Bassick, the two-time defending champion, has lost to unheralded New Canaan. Well, unheralded as of a month ago; if the season ended right now the Rams would be the No. 8 seed in the conference playoffs.
Westhill, a team nobody mentioned in the preseason, is the only unbeaten team in league play.
Darien, the only winless team in conference play, has a non-league win over Greenwich, which went to double overtime before losing to Trinity Catholic, which was the last remaining unbeaten team until seven days ago, which….
You get the picture. That is life in the FCIAC at the midseason pole. The word parity was not bandied about during the preseason for nothing. The top of the league has taken a step or two back to the pack, there are fewer really bad teams and, as the aforementioned affirms, there is a far deeper middle class than at any time in recent memory.
Right now there are seven coaches capable of making plausible cases why their teams can win a title. And just four or five who know their teams have no chance of earning an FCIAC Tournament berth.
All of which should provide added interest not just for the second half of the season, but for the playoffs as well. Whichever team goes in as the No. 1 seed will hardly be a prohibitive favorite. Given the balance, it may even be better to go in as No. 2 or 3 and not have a target on the back, especially considering there should be little difference between the 6-8 seeds.
There is plenty of time to look ahead. For now, lets rewind the DVRs and give out our midseason awards.
MVP: Schadrac Casimir, Trinity Catholic: I judge an MVP not by who has had the best season, but the top player whose loss would impact a team most. Casimir, who has been nothing short of sensational in averaging 27.3 points a game, has been both.
Surprise Team: Westhill: Quick, name one player on the Vikings. Unless you are a close follower of the league, you likely can’t. And that is what has made the Vikings, who are 9-1 over all and, at 8-0 the last unbeaten team in conference play, so formidable. This is a collection of solid players who perform well together and are special defensively. They also turn the ball over way too often, a trend that if it continues will catch up with them.
Best Coach: Mike Evans, New Canaan: In the preseason the Rams were a leading candidate for worst team in the league. Today they sit at 5-6 and are in the hunt not only for a state playoff but FCIAC Tournament berth as well. Evans has done a tremendous job in his first half season.
Best Performance: Casimir scores 50 against Greenwich: If you score 50 points and put your team on your shoulders for a double overtime win, you have put on the best performance. One that won’t be topped, maybe, for years.
Best Game: St. Joseph beat Trinity Catholic in overtime: I hate to get all cliche, but if ever there was a game that could best be described as two heavyweight boxers landing haymakers at one another, this was it. There was tense emotion, great efforts, lead changes and then the Cadets’ improbable comebacks from 5-point deficits in the closing seconds of both regulation and overtime. The latest chapter in the league’s best rivalry will resonate for a long time. We are talking years, not weeks or months.
Biggest Disappointment: Staples*: Before everyone in Westport gets in an uproar, look at the asterisk. We had high hopes for the Wreckers being a midlevel seed in the FCIAC Tournament. After a slow start they have won two games in a row to get back to .500. Still a good chance they could meet our preseason expectations.
Underclassmen We Can’t Wait to See As a Senior: Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill: I can remember sitting with Westhill athletic director Mike King at a soccer game this past fall when the conversation turned to the prospects for the boys basketball team. King hyped up Livingston as a future star. The dynamic guard is well on his way.
Most Improved: Brandon Wheeler, Trinity Catholic: While Casimir may have surpassed our lofty expectations, it is Wheeler’s development as a go-to player that has elevated the Crusaders into championship contender. His rebounding has been as important as his scoring, shoring up one of the team’s weaknesses.
Best Newcomer: Matt Staubi, Darien: A lot was made of the point guard when he transferred to Darien. He has been the team’s one big bright spot.
Unsung Hero: Jake Pelletier, St. Joseph: With a fiery personality, Pelletier has been the Cadets’ emotional leader, and earned praise from a number of opposing coaches.
All-Out Hustle Award: Quincy McKnight, St. Joseph: McKnight is one of the league’s best players, but watch his effort at the end of regulation in the game against Trinity Catholic. He seemed to be in a non-stop sprint, making two steals that got the Cadets to overtime and gave them the chance to win the game.
Trend to Watch: Wilton and the 3: Perhaps no team is more dependent on one element than the Warriors are with the 3-point shot. Quite simply, when they make them, they win. Their fortunes the rest of the way will ride on staying hot from long distance.
Doing What It Takes To Win, Fairfield Ludlowe: Falcons coach Brian Silvestro has been smart: he knows he usually loses the personnel matchup on many nights, so he has compensated by dictating tempo. Ludlowe, remarkably, has won three games when it scored 35, 32 and 30 points. That is the reason it is in the hunt for twin postseason berths.
Game to Watch: Ridgefield at Trinity, Jan. 29: Many people considered the Tigers a preseason favorite, and their status will not change with a loss at Trinity next week. But right now they are 2-2 against teams with winning records. This is the opportunity for a good statement win on the road.
Championship Game Non-Partisan Fans Most Want to See: Trinity Catholic-St. Joseph II: See above. There is no other matchup the general fan wants to see more than a rematch. It isn’t even close.