Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Updated Power Rankings - Boys Basketball

The girls team rankings were updated the other day, and now it's time for the boys. Again, this is a ranking of the top 20 teams in the state regardless of division. This is how the teams rank RIGHT NOW, taking into account strength of schedule, injuries, recent player, common opponents, etc.

I've seen a lot of games, between summer and fall leagues, preseason scrimmages, holiday tourneys and regular season games. Everything is taken into consideration, and weighted accordingly when ranking the teams. Disagree with me? No problem, fire away!

Before I get to the rankings, here are some thoughts that went into them:

More Parity Than We Expected in Preseason
Going into the season I thought there was a clear separation between the top teams in D-I. You had BG, Central and Memorial who were the 3 favorites. Then you had Trinity and Merrimack who were also contenders. And then you had Dover and West who would also be tough. Then after those 7 teams there would be a big drop-off. Then in D-II it was Milford and everyone else.

But 2 major factors have created quite a bit of parity - injuries and upsets. The three biggest upsets so far are as follows: Concord (preseason #19) over Pinkerton (preseason #9) 55-47 last week. The very next night South (preseason #17) beat BG (preseason #1) 64-56. Then last night Londonderry (preseason #12) beat Memorial (preseason #3) by a final of 55-47. Then you also had Exeter (preseason #16) beating Merrimack (preseason #5) 61-54, but that one I don't consider as much of an upset, because Merrimack had half their team either injured or suspended.

As for injuries, the 2 that jump out at you are Connor Green (BG) and Scott McCallum (Milford). Their teams are both still very good, but their injuries have definitely leveled the playing field a little bit. BG has gone from preseason #1 team in D-I to a team that is barely holding on to the #2 spot in the division. And while Milford is still the best team in D-II, the gap between them and the rest of the pack is definitely smaller without the versatile 6'4" wing McCallum in there. Green is expected back soon, while McCallum is out for the year. Another injury to keep an eye on is Quintin Hunter (West) who suffered a leg injury in the QCIBT. Then you also have a lot of suspensions, as have been well documented. Portsmouth wing Kyle DiCesare is scheduled to return to the lineup next Monday night when the Clippers travel to Kingswood according to Coach Mulvey.

What all of this has done is narrow the the gap between the top teams and the bottom ones. Parity is ALWAYS a good thing. When you have blowouts all over the place, when you already know who's going to win every game, that's boring. This is fun.

That being said, it's still early, folks. As the season goes on the cream will rise to the top. As the season goes on we will see that Memorial is indeed better than Londonderry, BG is indeed better than South, and Pinkerton is indeed better than Concord. But for now I do take those games into account, but I don't put a ton of stock in them.

Trinity and Milford Have to be Considered Top 2 Teams
Both teams are unbeaten. Both teams have lots of weapons. And until one of them loses or has an injury (or in Milford's case another injury) they are the state's 2 best teams. Trinity is just so deep. Travis Descoteaux, Jake Hamel and Andrew Lauderdale would start for virtually every other team in the state. But all 3 come off the bench for Trinity. Minutes are hard to come by for their "Big 3" freshmen guards, Dawson Dickson, Pat Keefe and Carmen Giampetruzzi. But they would have no problem getting minutes for virtually any other team in the state.

Trinity already has 2 VERY good wins, over Central and Dover. They have possibly the best perimeter defender in the state in Hunter Viscarello, the best shooter in the state in Zach Stevens and the best shot blocker in the state in Silvere Aluko. 6'7" sophomore forward Mabor Gabriel has also been playing very good basketball for this team. He has improved a TON in the past year.

Only at Trinity could you graduate 2 starters (Phil Hayden and Gordon Duffley) and have 4 players transfer out of your program, with one of them being the reigning Player of the Year (David Madol) and STILL be the #1 ranked team in the NHIAA.

