Boys Basketball

Can St. Joseph Rebound From Slow Start?

St. Joseph's Mike Sulik goes up for a shot against Stamford on Tuesday.

St. Joseph’s Mike Sulik goes up for a shot against Stamford on Tuesday. (Photo: Katie Burns)

By Dave Ruden

That is not a misprint in the boys basketball league standings today: St. Joseph is 1-3, one game ahead of winless Trinity Catholic. Together they have combined for three overall wins in 12 games.

The last time one of the FCIAC’s two private schools failed to make the league playoffs in the same year? Never.

The Cadets’ losses have all come at home and have come against quality opponents, though the league games — Westhill, Stamford and Ridgefield — easily could have been wins. Tuesday’s loss to the Black Knights was particularly frustrating because the Cadets could not take advantage of an opponent that took — and missed — just 4 shots in the final quarter due to 11 turnovers.

The glass-half-full view? St. Joseph is just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot; the Crusaders just three games. This is a strange season: the overall quality of play is down, but there has never been greater balance. There is no reason why one or both teams cannot make a run against opponents of similar ability.

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The half-empty view? The teams have dug themselves a deep hole and are not strong enough to go on a deep roll against opponents of like caliber.

The right answer? It probably lies somewhere in the middle, closer to the half-full view.

Since focusing on Trinity recently, here are a few impressions on the Cadets, based on seeing them against Stamford and talking to others who have watched them.

— The team that took the court against the Black Knights was missing one starter, Steve Hashemi, who had to sit out a game for his involvement in an altercation in the team’s previous game. Hashemi would have provided an inside presence to cause matchup problems for Stamford.

— The Cadets seemed very hesitant on offense. Not to pick on any player but to provide an example: Erick Langston on one possession had a wide-open 3-pointer that he should have taken. He waited about three seconds, then decided to drive to the basket and was called for a charge.

Langston is part of the solution, not the problem, but right now Jonny Dzurenda, the focal point when Stamford went to a box-and-one among multiple defenses, seems to be the only Cadet playing with complete confidence.

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St. Joseph looked like it was playing not to lose against the Black Knights until falling behind by 14 in the final quarter, when it mounted the furious comeback.

— The biggest question: Will we be seeing transfer Arkel Ager in a St. Joseph uniform next week? Ager has been the subject of much back-room conversation.

Here is what we know for certain: Ager, the highly touted 6-5 swingman, has not played yet because of academic ineligibility. Grades at the school close this week. St. Joseph coach Chris Watts said before the Stamford game he was uncertain of Ager’s future status but was “optimistic” about his return.

People who have seen Ager say he would be the FCIAC’s best player. There is also the question of how he would fit in with players who have played together a few years.

Right now St. Joseph is in an unaccustomed position, looking up in the standings. If all breaks right, it will not be staying there.

Bracketology

One of my pet peeves is the so-called college basketball bracketologists predicting the seeds for the NCAA Tournament two months before the start of the postseason.

So why do away with my Starting 5, the ranking of the best five teams in my opinion? Fans seem to like it, so we will try it out.

No. 1 Bridgeport Central (5-0) vs. No. 8 Bassick (3-2). The Hilltoppers have showed a few chinks in the armor after escaping against the two Norwalk schools. Could they be reading the press clippings? Bassick has been mercurial thus far.

No. 2 Ridgefield (5-0) vs. No. 7 St. Joseph (2-4). A rematch of last night, when Ridgefield got a key road win in overtime. The Tigers are the best team I’ve seen in person so far (and I will see them again tomorrow night). It would be foolish to write off St. Joseph.

No. 3 Greenwich (6-0) vs. No. 6 Stamford (4-2). The Cardinals are dangerous with the Alex Wolf-CJ Byrd outside-inside punch. The Black Knights are going to be a pain for the league all winter…and remain my favorite sleeper.

No. 4 Westhill (5-1) vs. No. 5 Harding (5-1). Looking forward to seeing these two meet Tuesday night in Stamford. The Vikings remain a legitimate threat. And the Presidents are on the ascent.