Monday, March 7, 2011

Statewide Boys Basketball Power Rankings - 3/8/11

Teams in Divisions I and II are about to get the playoffs started, while D-III and D-IV are headed to their semi-finals. It's a good time to take a look at how the teams should be ranked.

It's also a good time for me to mention how much it grinds my gears (Family Guy reference for you younger readers) that the divisions are all at different points in their seasons. For crying out loud, Division III and IV girls have already crowned champions (congrats to Campbell and Groveton by the way), yet D-I and II boys haven't even started their playoffs yet. Then you have girls D-I and II, and boys D-III and IV who are all set to begin their semi-final games. Everyone is at different points, it's crazy. And it's confusing as heck to try and follow for media, for fans, for coaches and for parents.

Note to the NHIAA, most folks around the state follow more than just 1 division. Pool games together, have more neutral site games, have all the divisions (boys and girls) start and end their regular seasons and tournaments at the same time. And have all 4 girls title games on 1 day in 1 gym and all 4 boys title games on 1 day and in the same gym as the girls. That way people can see ALL EIGHT title games. It can't be that hard to get this right.

I honestly think that the NHIAA just doesn't think anyone cares. Well here's a newsflash for them - people do care. This very site is breaking records for hits everyday, and that is a testament to the staggering number of passionate high school sports fans across the state. These people deserve better.

Milford and BG = Top Dogs
They were the preseason favorites in their respective divisions. And they are heading into the tournament as well. Milford hasn't lost a game all year, and they also beat BG easily in summer league action, in the fall league title game and also in a preseason scrimmage. Just like was expected, their "Big 3" of Mitchell, O'Loughlin and Holder has been too much for teams to handle. And although sharpshooter Scott McCallum is out for the year, guys like Logan Barlow, Jovi Philbrick and Jared Lakin have really stepped up in his absence.

Does anyone have a shot to beat them? Well Portsmouth does. But I saw them play last Thursday night vs. Oyster River, and they played well but without Terrance Herbert in there the Clippers aren't the same team (he was out due to personal reasons, and it's unclear when or if he will return to the lineup). Pembroke and Pelham are also teams who can pose challenges for Milford. Pembroke has the speed and skill to run-and-gun with them, and Pelham has toughness, fearlessness and oh yeah some kid named Spirou who's pretty good (he's expected to be back in time for the playoffs from an ankle injury). I wouldn't be surprised if one of those teams shocked everyone by beating Milford, but I jut don't see it happening. They're on a mission for another title and an undefeated season, they've already experienced playing 2 games on the college floor and packed crowds at UNH and 4 of their 5 starters have been playing in national level AAU tournaments during the spring/summer for the last couple of years. When you spend 4 straight months not only going toe-to-toe with kids from all over the country, many of whom are headed off to play ball at places like Pittsburgh, Kansas and Villanova, when you come back over here and play NHIAA ball it is a little bit easier for you (just a little bit!).

Guertin meanwhile has played a tougher schedule than Milford, and they haven't lost a regular season game all year when Connor Green has been healthy. The Cardinals head into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak. Their toughest competition for the D-I title will be Trinity, Memorial, Central and Salem. Well guess what, BG has beaten ALL of those teams. Merrimack is another top 8 team. Last week BG beat 42 points! Trinity, Memorial, Central and Salem are all legit title contenders. But BG is the clear favorite to cut the nets down on March 19. Green and McClung have both been playing at a first team all-state level. Kyle 'Remi' Remillard and Nick 'Psycho' Pyzocha are 2 of the state's best defenders. Juniors Logan Kesty, Brad Holler and Joe McCarthy are all capable scorers and Steve Cuipa, Mike Kelly, Cooper Paul and Nate Chartrand provide depth for the deepest team in NH. They can go 12 deep and are constantly rotating players to keep fresh bodies in there. Their weakness is with their over-aggressive 'football mentality' on defense and pressing defense they can get in foul trouble. If you're a good free throw shooting team and you have good ball handlers who can handle their press you have a pretty good shot. But BG has also showed that they simply have too many weapons and are too fast for, well everybody. Hard to bet against a team that's unbeaten with Green in there.

Rivalry Match-Ups in D-I Playoffs
In the NCAA tourney, the selection committee will often times make the brackets so that teams that are rivals will play each other in the tournament. This leads to better TV ratings and higher attendance numbers at the games, which = more money for the NCAA. In the NHIAA, of course there is no selection committee, it just goes by record and tie-breakers. There's no committee that sits there and debates whether Alvirne or Pinkerton is a better team. They just look at record and tie-breakers and that's that. With that being said though, it is funny how some of these match-ups worked out.

Pinkerton/Londonderry, Dover/Spaulding and Memorial/West. Three of the biggest rivalries in the state. And they all just HAPPEN to be playing each other in the first round. Tuesday will be a fun night, that's for sure. What makes it even more fun is that the first 2 match-ups that I listed are virtual toss-ups as far as who the favorite is.

In D-II, Laconia gets the nod in the 16 spot over St. Thomas. They both have identical 6-12 records and they didn't play each other in the regular season. Yet 2 of Laconia's wins came against Division III teams (Winnisquam and Belmont), while 1 of St. Thomas' losses came against Division I Dover. NHIAA, you're going to have to explain this one to us. If St. Thomas had beaten Dover (a 10 win team in D-I), that win would be worth less points in the standings than Laconia beating Winnisquam (went 2-15 in D-III), just because Laconia's win came on the road. Are you kidding me? Only reason Laconia's in the dance is because of this home/road points stuff we have now which is a joke. If I'm St. Thomas I'm livid about this. I know that whoever gets in is just going to lose to Milford in the first round. But just being able to play in the tournament is a great experience for the kids and for the school. To be denied that privilege simply because of this ridiculous scoring system is just wrong. If you want to have these cross-division games to keep rivalries alive and cut down on travel times or have intra-division rivals play twice instead of once for the same reasons fine. But if you do that you must account for that strength of schedule difference, and in a FAIR way.

Again, these rankings are based on how the teams are playing RIGHT NOW. I don't care about records. I put more stock into team's recent performances than an irrelevant game from back in December when a team lost to someone but their best player wasn't even playing. If you took any 2 teams on the list and they played each other on a neutral court, the team ranked higher would be the favorite. Without any further ado, here are the current top 20 boys basketball teams in NH. Sorry, just couldn't quite narrow it down to 20 teams!

1. Milford
2. Bishop Guertin
3. Trinity
4. Manchester Memorial
5. Manchester Central
6. Salem
7. Londonderry
8. Pelham
9. Merrimack
10. Pembroke
11. Pinkerton
12. Alvirne
13. Dover
14. Spaulding
15. Portsmouth
16. Bedford
17. Hanover
18. Goffstown
19. Lebanon
20. Souhegan
21. Oyster River
22. Coe Brown
23. Mascoma

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