I’ve been covering FCIAC boys basketball for some time and I cannot remember going into the final night of the regular season with the kind of uncertainty we have right now.
Having just six of the eight playoff berths secured is not unusual. I don’t recall a year where not one team was locked into a certain seed. Or one where there are so many different scenarios because of the potential for tiebreakers.
The easy part: Ridgefield, Trinity Catholic, Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Ludlowe, St. Joseph and Wilton all know they have a quarterfinal game on Saturday to prepare for. Staples, Brien McMahon, New Canaan and Trumbull are alive for the last two spots.
Outcomes that would help make things easier for everyone: If Ridgefield (against Danbury) wins, it will be the No. 1 seed. If Warde (against St. Joseph) wins, it will be the three seed. If Staples (against Wilton) and McMahon (against Trumbull) win, we will have our eight-team field.
They are so many possible tiebreakers it is hard to go through them all. There are several scenarios where we could have three-team tiebreakers, even two of them.
McMahon, New Canaan and Trumbull all need to win or are eliminated. One will go down since the Senators play Trumbull.
The Rams need McMahon to lose and then they qualify with a victory against Bridgeport Central. Staples, if it loses, wants the Senators to win. The Wreckers own a head to head tiebreaker with them and are good in a three-way tie in which all teams are 1-1 because they win a tiebreaker because they beat Trinity Catholic, the highest-seeded team.
Fairfield Ludlowe wins a possible three-way tiebreaker with Warde and St. Joseph because it also defeated the Crusaders.
For the teams that make it, does your seed matter? I think every team wants to avoid Trinity Catholic as long as possible. The Crusaders are the favorite even though they could finish a game behind Ridgefield. They defeated the Tigers by 29 points.
Some teams may prefer not to be paired in the first round against Warde, which is hosting the quarterfinals. Wilton would hold a homecourt advantage in the semifinals and final, if it should get that far.
I think there is a bit of a gap between the current top four seeds and the rest of the field — I would be very surprised if a fifth through eighth seed won the title. The Crusaders are a heavy favorite, but maybe Ridgefield or Ludlowe could get them mired in a halfcourt game and pull the upset. Or a hybrid Warde team could have a hot night.
That is talk for Thursday morning. Right now we have a crazy Wednesday to look forward to. There are eight games and seven will directly impact the playoffs.
Injuries And All-FCIAC
Coaches will soon cast their ballots for the All-FCIAC team. The league picks eight players, which will make their task relatively easy. Boys basketball is one sport, along with baseball, that selects a Player of the Year, and that presents a different consideration.
New Canaan’s Alex Gibbens missed seven games with a hip injury and broken pinky. Before he was first hurt he was playing as well as anyone in the league.
His importance was evident last night, when he returned, hit his first two shots, scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 22 in a 64-61 win over Staples.
Gibbens’ presence was felt throughout the team.
“You have an All-FCIAC player and he misses seven games, it’s going to have an impact on the team,” New Canaan coach Danny Melzer said. “Obviously he makes a huge difference. He provides a big lift for us. Everyone else stepped up for us too. I think when he’s on the court everyone else’s job gets a little easier. Everything opens up a little bit more for the other guys and they really stepped up.”
My guess is Gibbens’ missed time will not affect how other coaches assess him (it won’t for me).
Would Gibbens, if you think he is deserving, still be a candidate for Player of the Year? If your answer is yes, that raises another interesting question: then what about Malcolm Newman?
Trinity Catholic’s fine point guard is the best player in the league. He has made the Crusaders much more formidable and those around him better. He also has played just 10 games after being ineligible due to the transfer rule.
If you think Newman’s impact was so great, can you make someone that played half a season the Player of the Year? I think I know how most coaches feel. I am leaning one way, but haven’t made up my mind.
No. 1 Trinity Catholic (14-5, 13-2) vs. No. 8 New Canaan (11-8, 8-7)
No. 2 Ridgefield (17-2, 14-1) vs. No. 7 Staples (13-9, 9-6)
No. 3 Fairfield Warde (15-4, 12-3) vs. No. 6 St. Joseph (14-5, 11-4)
No. 4 Fairfield Ludlowe (15-4, 11-4) vs. No. 5 Wilton (11-8, 10-5)