Thursday, January 14, 2010

If the season ended today: boys basketball

We've reached the halfway point in the regular season, so it's time to take a minute and assess how the season has played out so far and what we can expect leading up to the playoffs.

The standings below were updated on Thursday, Jan. 14.

Big 10 Conference
Team, League, Overall
C.B.A. (10, AA), 8-0, 9-1
B. Maginn, 7-1, 8-1
Albany, 6-2, 6-2
Schenectady, 5-3, 6-3
La Salle, 3-5, 4-6
Troy, 3-5, 5-5
Amsterdam, 2-6, 2-7
Catholic Central, 2-6, 2-8
B. Gibbons, 0-8, 1-9

The conference title will likely be decided Tuesday at CBA, when the Griffins have a shot to force a first place tie (depending, of course, on what happens Friday night) with the Brothers. If CBA wins that game, they'll be two games ahead and on their way to a No. 1 seed in the Section II Class AA tournament.

Bishop Maginn, Albany and Schenectady are all on track for favorable seeds and expect Schenectady to improve once Reece Jackson returns and gets back into the swing of things. Right now, the Patriots don't have much of a presence in the frontcourt and his return will add some much-needed rebounding help for Schenectady.

La Salle, Troy, Catholic Central and Amsterdam will likely be matched up against the Suburban Council's best in some order. Queensbury is also having a nice season in the Foothills Council and is often seeded with the Big 10 teams.

Troy and La Salle certainly have the potential to beat almost any of the Suburban teams (it looks like Shenendehowa is the real deal, but Troy upset the Plainsmen in the first round just a few years ago). CCHS may be able to upset a Shaker or a Colonie if their three-point shooters are really feeling it on the road in an opening round contest. Look for Troy to contend for the Big 10 regular season title in 2010-11 as their young players mature.

Another CBA-Maginn final wouldn't be surprising, but the Maginn-Shen semifinal might be one of the best games of the year if the seedings hold true until mid-February.

Suburban Council
North Division
Team, League, Overall
Shenendehowa (11, AA), 7-0, 8-0
Saratoga Springs, 7-1, 8-2
Burnt Hills, 4-3, 5-4
Shaker, 4-4, 5-5
Niskayuna, 3-5, 5-5
Ballston Spa, 2-6, 4-6

South Division
Colonie, 6-2, 6-4
Averill Park, 5-3, 5-3
Columbia, 4-4, 5-5
Guilderland, 2-6, 3-7
Mohonasen, 2-6, 3-7
Bethlehem, 1-7, 1-9

The North Division is stacked with Shen and Saratoga at the top (they play Friday night) but none of the other teams have really emerged in any special way.

Averill Park just won game No. 100 for head coach Dave Pugliese and along with Mohonasen, the Warriors are always favorites in the Section II Class A tournament, no matter their record. Don't count out Burnt Hills, yet, either. The Spartans were thrown into action after a long football season and they may play their best ball in February.

As far as the Class AA teams, Shen has emerged as the top dog and Saratoga can make a statement with a victory over the Plainsmen Friday night. But if Shen wins, they'll all but lock up the No. 1 seed and a run like this in the bracket: Big 10 No. 8 in the opening round, Big 10 No. 4 or Suburban No. 5 in the quarters, Big 10 No. 2 or Suburban No. 3 in the semis and CBA likely waiting on the other side in the finals.

The middle-of-the-pack Suburban teams should knock off the lower-seeded Big 10 teams, but I don't see any of the Suburban teams (with the exception of Shen) hanging with the Big 10's best. (And don't forget Albany Academy in the AAs - more on the Cadets later).

Colonial Council
Team, League, Overall
Voorheesville (8, C), 8-1, 10-1
Lansingburgh (25, A), 7-1, 10-2
Watervliet, 6-1, 9-2
Cobleskill, 5-4, 6-5
Cohoes, 3-4, 3-7
Schalmont, 2-6, 2-9
Mechanicville, 1-7, 4-7
Ravena, 0-8, 0-12

Lansingburgh faces Watervliet on Tuesday and Voorheesville on Friday and the Knights will make their 2009-10 Colonial Council intentions known in those contests.

Lansingburgh center Tyler Hammett seems to be the only player in the league that can effectively counter Voorheesville's Ethan Mackey, but Mackey is a bit more agile and has a longer perimeter game than does Hammett. The Knights also have a nice bunch of forwards/guards in Sajae Pryor and Salaam Knight and should be poised for a nice run in the Section II Class A brackets regardless of how they finish in the Colonial.

Watervliet topped Voorheesville last week and the Cannoneers have a nice little squad with an exciting perimeter game. Christian Ashline and Nick Durocher add to Devonte Gleason's threats behind the three-point stripe. Sophomore Griffin Kelly remains the biggest question mark for Watervliet. Can he give the Cannoneers an option on the inside as well? Just how good are the Class B teams from the WAC and the Foothills that Watervliet always seems to run into?

