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Pre - Season Top 10

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Post  Tuesday and Friday on Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:51 pm

Is it me or was this the LONGEST off season in NH High School basketball history? AAU, summer league, transfers, injuries, leaky roofs, fall leagues and Mike Mitchell trying to get NHIAA to convert to Fiba rules from IABBO rules. WOW! There was a lot going on there. The best part of Friday Dec. 18th is that we all get to put the aforementioned off season stuff to bed and move on with the awakening of a new HS basketball season. In making my pre season Top 10 list I came to a few conclusions:
1) There is no Trinity or Salem from the previous 3 seasons. I don’t think a team will go 18 – 0 or 17 – 1 and be heads and heals above every other team.
2) There has been a severe drop off of big men in Class L over the last few years. You can probably count the number of really good centers on one hand and just barely get to the second hand. Teams that have a really good center with a good supporting cast will thrive. Teams that don’t have a really good center will still be able to compete nicely with 1 to 3 forwards and 2 to 3 guards on the court at the same time.
3) There will be a top tier of 4 to 5 teams that will be a level above the rest, but that level is still very close to teams that are ranked 6th to 12th, a lot closer than in previous seasons.
4) The teams ranked 6th to 15th will be so close that anytime they play each other it’s a pick em game.

Onward to the Class L season:

1) Bishop Guertin – The last 2 years it was easy for me to put Salem as pre season #1. This year took a little thought. Upper tier teams have more deficiencies and parity is high in Class L. The good for BG is that they might have the best front line in Class L with McLung, St. Lawrence and Green. The bad is that neither of the 3 is a true center. Watching these 3 jell over the next 4 months will be one of the most interesting dynamics in Class L this year. Can they share the ball? Will they buy into the BG system together? Watch out for Cuipa. He will have a quietly nice season for BG. BG has the most depth of any team in Class L. That’s good, except sometimes for a team to be successful there has to be a rotation of players that know their roles instead of changing 4 to 5 in at a time like a hockey line up. I get what Coach Migs does with the hockey changes, but I found that BG lost offensive consistency with their substitution patterns during off season leagues. There’s no question a lot of kids can play at BG, but establishing a set rotation of players that know their roles might be of more concern to the Cardinals as opposed to flying players in and out of the game to maintain full court pressure. Did I mention their point guard situation? It is by committee right now. This won’t fly in playoff season. Some one has to step forward with authority for BG to hold the state crown in March. Pre season #1 with reservations.
2) Trinity – They have a good center in Madol, an excellent point guard in Hayden and lots of depth. Trinity will be in the top tier throughout the season. Their two key players are Zach Stevens and Logan Kesty. Will Stevens be able to fill the void of Fitzpatrick? Gordon Duffley will be a good addition for Trinity this season. He brings them toughness and can handle the ball under pressure which will take some of the work load off Hayden. Trinity is deep, but the quality of that depth is not as good as what BG has. Keefe will have the Pioneers playing good ball and near the top of L all season.
3) Memorial – This is a very interesting club. They have no starters back from last season’s state runner up team. There are a lot of unproven players with this team, yet under the helm of Coach Fitz you have to figure they will be in the top 4 to 5 teams all season. Memorial will certainly have more depth this year compared to last year’s team. They have 2 very good scorers in Fitz and Matt Couture. Shomari Morgan has the potential to be their leading scorer. He is a solid finisher and will prove to be a tough match up for a lot of teams. The biggest key for Memorial is front court by committee. They have 4 players who will rotate in Mahmutovic, McLean, Koester and Landry. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. Some nights these 4 could give you 25 points and 20 rebounds and other nights could be an ugly stat sheet with foul trouble being pervasive. Couture is still a more natural #2, but will have to be #1 for the start of the season. If Vinnie Zenni can shoulder the #1 load mentally and physically and allow Couture to shoot from the extended elbow area, this team could really click. The one reservation I have with this team, besides front court by committee, is will Cormac Fitzpatrick be a consistent shooter and scorer? Teams that really brought the defensive pressure to Memorial in off season leagues, like Trinity and South, shut down C. Fitz. Not having JL as a mate can’t be under stated here. Over the last 2 seasons with teams playing 1 ½ to 2 players on J. Laguerre opened up a lot of space for C. Fitz’s heaven cresting 3’s. My guess is that Fitz will be able to adapt to his new team and have an outstanding All State Team year. Shomari Morgan will be able to dribble penetrate and create some offensive space for C. Fitz and others on the Crusaders.
4) Alvrine – I’m going to stick with this team even though their off season wasn’t overly impressive. They never really jelled in tournaments, summer or fall leagues. Their core is as good as most team’s cores in L. Sweeney, O’Hearn, Donnelly, Beaulieu and a healthy Moyen makes for a solid team. If Alvrine can get over the hump of being a targeted good team as opposed to a team that snuck up on people with their great run in March of last season, then the Broncos will do some serious damage in Class L this season.
5) Dover – Expectations are high for the Green Wave because of their off season success. We all know that Burt will be 1st team all state and possibly POY in Class L. How big of a supporting cast he has will go a long way in determining whether Dover hosts their first 2 games in the playoffs or not. Morgan Faustino is as tough as they come. He never backs down to any battle on the boards or defensively. Any coach would want this kid. Kenaan Al-Darraji was my MVP of the BST Championship. He seems to hit timely shots and can take the offensive pressure off Burt.
6) Merrimack – OK, so behind BG probably the most discussed team over the last couple of months. Remember the old way scoring was done in the Olympics for diving? They threw out the highest and lowest score, because usually judges from those countries had political agendas and scored with agendas. Using this correlation, Merrimack certainly won’t have the abysmal season they had last year. I don’t think they will be in the top 2 – 3 teams of L through out the season either. I do think they will have a solid year and be on the cusp of braking into the top 4. They have a solid core anchored by Eric Watson. If Watson can score INSIDE and outside this will be a dangerous team. Hardwick is a steady and solid point guard. He makes the rest of the T-Hawks better with his cool decision making on the court. Maser is streaky, but when he’s scoring Merrimack is tough. I think the positive energy of brotherly basketball bonding between Anthony and Demitri Floras will help Merrimack maintain a consistency they were severely lacking last year. The opener with West will go a long way to silencing doubters of this team. Get a solid W against a well coached Carey club with some interesting Blue Knight parts and it’s off to the Class L races, but lose at home to West and the nay sayers will come out in droves saying, “I told you so!”

