The frenetic two-week sprint to the Mohegan Sun Arena begins on Monday when the Class LL and M tournaments tip off.
Wait, that’s getting ahead of things. The boys tournament starts Friday with a Class L qualifying round game with Harding traveling to Cheney Tech for the right to play Trinity Catholic on Tuesday.
After a few hours to digest the brackets, let’s take a quick scan around the four classes and make some observations. Sound good?
Best First Round Game:
No. 13 Westhill vs. No. 20 Norwalk (Class LL) — This all-FCIAC affair could have been a league semifinal, except each team lost on Saturday in the quarterfinals. The Vikings, who had an excellent out-of-nowhere season, won’t want to end it with two-straight losses. Winner here gets a trip, most likely, up Route 8 to Waterbury and a date with No. 4 seed Crosby.
Toughest Road to Mohegan:
Anyone in the bottom half of the Class LL bracket.
Whichever school survives this four-game string is going truly earn its way to Uncasville. Among the 16 teams are: Hillhouse, St. Joseph and Windsor — all Top 10 teams for much of the season and seeded Nos. 2, 3 and 6 here. The trio has a combined six losses.
Just look at the Nos. 10 and 11 seeds, Bridgeport Central and Hartford Public which are a combined 32-8.
The upper half of the bracket, where Fairfield Prep is the No. 1 seed, isn’t a cupcake walk with one-loss Crosby probably awaiting the Jesuits in the semifinals … but it’s not nearly as brutal as the other path to Mohegan.
Whichever school cut down the LL nets earns a deserved No. 1 ranking in the final media poll.
Best Potential Second Round Game:
No. 1 Trinity Catholic vs. No. 17 Bassick (Class L): The Lions would have to beat No. 16 E.O. Smith — all the way up in Mansfield first, which is no given. It would still be nice to see this game considering it was last year’s FCIAC final and Bassick didn’t qualify for the league tournament this season. The Crusaders pulled away late in the regular season game last week, winning 67-60 in Bridgeport.
Easiest Road to Mohegan:
Bunnell (Class L): The SWC finalists won’t want to put the cart before the horse, but Bulldogs don’t have a brutal path ahead of them in the states. Bunnell, the No. 3 seed, might have its most trouble in the first round vs. No. 30 Torrington, given that it’s 9-11 record is probably a product of playing in the very challenging NVL. After that there aren’t a ton of “marquee” names staring down the Bulldogs on their half of the L bracket. The No. 2 seed Woodstock Academy is 18-2, but not typically considered a state power. No. 10 seed Wilton could even make a run and see Bunnell in the semifinals.
Bunnell’s SWC rival, Kolbe Cathedral — the No. 7 seed in Class S — doesn’t have the world’s toughest draw, either. The Cougars avoided No. 1 seed Capital Prep (which beat them in the semifinals last season), but would likely have to beat No. 2 Classical Magnet in the quarterfinals to make a run to the final.
Staying in the SWC, league finalist Bethel (No. 3, Class M) looks to have a very clear path ahead of it, too.
Best Chance for a First-Round Upset:
No. 21 Immaculate over No. 10 Cromwell (Class S): The Mustangs won Class S last year, albeit with a much different cast of characters. Doubt they’ll be an easy out this year. Call this a pick favoring the SWC over the Shoreline conference.
Low Seed to make a Run:
As mentioned earlier, Wilton as the No. 10 seed in Class L could make a deep run to at least the quarterfinals.
Notre Dame-Fairfield, coming off a loss to Bethel in the SWC semifinals, got a solid draw as the No. 8 seed in Class M. It’s first game is against Hyde followed by a potential game with No. 9 Bloomfield. The Lancers can’t look too far ahead, but in their part of the bracket the No. 1 seed is 20-0 Northwestern — from the Berkshire league.
Miscellaneous Tournament Musings:
* The only way for there to be a fourth Fairfield Prep/Hillhouse matchup this season would be in the Class LL championship game.
* Big question around the tournaments, especially in Class M and S is how strong teams from the CSC will be? Capital Prep, a Top 10 team most of the year, is a given. Kaynor Tech is very good. What to make high seeds like University or Classical Magnet? CSC teams are usually opening-round fodder in most CIAC tournaments. Doubt that’s the case for the boys basketball tournament, however.
* As mentioned by web guru Sean Patrick Bowley, Trinity Catholic could face Harding, Bassick and Stratford in its first three games. That would be fun.