The first rounds of the boys and girls basketball tournaments start Tuesday night, so let’s get to your questions. Both Michael Kelly and Adam Shinder will offer an answer to each question.
(Some questions have been slightly reworded.)
Should private schools such as Albany Academy, Mekeel Christian Academy, and Saratoga Central Catholic be able to participate in the New York State PUBLIC High School Athletic Association tournament?
MK: I think in an ideal world, the answer to this is “No.” While the vast majority of private schools in Section II attract their students based on the actual school, there are some which seem to be consistent basketball powerhouses and that raises fairness questions in terms of a level playing field. However, this is more of a state issue than a Section II issue.
AS: It’s certainly a statewide issue, but I’d agree that ideally, private schools would play in a separate, private school tournament — which does exist in New York — and, should they win that, would be able to play in the Federation tournament. In fact, the Albany Academy boys team is doing that this year, playing in the AIS tournament as a Class A school. On the other hand, with the exception of CBA and Bishop Maginn hoarding the Class AA boys title for the better part of the past decade, there isn’t a rash of private schools winning the small-school leagues in Section II.
Albany Academy, which plays mostly Class B schools, received the No. 6 seed in the Class C girls bracket despite having just a 9-8 record. Is this right?
MK: That’s the crux of the top issue of the past week: How do you try and merge teams together from several leagues for a tournament? Though AA was just a game over .500 this season, the Bears probably have more quality wins than any team in the bracket because they played the toughest schedule of any team in the field. You could surely quibble with where AA landed, but it does seem odd they got sandwiched between Berne-Knox-Westerlo (WAC regular-season champion) and Duanesburg (WAC Cup champion).
AS: There’s pretty much no way to get around sectional seeding being a giant, controversial mess, especially once you get to Class C, with so many different leagues sending teams to the tournament. In Academy’s case, you’re looking at a team that’s pretty difficult to seed. Somewhere in the 5-6-7 range was probably correct, and while league reputation and the competition the Bears face might warrant them being ahead of B-K-W, it’s hard to punish a team that was unbeaten until the WAC Cup final. When looking at Duanesburg and AA, the Bears probably have more overall quality wins, plus putting them at 6 rather than 7 avoids a potential Colonial Council showdown with No. 2 seed Voorheesville in the quarters.
If you’re a general basketball fan, what game in the first two rounds looks like the best one to go watch?
MK: If it happens, No. 6 Fort Plain vs. No. 3 Mechanicville boys sticks out in the Class C bracket. That game would be Saturday, 6 p.m., at Stillwater.
In my opinion, both of these teams were underseeded; I would have had Mechanicville at No. 2 and Fort Plain at No. 4. Basically, you’re getting a final four matchup in the second round in this one. Watching Mechanicville’s Jordan McBride and Fort Plain’s Harold Dettmer go at it would be worth the price of admission, alone.
AS: For a first-round game, I think the Fonda-Fultonville at Catskill 12 vs. 5 game in the Class B boys bracket could be a lot of fun, simply because the Braves are willing to play at or near the pace that the Cats will. If F-F can keep Catskill from getting too many easy transition baskets and, perhaps most importantly, rebound the ball on defense (because the Cats will put up shots at a ridiculous volume), then the 2011 Class BB champs could face a tough one against a Braves team that made a run to the Class B final last year after a tough season in the Colonial Council.
I’ll also throw out a potential Class AA boys second round matchup between LaSalle and Shaker. LSI was just behind CBA and Troy as the class of the Big 10, but Shaker is 5-1 since the Blue Bison finally got 6-foot-6 Casey Hall into the lineup at the end of January.
Rumor has it the Fort Plain girls may try to move out of the WAC to become an independent to play stronger teams. Is this a good move?
MK: Tough one. Two sides to this …
One — By doing this, you can build your own schedule from scratch and avoid random bye weeks and the 10-day layoffs so many teams go through. Theoretically, you should be able to build a stronger schedule on your own, making it so your team has the best chance to improve during the year.
Two — The one independent team in this year’s Section II field received a sectional seed that certainly seemed worse than it should have been (Green Tech at No. 5 in Class A; a top-three seed seemed warranted).
I think the first point outweighs the second point, but I think if a school does go independent, it has to be ready to deal with it come sectional seeding time.
AS: Playing an independent schedule is a bit of a quandary for anyone. In theory, I like it, especially if the other option is playing in a league where you are playing down in classification a lot. As an independent, you can schedule what you want to try and find opportunities for quality wins when, in a league, you’re locked in to 14-16 games per year and can only find a couple of non-league games to bump up your sectional resume. That said, there’s a reason that no non-private, non-charter school in Section II plays as an independent: Being in a league can be advantageous come sectional seeding. You don’t have to fill out your schedule with out-of-section games that the committee can minimize the importance of, and a league championship always looks good on the resume. Definitely a mixed bag.
Which team seeded outside the top four in one of the brackets has the best chance to win a sectional title?
MK: The aforementioned Green Tech Eagles. I thought they had the most impressive resume of any Class A team; to me, they’re the favorite in that field.
AS: Green Tech’s a good choice, but with a tough road to even reach the finals — Amsterdam, then likely Bishop Gibbons and No 1 seed (and Foothills Council champion) Glens Falls. Still, on talent alone, I think the Eagles are a major contender in Class A. As for me, I’ll go with a team we discussed earlier, the Albany Academy girls. They avoid No. 1 seed Hoosic Valley until the finals and have won four of five heading into sectionals, including a 42-32 win over No. 2 seed Voorheesville. Plus, the Bears have one of the best players in the Class C bracket in J’Vanay Santos and her 21 points per game, second behind B-K-W’s Liz Harvey among all Section II girls.