Opening weekend is upon us, finally, and now we get to watch games that count. As our loyal followers know, we will put our Top 25 out in January once we get a real good look at all the teams. It is so tough to predict what teams will do when transfers and injuries are factored in. In the meantime, let's look at 10 things of interest this season:
1. Short pre-season: The season started late this year and the first games have come up pretty quick. We expect early games to be sloppy, especially shooting wise, and teams that rely on football players may struggle as those players adjust. That being said, for teams who are thinking about making the playoffs, winning ugly early may be pivotal for their chances.
2. The return of Jack O'Brien: He's already a coaching legend in these parts and he takes over one of the most talented programs in the state in Springfield Central. With plenty of quality players returning, including Chris Baldwin, it would be no surprise if they are playing for a state championship in March.
3. The Shooters: As many of the top athletes bolt for prep school at the end of the year, one thing that remains constant in MIAA basketball is the high quality of snipers from the perimeter. CC's Tyler Nelson and Newton North's Tommy Mobley are the top two names that come to mind, but don't sleep on Vinny Clifford from Danvers who lit it up last year for D3 Champs Danvers.
4. Frantzdy Pierrot's injury: Melrose loses it's top player and was poised to be one of the favorites in D2 this season. How will they adjust? It's always interesting to watch how a team responds to injury and if they can come together despite the adversity (i.e. the Patriots)
5. Newton South at Catholic Memorial: South has always had talent but just haven't seemed to put it together recently. CM is a favorite in D1 with star guard Guilien Smith leading the way. Last year's opening game was an instant classic and this one could be the same tonight.
6. Is Lynn English for real?: They were the surprise team last season and now have the spotlight on them. The back court of Hogan, Rosario, and Collins play havoc on opposing defenses and barring any injury it should continue this year as well. Will the increased awareness of other teams derail them though? We think not.
7. Will SJP thrive under a new coach? John Dullea takes over and the Eagles have plenty there for him to be successful. However, there has always been an unwritten rule in the coaching profession,"You don't want to be "the guy" taking over for "the guy" (see Bobby Valentine). It usually means coaches should wait until the successor fails and then go for that job (John Farrell). Coach Dullea will have his work cut out for him, but we expect him and SJP to have a great year.
8. Elijah Rogers will be player of the year: Multi-talented, on a talented, well coached team, and improving by the minute. If you don't know him, you don't follow high school basketball close enough and you have to make your way to a Brookline game to see what we are talking about.
9. Newton North just keeps winning: Coach Paul Connolly is a winner. His teams are always prepared, play their system to perfection, and when undermanned find a way to win. It is rare to have a discussion about playoff contenders that doesn't include the Tigers and this year will be no exception.
10. Cambridge leaving GBL: The rumor of the Falcons leaving for the DCL seems to be substantiated and who knows what that does to the Greater Boston League next year. Keep a close eye on this situation and maybe this is last time we see the heated Cambridge/Everett rivalry.
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