Boys Basketball

Boys Basketball Midseason Report: One Month Later, Few Changes

 

Stamford's Kenny Wright (14) and Trinity Catholic's Tremaine Fraiser are the keys to their teams second-half hopes. (Photo: Lauren Price)

Stamford’s Kenny Wright (14) and Trinity Catholic’s Tremaine Fraiser are the keys to their teams’ second-half hopes. (Photo: Lauren Price)

By Dave Ruden

Consider the second and third paragraphs from my preseason FCIAC boys basketball preview:

The easy: barring the arrival of spaceships whisking its players away, Bridgeport Central seems destined to win its second straight league title. The Hilltoppers have most of their top talent back from a team that caught fire during the second half of last season.

The difficult: figuring the order of finish behind Central. Take the Hilltoppers out the picture and this would be the most unpredictable year ever. It won’t be surprising if seeds 2-4 have a minimum of three losses. This is going to be a dog-eat-dog winter, with as many as 10-12 teams harboring realistic hopes of reaching the conference tournament, and more than half of them at earning a top seed.

As you can see, not much has changed in a month. Central is unbeaten and the team to beat. And there are still 10-12 teams harboring hopes of reaching the conference tournament.

Second Chance Points New

Surprises? How many expected Greenwich to still be unbeaten? How many considered Wilton and Trumbull to be prominent players? How many expected the early struggles for Trinity Catholic and St. Joseph?

What’s to come over the next month? Here are some midseason awards and a look into the crystal ball.

Most Outstanding Player

Tyler Ancrum, Bridgeport Central. People seem to discount Ancrum because of the talent around him. But no player has a greater effect on opponents’ game plans.

That steady diet of zones the Hilltoppers see — and will continue to see? All designed to keep Ancrum from penetrating and unleashing a devastating transition game.

The few teams that tried to man-up Central have been punished badly.

Ancrum has still been the most dominant player in the league.

Most Valuable Player

Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill. The difference between best song and record is still a puzzlement to Grammy watchers. The difference between most outstanding and valuable? The most outstanding is the best player. The most valuable is the one who, if removed from the lineup, would hurt his team the most.

Thus, Livingston gets the nod over Stamford’s Kenny Wright. Both have carried their teams. Livingston is more capable of completely taking over a game, as he has several times.

Most Improved Player

Matt Brennan, Ridgefield. Graduation losses were supposed to send the Tigers tumbling. That they have a good chance to earn one of the top four seeds is due to the sharp-shooting Brennan, who has emerged as a go-to player.

Coach Of The Year

Bill Brehm, Greenwich. I admit it, I flip-flopped on this one. You can make an argument for Stamford’s Danny Melzer, Wilton’s Joel Geriak or Trumbull’s Buddy Bray and I wouldn’t attempt to talk you out of it.

Stamford coach Danny Melzer has his team for one of the biggest turnarounds since last season. (Photo: Lauren Price)

Stamford coach Danny Melzer has his team for one of the biggest turnarounds since last season. (Photo: Lauren Price)

So why pick the coach who, after Central, has the best 1-2 talent punch in the league? I’ve seen seven of the eight teams that would be in the conference tournament if the season ended today and the difference between the Cardinals and the rest of the pack is not that great.

One would have thought Greenwich would have slipped up once or twice. It still might. But it hasn’t yet. Byrd-Wolf is a big reason. But the Cardinals’ defense has been the most underrated factor.

All-FCIAC

First Team

Tyler Ancrum, Bridgeport Central

CJ Byrd, Greenwich

Roy Kane Jr., Norwalk

Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill

Alex Wolf, Greenwich

Kenny Wright, Stamford

Second Team

ShaQuan Bretoux, Bridgeport Central

Jonny Dzurenda, St. Joseph

Tremaine Fraiser, Trinity Catholic

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Eric Houska, Wilton

Matt Staubi, Darien

CJ White, Danbury

Third Team

Marcus Blackwell, Bridgeport Central

Matt Brennan, Ridgefield

Patrick Racy, Ridgefield

Reggie Stewart, Harding

Matt Turner, Trumbull

Notes: I really wanted to keep this to 15 players but had a hard time deciding which two to cut. And I feel pretty confident about the first team but admit that there is definitely room for disagreement on the second and third teams. Distinguishing between them was one of the most difficult tasks. Truth be told, there are about eight players of very comparable ability.

I just looked over my preseason teams, when I had six players on each. Just three of my first team picks are still there. Two players here were not even mentioned in my preview.

One, Brennan, has played extremely well every time I have seen him.

Predicted Order Of Finish

1. Bridgeport Central

2. Greenwich

3. Westhill

4. Ridgefield

5. Harding

6. Stamford

7. St. Joseph

8. Norwalk

Notes: This might have been the most fruitless effort here, because after the first two teams it is a crapshoot. I’ve also discounted a few rumors going around about possible ineligible players and assuming the rosters will stay the same.

After looking at current records and remaining schedules, I think the Livingston factor will keep Westhill in the third spot. Ridgefield is the most fundamentally sound team.

Even though they are in a deep, deep hole, I am counting on the Arkel Ager factor to key a big second-half run for the Cadets. It will be interesting to see how they fare tomorrow night at Greenwich.

I’ll confess, I had three different teams in the eighth spot: Wilton, Trinity Catholic and Norwalk. I will feel more confident about the Crusaders if they can win their next two games, at Danbury and Norwalk. I initially had Wilton winning a tiebreaker over Trinity.

The Bears have been a mystery team. They have the most favorable remaining schedule so we are giving them the slight nod

Key Remaining Games

Norwalk at Wilton, Feb. 7; St. Joseph at Trinity Catholic, Feb. 14. Highlighting just two games when three games separate 13 teams in league play may seem foolish. But these two contests could be fatal to the losers’ conference hopes. St. Joseph-Trinity is currently one of the FCIAC’s best rivalries in any sport. It will be great if a lot is riding on the outcome.

Second-Half Storylines

The Arkel Ager Effect. Ager, the highly touted transfer who was academically ineligible until last week, is said by people who have seen him play to be a game-changer. I’ll be interested to see him in person against Greenwich. If he is as good as advertised, the Cadets are poised for a big late-season run and could possibly become the greatest threat to Central.

The 50-50 battles. The parity predicted in the league has played out. Almost every night will see teams of similar ability facing off. Will anyone be able to run off a long string of wins and both secure and elevate their playoff statuses?

Can Anyone Beat Central? This has been the big storyline from day one. The short answer: if the Hilltoppers are at the top of their game, no one will touch them. The difference between them and the rest of the field is that great.

It is interesting that in their city battles, they routed both Harding and Bassick. But there have been close calls with Ridgefield, Norwalk and McMahon that offer hope for opponents.