As for Milford, they just continue to win games even without McCallum in there. Junior guard Jovi Philbrick is also currently injured, and that is also a tough loss. In the Spartans win over Souhegan last week Philbrick was very good off the bench, playing tough defense, making clutch free throws and taking the ball strong to the rim. It was as good as I've seen him play. And then he got hurt. Just like how McCallum injured his knee despite the fact that he had improved as much in the last year as any player in the NHIAA. It's just not fair.

That being said, Milford still has plenty of talent with their "Big 4" of Mike Mitchell, Jamie Holder, Mike O'Loughlin and Kyle Nelson that they just keep on winning games. The Spartans have played some pretty good teams, including Pelham, Souhegan (twice), Coe-Brown and Portsmouth. Not only are they still unbeaten, but Milford still hasn't won a game by less than 10 points. Their "Big 4" is just THAT good. They're not only talented, but these guys have all been playing together since the 3rd grade. Logan Barlow and Jared Lakin have also stepped up and played well in supporting roles.

Give Exeter Some Credit
It has been well documented that the Blue Hawks graduated all 5 starters from a team that was only the #14 seed last year. Then their top 2 returning players transferred to BG (Brad Holler) and tore his ACL (Tim LaRoche) and one of their better JV players (Quentin Bullen) transferred to St. John's Prep in Mass. So the fact that Exeter is 3-2 is impressive. They put 73 points up on Winnacunnet, they beat Merrimack (preseason #5 in D-I) and they beat Alvirne by 19. Not too bad for a team that was picked to finish 16th in the division.

Leading the way for Exeter has been 6'0" combo-guard Matt Barr, the #7 ranked player in the Class of 2013. Barr has been lighting up the opposition, including a game-high 20 points in the win over Merrimack. He has the ability to shoot the basketball off the catch or the dribble, has good range and also a solid mid-range pull-up. Other key players in the Blue Hawks early success have been senior wing Jesse Dionne and junior forward Chase Poutre. Head coach Jeff Holmes has done a nice job with his squad. Whether they can keep it up remains to be seen. But Exeter has already beaten 3 teams who were above them in the preseason rankings.

How High Should Top D-III Teams Be?
It does appear that the difference between the top teams in D-II and D-III teams is fairly significant. Conant, currently my #4 ranked team in D-III has 4 losses on the year (including holiday tourney games). They lost by 13 to Souhegan, and they also lost to a Coe-Brown team that is not even a top 10 team right now in my D-II rankings. Last Friday night I saw Mascoma (my #3 ranked team in D-III) just BARELY beat Conant, and that was at Mascoma. Furthermore, Mascoma just BARELY beat Hanover over the holidays, and Hanover is also a team might only barely crack my top 10 teams in D-II. Then you also have Bow (my #2 team in D-II) who lost by about 25 to Dover in the QCIBT. And Berlin (my #1 team in D-II) only beat Kennett (1-4 in D-II) by 7, 56-49. Meanwhile St. Thomas (1-3 in D-II) beat Kennett 68-34. Ouch!

Look, I'm not bashing Division III hoops. I've seen Conant, Mascoma, Bow, Mascenic and Somersworth play, plus Raymond quite a bit over the summer. No doubt there's some good basketball in D-III. The Conant/Mascoma game was a treat to watch. And this Friday night I plan on covering the Bow vs. Raymond game. But this is a ranking of the top 20 teams in the state. And in the words of Bill Belichick, it is what it is. I'm just giving my opinion and backing it up with facts.

Without any further ado, here are the current top 20 boys basketball teams in the NHIAA:

1) Trinity
2) Milford
3) Bishop Guertin
4) Manchester Central
5) Dover
6) Manchester Memorial
7) Souhegan
8) Pelham
9) Pembroke
10) Salem
11) Portsmouth
12) Lebanon
13) Nashua North
14) Manchester West
15) Spaulding
16) Oyster River
17) Exeter
18) Merrimack
19) Berlin
20) Bow

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