafting a teams for a pickup game between these two rosters, Steidl probably goes first, followed by three Central players — Ancrum, Marcus Blackwell and ShaQuan Bretoux. If the Hilltoppers are able to rebound and keep the Tigers from getting second-chance points, turning the game into a full-court transition game they should win. Half-court game? Central’s occasional woes from the free throw line could hurt them. In the end, I’d go Central in this one if only because (selfishly) I’d like to see Central and St. Joseph play again.
No. 1 St. Joseph v. No. 8 Greenwich – From Greenwich Time writer Scott Ericson comes the only stat you need to know about the Cardinals — they’re 0-7 against FCIAC playoff field. Yes, the Cadets did lose to No. 8 seeded Central last season in the FCIAC quarterfinals, but this St. Joseph team doesn’t struggle or get bogged down offensively like last year’s unit. Quincy McKnight gets his points no matter what.
I’ve already written on the SWC for Friday’s paper, if you want a refresher course click away.
All games at Masuk.
No. 3 ND-Fairfield v. No. 6 Masuk, 11:30 a.m. – This figures to be a pedal to the medal, offensive up-and-down game and the Lancers have too much firepower for the Panthers. Masuk coach John DeGennaro will likely try everything he can to slow down Danny Upchuch & Co., but it probably doesn’t matter. Masuk isn’t strong enough under the glass to exploit any of Notre Dame’s weaknesses.
No. 2 Bethel v. No. 7 Weston, 1:15 p.m. – Bethel is good and has been consistent throughout the season. Weston is playing under the cloud of controversy. Does that smell like the recipe for an upset? I tend to doubt it.
No. 4 Kolbe Cathedral v. No. 5 Stratford, 3 p.m. – Something tells me this is going to be a battle. Kolbe always plays tough. The one team in the SWC you know is going to show up and give an effort are the Cougars, especially on the back of a 22-point loss to Bethel to close the regular season. Outside of Ian Gardner and Maurice Hill this Kolbe team isn’t overflowing with talent, but you’re going to have to beat them and they won’t make it easy. For Stratford, you wonder if Bernard Brantley (Shoodie) has a playoff run in him to bookend his Class L title from his freshman season? It won’t be easy since he’s still coming back from a broken foot. The Red Devils supporting cast is better than they sometimes get credit for, including senior guard Marcus Vereen. I picked Stratford in the mild upset in print, guess I’ll stick with it here in digital.
No. 1 Bunnell v. No. 8 Newtown, 5 p.m. – Bulldogs coach Pat Yerina has been through the wars and scored his fair share of upsets throughout the years in this tournament. A fact I’m sure he’ll stress to his team so that it doesn’t take Newtown lightly. The Nighthawks will play hard, but don’t have enough on offense to keep pace with Bunnell, which can score in too many ways either in the halfcourt or in transition. If Newtown spends too much time double-teams Issac Vann on the top of the key, it’ll leave too much room for Matt Nolting to shoot — and Nolting’s made more than a couple NBA-range 3-pointers this season. Bunnell is a complete team. Can they turn their abundance talent into a title?
Pat Pickens did a rundown of the SCC on the blog.
Having not seen most of the league play, I’m going to refrain from completely uninformed opinions. The one thing to watch, is maybe — stress maybe — Fairfield Prep has a trickier potential semifinal game with Wilbur Cross than Hillhouse does with the winner of ND-West Haven/Amity.
Yes, I’m penciling in the Academics and Jesuits for the semifinals. They’ve been that good and their only losses are to each other.
Not to say the SCC was down, but Prep and Hillhouse were just that much better than everybody else.
It would be a big shock. S-H-O-C-K if we don’t get Round III between the state’s No. 1 and 2 squads next Tuesday at the the in Hamden.