The next tiers of teams are very close and almost inter changeable with the teams I have ranked 4th to 6th:

7) Londonderry – Even with the loss of Sanborn until Feb and no Zorbas there is something that still draws me to the Lancers. Colby can score with the best. Flanders is a very under rated player. Bintz is a serviceable center. Finnegan is in the Faustino category of toughness. If they can stay in the top 8 and get Sanborn back in Feb then the Lancers will be a team nobody wants to play. Replacing Feinstein at point will be job #1 for Londonderry.
Cool Pinkerton – Proulx and Mathieu will be the best center/forward combo in Class L. Either one could finish in 1st or 2nd team all state. If some sort of supporting cast can jell around these 2 then the Astros will be tough. The point guard situation will be a big key for Pinkerton also. This team could have the biggest swing of any team in being ranked. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this team finish anywhere from 4th to 12th at the end of the season. The biggest issue for Pinkerton? Team karma and getting along. If this happens then they gather W’s consistently. If not, wild swings will be the norm for this team.
9) North/South – So, 2 teams at 9th? Things are so close in L this year I can’t keep either team out of the top 10. I would have South higher, but with Nelson’s injury I can’t see South cracking the top 4. South will still be a tough team to play even without Nelson. They have outstanding team quickness and speed. Their team defense will have to carry this team for the first half of the season. South won’t outscore a lot of teams, but they can out defend them. Poor Coach Otocka. Some nights he will look like a genius when the back court duo of Williams and Gauthier play like seasoned seniors and lead the Titans to an impressive victory. Other nights you’ll check the box scores and try to figure out how North lost to THAT TEAM. Williams and Gauthier are young, dynamic and special sophomores. They can also make you have an intravenous feed of Maalox during a game. Pratt will be a steady influence for this team.
10) You thought 2 teams at #9 was different? How about 5 teams at #10? Salem, Winny, Exeter, West and Central. Things are so close in Class L this year that it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these 5 teams finish any where from 7th to 12th this season. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the 4 teams I ranked from 7th to 9th, Lond, Pinkerton, North and South finish 10th to 14th. I believe any time any of the teams between 7th to 14th play it’s a pick em game. Salem has Larosa, Gallant and Perry’s system. Winny – Ratcliffe out, but Knowles in and looking unseasoned. Dunn is a special player. I’ll take him on my team anytime. Pound for pound and inch for inch Dunn is one of the most important players to his team. Exeter can score with their guards. Can they rebound and defend with their bigs? Valentin is back for the West siders. Can he behave and toe the line? Even Coach Carey wonders. Central’s grip on Class L lost some of its strength with the first round upset to Londonderry last year in the prelims. It was the first time Central wasn’t in the Class L Final Four in a long time. A couple of key transfers in the off season hurt this team and then the leaky roof. Not a lot of good karma happening lately for the Little Green which is why they are being talked about near the bottom of this pre season talk and not near the top.

There you have it. I switched teams up and down on paper before I finally put teams in their respective final order. Believe me, it was tough and some teams were a mental #8, then a mental #12 and then went in the middle. Not having many dominating centers and parity will do this for pre-season rankings. If you are a fan of a team that I put 7th or 11th and feel they should be 4th or 6th, then just wait 4 to 6 weeks and your team will probably be “what you thought they would be.” The best part is that summer league, AAU, transfers, leaky roofs and talk is over. The lines in the Class L sand will be drawn starting Friday December 18th at 7:00 pm. The problem is that with the way Class L is this year there will be a lot of waves changing those lines in the sand. Time to hit the Class L beach!!!!!

Tuesday and Friday
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