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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let the debate begin

The early prevailing thought was maybe the Naugatuck Valley League is the state's best in boys' basketball. They have very good teams in Crosby, Holy Cross, Torington, Sacred Heart and Wilby. Sacred Heart has already beaten Torrington, but got pasted by Crosby on Friday.
But maybe the CCC is best. Having seen a handful of its teams yesterday in the Doc Hurley Classic (Weaver, New Britain, Windsor, EO Smith and Bulkeley), tha league is pretty good, too. And I hope to see Maloney against Weaver Saturday in the rematch of last year's Class L final. The rematch will be played at the New Haven Athletic Center as part of the first Vanguard Classic. Tip time is 3 p.m.
The Classic has a pretty good slate by the way: New Britain-Career at 1, Bassick-Hyde at 5 and Hillhouse-Springfield Central (Mass.) at 7. The mega-conferences have made it easier for athletic directors and coaches to just schedule non-conference games within the league. That's why the Doc Hurley, the Vanguard and the Christmas tournaments around the state this week will really be the only time to get an indication which league might be best.
For years, Bassick head coach Harrison Taylor was content with an 18-game schedule. But he finally went to 20 this year, making two trips to New Haven, to face No. 1 Hillhouse on Thursday, then two days later to play Hyde. He's obviously not afraid to play anyone because it only prepares you for March. Cheshire played Maloney Saturday.
I wish more coaches would adopt that philosophy.
Getting back to the conference argument, the FCIAC lines up Trinity Catholic, St. Joseph, Harding, New Canaan and Bassick. If both win their respective games, Trinity could face St. Joseph Saturday night at 7:45 in the finals of the Northeast Classic at St. Joseph. That would be more than worth the trip to Trumbull.
After Hillhouse, Wilbur Cross and Xavier, I'm not sure how good the SCC stacks up. The teams are pretty even. One day, Hamden goes toe-to-toe with Hillhouse. The next, Branford beats Hamden. We will see which other teams can lay claim to be among the SCC's best as the season moves along.

I've gotten to see a handful of the better teams around the state. I think Trinity and Crosby are the two best teams with Hillhouse a shade below. I'm sure this will provide Hillhouse with bulletin-board material, but the Academics will continue to get my No. 1 vote as long as they remain undefeated.
My voting philosophy, right or wrong, is to give last year's top team the No. 1 spot. Now, if you are the Florida Gators and you lost all five starters, that is one thing. But if you have enough coming back, I think teams have earned the right to that spot.
I did it with Trinity Catholic for two straight years. I did it with Crosby in 2006, even though Hillhouse was the best team, until Crosby lost. I did it with Hillhouse all of last year and with the Ansonia football team this year, which has not lost in two years now. I did it with the Amity baseball team in the spring, and the Spartans went back-to-back.

It makes for great debate and there is no right or wrong answer. But as each coach will tell you, or should tell you, the only poll that matters is the last one. That's when you want to be No. 1.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, everyone.


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