If there has been a stranger FCIAC boys basketball season than this one, I can’t recall it.
Defending champion Bridgeport Central, as expected, rolled to the regular season title, though it did get nicked by Westhill along the way.
Greenwich was a beacon of consistency, though nobody expected it to be a clear-cut No. 2 seed back in December.
Ridgefield, Westhill and Stamford distinguished themselves as clear-cut middle seeds, though only the Vikings received any real preseason hype.
Down below there was balance and a late-season stretch in which it appeared no one wanted to earn the final seed.
As we prepare for the start of the FCIAC Tournament with four quarterfinal games on Saturday, consider: Trinity Catholic, sitting it out for the first time since 1997, finished with the 11th-best league mark and nearly beat Greenwich in overtime on Monday.
That was not an aberration but the norm: the gap between teams, save for a couple on the extremes, was razor thing. There has been unrivaled parity.
Does that mean we will have playoff surprises? It is hard to tell. Central and Greenwich will be heavy favorites, but the No. 8 seed has knocked off the No. 1 twice in the last three years. The two other first-round games are basically pick-‘ems.
Can anyone derail the Hilltoppers’ run to a second straight title?
With unwanted free time on his hand, Trinity coach Mike Walsh broke down each of Saturday’s four first-round games for The Ruden Report, including predictions.
By Mike Walsh
No. 3 Ridgefield (16-4) vs. No. 6 Brien McMahon (12-8), Noon. This is a very interesting game. If Ridgefield hadn’t lost (Matt) Brennan, I think Ridgefield would be the slight favorite, and that’s a shame because he’s a really good player and a very good kid. Without him I think it might shift slightly to McMahon, which is quicker and plays good defense. (Larry) McKinney is the key. He distributes the ball and can make his shots. Ridgefield will have to get big games from (Patrick) Racy and (Charlie) Irwin, and Will Brady will have to hit his outside shots. I love the way Ridgefield plays together as a team. They play solid man-to-man defense and a good offense. If I give anyone the edge it’s McMahon, because they are playing so well lately. This is a great matchup. The pick: McMahon.
No. 2 Greenwich (18-2) vs. No. 7 Wilton (12-8). First, Joel Geriak has done a great job at Wilton and should be mentioned as a Coach of the Year candidate. I am sure they will play a lot of zone defense and make Greenwich work for shots. I think Greenwich has too much. (Alex) Wolf is tough inside and (CJ) Byrd is great going to the basket. The other thing is Greenwich is great getting a lot of second shots on the offensive boards and I think they will be able to do that. Greenwich plays great defense and it will be tough for Wilton to get outside shots. When they get them they have to make them. The pick: Greenwich.
No. 4 Westhill (16-4) vs. No. 5 Stamford (14-6), 5 p.m. Obviously I think this is a really interesting game. I think Westhill has to be very motivated after losing to them during the regular season and maybe taking them a little lightly. Jeremiah Livingston is going to be the key. He has to make good decisions with the ball. (Stamford coach) Danny Melzer has done a a great job and he will set up his defense to stop Jeremiah. Can Stamford stop Jeremiah and can the other kids who hurt us on Wednesday, Evan Skoparantzos and Tyrell Alexander, step up? Stamford runs a very good offense and when they get shots they have to knock them down. Kenny Wright has had a great season. Kweshon Askew is the key for Stamford. He has to control the inside on offense and defense. If Westhill is vulnerable, it is inside. This should be a close game. If I have to give a slight edge it is to Stamford, but the equalizer is Jeremiah Livingston. If it comes down to the end and Westhill is ahead at the end, I think Westhill will win. If they frustrate him like they did in the first game, Stamford will win. It is too bad one of them has to lose. The pick: Stamford.
No. 1 Bridgeport Central (19-1) vs. No. 8 St. Joseph (10-10), 7 p.m. The rolls are reversed from two years ago, when Central snuck into the tournament on the last day. They played a 2-3 zone, St. Joseph couldn’t hit from outside and Central upset them. Can St. Joseph pull the upset? They are talented enough but I don’t think so. Can they handle Central’s pressure? It’s easier said than done. You’ve got to control (Central guard Tyler) Ancrum, and (Sha’quan) Bretoux and (Marcus) Blackwell are keys. It might come down to keeping (St. Joseph’s Arkel) Ager under control. Central has to use its pressure defense and score off that, which is kind of obvious. You have to make sure you control (St. Joseph’s Jon) Dzurenda. Ager is the key for St. Joseph. But it will all come down to whether St. Joseph can handle the pressure, and I don’t think so. There is a history of the eight seed beating the one, but I think Central has proved themselves. They are the defending league champions, they have everybody back and they are going to be a tough out. The pick: Central.