Usually when you leave the preview each year, a certain team â€“ or at least a few teams â€“ shows themselves to be the team to beat on paper. Often times a league will have balance in the middle of the pack or you might hear people say that on any given night any team can win. I am not sure I have ever seen a year like we are getting ready to watch in this yearâ€™s league. I was asking some coaches â €œoff the recordâ€� tonight to share their thoughts and I heard every scenario you could imagine. I had one coach pick a favorite that another coach put in the fifth spot. This example is probably the best indication of just how wide-open this yearâ€™s league race could be. I usually do not lack for an opinion when it comes to basketball, but with this league, I can honestly say I have no idea.
One prediction could be that this yearâ€™s league could allow a team to lose three or four times and still share the title. This has only been the case three times in league history; however, I think different match- ups are going to bring some different challenges to several different teams. I think the key this year is going to be protecting your home court and then posting a winning record on the road. A team that does this will have themselves at 11 wins, and I believe that will be plenty to claim the title come February.
One team I liked prior to tonight when I watched them in a Foundation Game earlier this week was Unioto. The Shermans have a very talented starting five and they have a nice depth of athletes as well. Chase Detillion, a 6-5 junior, is a strong, athletic kid who can score and rebound, and he is joined by a very versatile 6-5 senior in Andrew Warner. Unioto is one of the few teams in the league who has experience at the point guard position as senior Cole Murray returns as the Unioto floor general. After this trio, Coach Hoops has some different options in terms of going more offense or defense in his line-up. Senior Adam Woods is a guy who provides a lot of intangibles with his effort plays, and junior Bryce Arledge is a solid three-point shooter.
Two other teams in the discussion went head-to-head in Fridayâ€™s opener. Zane Trace and Piketon appeared to be a fairly even match. Coach Alley and Coach Lisath had a little different substation pattern so it was tough to evaluate the head-to-head match-up; however, it was a game where you could evaluate individual improvement.
For Piketon, the Redstreaks start life without Evan Legg, but they do have a very talented junior class. Craigen Moore looked good in the preview as did Zach Farmer. Isaac Brabson is another junior expected to have a nice season. After this trio, Coach Lisath has a long list of scrappy, athletic kids who play extremely hard. My biggest question mark for this team is going to be scoring in the half court. I have no doubt they can play in an up-and-down game with anyone, but how will they respond against a team that forces them to play a slower tempo with longer possessions.
As for Zane Trace, I think this is a team that way too many people are overlooking. The Pioneers have a senior class that has done a lot of winning in their younger levels, and last year, they simply were in a situation where they could not stay healthy at the point guard position. This leads me to my main point for this yearâ€™s squad. I believe the key could be the health of Colton Whitehouse. If he is able to stay healthy and run this team, then this team can be really good. Seniors Ian Carle, Brandon Cox, and Jesson Hill are all very good players who can do a variety of things. Last year, I felt like these guys were forced to play out of position due to the before mentioned injuries. If ZT is able to keep these guys in their more natural positions of off-guard or small forward then I expect big senior seasons from all of them. The Pioneers should also get a great balance from the post led by 6-4 junior Wes Beam. Another senior guard who caught my attention in Fridayâ€™s action was Casey Bush. Bush shot the ball well from three-point range which gives this team another weapon on the offensive end.
I think it would be unfair to have a discussion about league favorites without throwing Huntington in the mix. Led by senior Dylan Gragg, the Huntsmen return several pieces from last yearâ€™s third-place team. Seniors Blake and Brendon Campbell, sophomore Brain Hall, and junior Brice Vickers all return with varsity experience. Another player with a little experience â€“ and a kid who I think gives Coach Rinehart a more natural option at the point guard position â€“ is sophomore Jake Kellough. In the past, I have always felt like Huntington played a tempo and a style that was scary to play against when they were the underdog. Now it will be interesting to see how they are able to finish some of the tight league games where they are considered by many to be the favorites. I really think this is a dangerous team. I know things got away from them on the scoreboard Friday night, but I wouldnâ€™t look too far into that. The preview can take on a lot of different situations. When games start for real, this team is going to have as much talent and experience as anyone in the league.
Westfall is another team that has an argument as one of the leagueâ€™s most talented teams. The Mustangs are one of the biggest and most athletic teams in this yearâ€™s SVC. They have the pieces to do a lot of things on the defensive end, and they have multiple guys capable of scoring double-figures per game. My biggest question mark for this team remains the point guard position. Derek Robertson, Neal Hegarty, and Cody See are all nice sized perimeter players who bring a lot of different things to the court, but none would be considered a prototypical point guard in my opinion. When you look at post players like Alek Stonerock and a much improved Doug Hardin, I believe Coach Minkâ€™s Mustangs are going to see a lot of pressure defense as well as zone. Westfallâ€™s ability to handle the basketball as well as find some perimeter shooting could determine how much of a contender they become this season.
Perhaps for this yearâ€™s sleeper and definitely for a team to watch over the next few years I would say Southeastern. The Panthers displayed several nice young players Friday night including point guard Dylan Miles. Freshman Jake Skeens is an impressive athlete and sophomores Austin Hice and Jordan Allen both appear ready to really impact the varsity level, and they could be the needed final pieces to Coach Uhrigâ €™s winning puzzle. I say final pieces because Southeastern returns some very talented players. Senior Michael Brown returns as one of the leagueâ€™s top players along with junior Nick Kellough. Brown is a tough match-up because of his ability to go both inside and outside. Kellough is a player that really benefits from Miles at the point. I thought Kelloughâ€™s shot selection and overall rhythm in Fridayâ€™s preview was perhaps a sign that he is ready for a big junior season on the offensive end. You combine all this along with the size of Will Gullion and the athleticism of Steven Hall and Coach Uhrig has a roster that could potentially allow him to go nine maybe even 10 deep.
Adena is definitely a team that looks older on the basketball court. Several kids who have taken some knocks at the varsity level throughout their underclassmen years are now juniors and seniors. This should allow them to physically match-up better throughout the league season. Austin Hottinger, Jordan Call, Tyler Cory, and Trevor Hauserman are all names that SVC fans have heard over the last few years, and they should serve as the leaders for first-year coach Jason Smith this season. I believe Adenaâ€™s improved athleticism will allow them to be improved on the defensive end and on the glass. My biggest concern for Adena is will they be able to consistently score enough points over a 32-minute game to compete in a very balanced league this season.
Paint Valley is a team that was hit extremely hard by graduation. The Bearcats lost over 90 percent of last yearâ€™s offensive output, so it is going to take some time for Coach Wolfe to find his offensive leaders. Paint Valley does return a trio of seniors who had some varsity experience last year in Eli Barker, Harrison Hermann, and Logan Ackley. Another bright spot for Paint Valley comes in freshman Clay Stratton who has a big upside and should prove to be a solid player in the league over the next four years.
The parity should make for a lot of close games. Like the SVC saw in the middle of the volleyball and football leagues this fall, it should make for some great games throughout the entire league in boysâ€™ basketball. It is always my instinct to try to evaluate basketball teams and figure out who is going to finish where; however, sometimes it is just fun to admit you have no idea and enjoy it all as it plays out on the court.
NOTE: Donâ€™t forget The Cardoâ€™s Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk Podcast Show returns this Tuesday. This weekâ€™s show will include a detailed look at basketball for both boys and girls in the SVC. Click here for more!