Cohoes is a well-coached group and you can never count the Tigers out of the Class B bracket. They need to develop consistent play from Malcolm Shivers and find open shots for three-point specialist Tom Maloney.

Wasaren League
Team, League, Overall
Hoosick Falls (7, C), 6-0, 8-1
Granville, 6-1, 9-1
Schuylerville, 5-1, 7-2
Cambridge, 3-3, 5-5
Hoosic Valley, 3-3, 7-3
Greenwich, 1-5, 4-6
Tamarac, 1-5, 4-6
Stillwater, 0-6, 2-8

We'll know more about how the Wasaren is going to unfold after Friday's Hoosick Falls/Granville game. (Check back later tonight for more on this game)

The Panthers have had to cobble together a new-look team in a short amount of time but are thriving thanks to a great work ethic.

That seems to be a trend throughout the league, as most of the Wasaren teams worry about defense first and, well, second and third for that matter. For that reason, you can never count out a Cambridge or even a Hoosic Valley in the Class C brackets this season because the Wasaren teams always find a way to make games low-scoring slugfests. The Voorheesvilles and Maple Hills and Rensselaers of the world will have a hard time playing Wasaren ball if these teams can make their mark.

Still, it looks like Hoosick Falls is head and shoulders above the competition so far and they can prove it with a road win at Granville Friday night.

Patroon Conference
Team, League, Overall
Ichabod Crane, 9-0, 9-0
Maple Hill (4, C), 10-1, 10-1
Rensselaer (13, C), 9-1, 9-1
Catskill, 7-3, 7-3
Coxsackie, 5-5, 5-5
Hudson, 5-6, 5-6
Cairo-Durham, 3-7, 3-7
Chatham, 3-8, 3-8
Taconic Hills, 1-10, 1-10
Greenville, 0-11, 0-11

Ichabod Crane topped Maple Hill Thursday night, making the Patroon Conference stretch run very interesting.

Maple Hill handled Rensselaer a few weeks ago - they meet again at the end of the season - and the Wildcats will host Ichabod in a boys/girls doubleheader on Sat., Jan. 30.

Ichabod Crane will likely land one of the top three seeds in the Class A tournament, and as the largest school in the league, by far, the Riders are almost always instant favorites. Since the NSYPHSAA made cuts to the schedule, Ichabod was unable to play any non-league games against Section II teams this season, meaning they will not have played any other Class A teams during their Patroon schedule.

With no separate Class CC bracket this year, Rensselaer will be thrown in with all the big boys during the playoffs, meaning they can't bank on playing in the Class C tournament en route to the playoff. Every game really counts for them, especially the Ichabod and Maple Hill contests as the Rams try to prove to the committee that they belong. Chris Britt and Mico De Los Santos give Rensselaer a two-guard attack many teams lack but their lack of a major big man will hurt them in the center-heavy Class C bracket.

Catskill and Hudson play an up-tempo type of game, which could present an interesting matchup against any of the Wasaren League teams, so don't count them out for an upset or two.

Team, League, Overall
Heatly, 6-1, 8-2
New Lebanon, 6-1, 8-3
Germantown, 5-2, 5-3
Loudonville Christian, 5-2, 6-5
Hawthorne Valley, 2-4, 2-5
Waterford, 2-5, 3-8
Berlin, 1-6, 1-9
Doane Stuart, 0-6, 0-7

Heatly made its move Tuesday night at Loudonville, stopping the Eagles and vaulting into a first place tie with New Lebanon.

The one issue for CHVL teams always is that the competition at the bottom of the league isn't the greatest during the regular season and the Adirondack and Western Athletic teams that play against tough Class B and C competition are generally better prepared for the postseason.

Heatly, however, advanced to the Section II Class F title game last year and they return a significant portion of the veteran leadership from that squad. And as Heatly head coach Peter Heffern told me Tuesday night, the league has really improved top to bottom in the last few years and the CHVL teams are starting to get better league games as time moves along.

Who wins this thing? Heatly's last four games, in order: New Leb, Hawthorne, Germantown and Loudonville. It's going to come right down to the wire as the top four teams in the league have proven that they can all knock each other off.

Albany Acad., 4-6

The Cadets are having a down year after last season's run to the Class AA championship game, but they're also playing a much tougher schedule than any of the teams confined to a league schedule.

It all comes down to a subjective judgment call from the Section II committee on seeding day that will determine the Cadets' fate. Will they be seeded low with a winning percentage around .500 or will be seeded above some of the Suburban teams with more wins?

Either way, the Cadets are the automatic darkhorse in the tournament because of their perimeter weapons and experienced coaching staff.

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