On paper, if everyone is healthy, Alvirne SHOULD BE one of the top 6 teams in Class L. I can't however say that I am completely surprised by their 5-5 start. And here's why.
Why Alvirne Should be a Top 6 Team
With the sharpshooting Caleb Donnelly, the all around game of Joe O'Hearn, the inside presence of Ryan Sweeney and Sean Moyen returning from injury down low, that's as good of a "Big 4" as any in New Hampshire. One could argue they have 4 of the top 20 players in Class L. Cody Lambert is a good, pass-first point guard. He completes a starting lineup where all 5 players either started or got big minutes off the bench last year. The only other team in Class L that can say that is Dover.
Then off the bench you have two sophomores with tons of upside in Tony Beaulieu and Jim Tomaswick, a tough senior David Skinner who has a good all around game and a solid defender and role player in Jonathan Baldwin. That's as good of a 9 man rotation as anybody. Harry Everett isn't a bad player either which gives them 10 kids who can play.
Why Alvirne is Only 5-5
It's not because they lost Brennan Donnelly to graduation. Yes, Brennan did do a lot of good things for the Broncos. He really made that team go, and he was a HUGE reason why they upset Pinkerton in the prelims a season ago. But a lot of teams got hit hard by graduation. Some teams also got hit hard by transfers. Alvirne actually returns more talent than almost anybody. Like I say above they might have 4 of the top 20 players in Class L and have 10 solid players on the roster. So losing "Bif=g Brother Donnelly" isn't the reason.
It's also not because they don't have a point guard. Cody Lambert has done a solid job as their point guard. Lambert is a senior and saw plenty of playing time last year. He's a very unselfish player. Looks to set up his teammates, almost never shoots it. Similar to Matt Hardwick of Merrimack. Lack of a point guard is not the reason why Alvirne is 5-5.
Alvirne's problem is that they're not as far along as other teams in Class L in terms of overall development as a team. The summer and fall is when teams really start to come together, define roles, get used to playing together and get on the same page. And while teams like BG, Trinity, Dover, North, Memorial and Merrimack were doing all of those things and getting better Alvirne was not. They were playing in summer and fall leagues but it was basically their JV team that was out there. Sean Moyen didn't return from injury until right before the season started, and that's what really hurt.
Over the summer Sweeney went off to play in a tournament in Europe right before the BST playoffs started. O'Hearn, Sweeeny and Lambert had AAU. During the fall, Beaulieu and Baldwin had football, Donnelly had cross-country, O'Hearn and Skinner never showed up and Tomaskick injured his ankle and missed a couple weeks. You need to have a little consistency, a little continuity. You need to get everyone on the same page. You can't wait until right before the season starts to get everyone together and all playing. And that's what happened with the Broncos. These other Class L teams were getting better, coming together as a team over the summer and fall. They were treated these summer and fall league games like "real games". Alvirne treated them like scrimmages.
Then look at the holiday tournament. Now I know these games don't count to the standings. But I watched over 20 holiday tournament games this winter. And MOST teams took these games pretty seriously. Sure, teams may have gone a tiny bit deeper into their bench, held back some of their playbook so as not to tip their hand, and sat injured players who would have played in a regular season game. But for the most part, what I saw was teams approaching their holiday tournament games like it was a real game. The players were really going at each other hard. Anyone who saw Dover vs. Merrimack, North vs. South, Trinity vs. Central, Spaulding vs. Oyster River, Memorial vs. West or North vs. Campbell knows what I'm talking about. There was a lot of hard fought games, and a lot of teams were getting better...except Alvirne.
Alvirne treated their holiday tournament games like scrimmages. Moyen and Sweeney, the two big guys, both saw limited minutes in the tourney. One of the reasons the Broncos are 5-5 is because you have two dominant bigs down low, but they're still learning how to play together, help each other out so they can both get touches in the post. Especially where Moyen didn't return from injury until right before the season started, you would think they would both see lots of minutes in the holiday tournament to continue their development. Instead, both players saw very limited action in those games. And I know, two of the 3 games Alvirne played over there were consolation games. But the first game against Campbell wasn't, and that's the game where Moyen and Sweeney sat on the bench the most. Plus Caleb Donnelly didn't play either, as he was nursing an injury of his own.
Like I said, you need to build continuity, consistency, define roles and get used to playing as a team during the summer, fall, first game or two of the season and in holiday tourneys. It's tough when your team is always in flux, you don't know who's going to show up when, you've got some guys injured, some are on vacation, and you never seem to have the same 5 players on the floor. That's been the case with Alvirne. And that's why they're 5-5.
The good news for the Broncos is that it's not how you start it's how you finish. Their a few steps behind the other top teams in terms of development as a team, but if they can keep improving they can be caught up to where those other teams are by the end of the season. And since they'll likely end up wit a lower seed in the tournament, they could be a real sleeper in March, and could definitely upset some people. Just like last year. I still think that if they could have all gotten together and gotten on the same page all summer and fall that they could have had a special team this year. Of course some things you can't control like injuries. Having Moyen not return until right before the season really hurt them. Then you're trying to fit two sophomores into the mix as well as a transfer from Nashua Christian Academy (David Skinner) who never played with these guys before this season. It should certainly be interesting to seen how they do down the stretch!