By Dave Ruden
The midpoint of the boys basketball season is just six days away — didn’t we just get started? — and we are starting to see a little settling of which teams are favorites, contenders and spoilers.
Right now I’d say there are four teams you can write off and three more that are hanging by a thread.
One of them, St. Joseph, has just one league win. But transfer Arkel Ager reportedly has been cleared today to return to the team and will play on Friday. He could have the impact to help the Cadets overcome a miserable start.
Bridgeport Central has clearly established itself as the team to beat, while Greenwich right now has to be considered the second-best team in the league. Winning at Ridgefield is another big notch for the Cardinals, who have a big game at home Friday against Westhill.
Here are some random thoughts following Tuesday night’s games and some general trends:
— Trinity Catholic and St. Joseph both 2-6 over all and 1-5 in conference play? You would have won a lot of money predicting that. Are the holes to deep to climb out of? Each team needs to play .500 ball the rest of the way just to qualify for the state tournament.
— Right now Bridgeport Central seems to be playing to the level of competition. The Hilltoppers blew out rival Harding by 38 on Friday, but have played teams they are far superior to much more closely. They may be waiting for the postseason to rev the engine.
— Joel Geriak was named the FCIAC Coach of the Year last season after leading Wilton to the conference playoffs for the first time in ages. Right now the Warriors are 6-2. He may be doing a better job this year.
— One of the regular-season games I am looking forward to the most? Stamford vs. Westhill on Feb. 11. Right now, with Trinity struggling, it could decide the city title. Ask me for a prediction and I couldn’t give one.
— Building on the last thought, I really love how hard the Black Knights are playing and how success thus far has not led to swelled heads. Kenny Wright has really stepped up.
— Twenty points, 18 rebounds, 12 blocks. If 6-8 center Alex Wolf continues to dominate like that, as he did Tuesday night against Ridgefield, Greenwich has an element every other team lacks.
— Speaking of the Tigers, they opened the season 5-0 but could be looking at a three-game losing streak following losses to Stamford and Greenwich, with Central coming for a visit on Friday. The two defeats could have gone either way. Ridgefield’s remaining schedule is favorable.
— While a number of teams are starting to drop out of the playoff race, all but a few are still capable of beating anyone on any given night. The roller coaster we have seen thus far is going to continue until the end of the regular season.
— After an 0-2 start, Darien is currently riding a five-game winning streak after Tuesday’s overtime win against Trumbull. None of the victories have been particularly impressive, but the Blue Wave are sweeping the teams they need to beat. The second-half schedule is brutal — final four games: Ridgefield, Norwalk, Westhill, Stamford. There are trips to Harding and Central the next 10 days and Greenwich still looms. Darien probably needs to go 7-6 the rest of the way to assure a league playoff sport. Six wins very well can get it in. Are the Blue Wave up to the task?
Girls Playoff Field Set?
Is the eight-team field for the FCIAC girls basketball tournament set. It is certainly starting to look that way now that Ridgefield has fallen 3 1/2 games behind Greenwich, which it lost to Tuesday night.
A number of coaches considered the Tigers a potential championship threat at the start of the season.
Looking at Ridgefield’s schedule, it certainly could go 9-1 the rest of the way. That would give the Tigers a 10-6 league mark and probably get them a lower seed. But they have no margin for error the rest of the way.
No. 1 Bridgeport Central (7-0) vs. No. 8 Wilton (6-2). Better try and catch the Hilltoppers napping during the regular season. Can’t see it happening come tournament time.
No. 2 Greenwich (7-0) vs. Norwalk (3-4). Counting on the Bears having a second-half run in them. The Cardinals are a tough matchup when The Wolf of Hillside (working on a better name) is on.
No. 3 Stamford (6-2) vs. No. 6 Bassick (5-2). How much would the Lions like to try and avenge that 22-point loss? Black Knights are No. 1 right now in my most-fun-to-watch poll.
No. 4 Westhill (7-1) vs. No. 5 Ridgefield (5-2). If the Vikings can turn that 12-15 minutes of great basketball into a full 32, watch out.