WILTON — Can you win the FCIAC with a 1-0 record?
That was the text message I sent Wilton boys basketball coach Joel Geriak this afternoon, minutes after a scheduled game with Stamford was postponed due to the weather.
Geriak was not exactly pleased with the situation and probably has reached the breaking point for sarcasm. And for good reason.
On the second day of practice the Warriors found out they would have to go on a two-week pause because of a coronavirus outbreak at the school. The fact that it was traced back to student parties probably did little to quell the mood of Geriak and his players.
Wilton was set to open the season last Thursday but the game was postponed due to snow. The same thing happened Friday. And on Friday night it snowed briefly on the eve of what was now supposed to be the season-opener, against Brien McMahon.
“It was non-stop with these kids. They didn’t believe they were having a game until they stepped on the court tonight,” Geriak said following Saturday’s 46-40 win over Norwalk.
So after sitting around for weeks the Warriors will play their final 11 games over a stretch of 18 days, including seven in the next 10.
“We’ll take it instead of staying at home all year long,” Geriak said.
While future opponents finally got the opportunity to start playing games, the Warriors were limited to working out on their own and holding Zoom sessions in lieu of team bonding.
“Of course it was frustrating that we weren’t starting with every FCIAC team but we still came together, we took it as a chip on our shoulder and we just worked harder,” Wilton captain Josh White said. “We had conditioning outside that was allowed. We just did little things to stay in shape that we couldn’t on the court. We know seniors from other towns and they were texting on how they were playing. We can’t think like that. We just have to take it as motivation to go harder in practice every day to be the team we know we are.”
Geriak, the coaching version of a gym rat, hasn’t even been allowed to scout because fans are not allowed at games.
“You know me,” Geriak said. “It was awful. I was looking at film 14 times.”
The Warriors believe they have the personnel to contend for the FCIAC title. They have no stars but a number of players capable of scoring 20 points and leading the team on any given night.
It is a guard-oriented team with little size but, White said, not limited to just taking 3-point shots.
“I think you are going to see the best team in the FCIAC,” White said after the Norwalk game. “We have a ton of talent this year, we are almost 10 or 11 deep, we have press packages that we can throw at any team, we have good shooters, though it didn’t show today.”
In a way today’s postponement does provide a benefit. After playing Fairfield Warde tomorrow, the Warriors should be a little bit better rested for their biggest game of the regular season, at Ridgefield on Thursday.
“This is a team that I think at the end of the year, when we start to get our legs back and we get use to all this, we should be in the thick of things in the FCIAC,” Geriak said.
No. 1 Ridgefield (3-0) vs. No. 8 Darien (1-0)
No. 2 New Canaan (3-1) vs. No. 7 Westhill (2-2)
No. 3 St. Joseph (4-0) vs. No. 6 Fairfield Ludlowe (2-2)
No. 4 Staples (3-0) vs. No. 5 Wilton (1-0)
*Includes tonight’s New Canaan-McMahon game
The story most everyone is talking about privately: why has the quality of basketball in the FCIAC been on such a precipitous decline? Is specialization in other sports causing a drop in participation? Poor AAU coaching? It is difficult to say, and the constraints from the pandemic surely have had an impact but the dynamics of this season are stranger than any I can remember.
Right now I would make Ridgefield, going for its fourth title in five years, maybe not Gonzaga or Baylor, but Michigan. I think New Canaan can beat the Tigers. Maybe Wilton, though it is hard to tell from Saturday. I think Staples and St. Joseph right now are the sleepers. Fairfield Ludlowe and Westhill, for different reasons, can give everyone trouble on any given night.
Take out one or two weak teams at the bottom of the standings, we need to still see about Bassick and Harding, but there are probably about 12 schools this year that if they played each other would mostly all finish around .500.
Maybe this will change as teams start to finally get into a rhythm and pauses due to the coronavirus are hopefully at a minimum.
One other observation, and I bring this up as someone who wants to see every school play every game: players please make sure you wear your masks properly. I am sure they are an annoying hinderance. But through two weeks there have been several games where more than just one or two players on the court have had their masks under their noses.