The state playoffs are upon us.
It’s not really fair to make that claim, mostly because wrestling, track and gymnastics have been holding state meets for weeks now. But the state basketball playoff brackets were revealed today, and for the first time since four high schools re-emerged from Fairfield in 2005, all of them will play at least one state game.
The matchups look bad for at least two of the teams. So let’s begin with the Class L games Monday.
Class L first round
No. 26 Ludlowe (9-11) at No. 7 Trinity Catholic (17-5), Monday, 7 p.m., Walsh Court, Stamford
I know from talking to coaches that teams HATE seeing same-conference opponents in the first round of states.
Brian Silvestro was no exception to that rule, either. Ludlowe fell to the Crusaders, 60-45 on Jan. 31, but everyone I spoke with said Trinity sleepwalked through that game and still won by 15.
The Crusaders are playing at a different level now. Jason Boswell is beginning to play like the Division 1 prospect he is, and Trinity’s won five straight, reaching tomorrow night’s FCIAC Finals against Bassick.
Can Ludlowe keep up for a while? Maybe. Can the Falcons win? I doubt it.
No. 19 Warde (11-9) at No. 14 East Catholic (12-8), Monday, 7 p.m., Rev. Robert Saunders Gymnasium, Manchester
The Mustangs will have to trek all the way to Manchester Monday for their first state playoff game since 2010. Warde hasn’t won a state tournament contest since 2005.
To do that, the Mustangs will have to slow East Catholic’s senior guard Tyler Veretto. Warde coach Ryan Swaller compared him to Prep’s Terry Tarpey. I say Veretto is lankier, but you can see for yourself here.
Swaller likes the matchup, but knows the two-hour trek from Fairfield to Manchester won’t be easy on his club.
“It’s tough to sit on a bus for that long,” he said.
Class LL first round
No. 27 Norwalk (10-10) at No. 6 Prep (19-3), Tuesday, 7 p.m., Alumni Hall
The Jesuits will start their road back to the state finals on Tuesday with a first round home game against Tom Keyes’ Norwalk Bears. Norwalk is athletic, and led by point guard Rasheen Thompson.
Prep should be able to get by Norwalk without much trouble. But, barring upsets, the Jesuits’ road gets insanely difficult from there. Prep’s potential trek back to Mohegan Sun could include a second round date with the FCIAC’s No. 5 seed, Westhill; then the No. 5 team in the state, Hartford Public; the No. 1 team in the state, Hillhouse, and the LL’s top-seed, St. Joseph.
Oh yeah, Hillhouse, St. Joes and Hartford Public all had undefeated regular seasons spoiled by conference tournament losses, meaning they’re all starving for a title.
But Prep’s got to win game one before it focuses on the rest of them. Otherwise it could lose at any point.
Class M first round
No. 27 SMSA (9-11) at No. 6 ND (18-4), Tuesday, 7 p.m., Sister Mary Reilly Auditorium
I don’t care what the seedings, pundits or fans say. Notre Dame is the favorite to win Class M this year.
The Lancers have won 13 straight, are prepping for their second straight SWC championship, and all the threats– most notably Career and Trinity– have moved up to Class L. Plus, Earl Coleman is becoming a bona fide scorer and the Lancers are playing great defense.
Does that mean ND will cakewalk through the tournament? Absolutely not. They’re at the bottom of the bracket, which means a quarterfinal match with Kaynor Tech is possible. A date with top-seeded, undefeated Enfield could be a great state championship game.
But make no mistake about it, especially how ND lost in the M semis last year, this tournament is the Lancers’ to lose.
Speaking of ND, the Lancers polished off No. 7 Masuk to get back to the SWC Championship game for the second straight year. Read my story from the Connecticut Post for more on that game.
ND will battle Immaculate in the final on Thursday. I’ll be at Weston tweeting updates and offering perspective, so check for that.
The state hockey brackets will be released Saturday. Prep beat East Haven 4-0 on Tuesday to close its regular season, and is currently in line for the top-seed and a first round bye.
ND will probably have to play an opening round game on the road Monday. The Lancers still have one more game, Thursday against Xavier at Milford Ice Pavilion at 6 p.m.
Pat Pickens is the sports editor of the Fairfield Citizen, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper organization. Follow him on Twitter here.