The Downfall of FCIAC Boys’ Basketball

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After squeaking into the FCIAC playoffs, Trinity Catholic guard Jonathan Boykin led the Crusaders all the way to a state championship. | Photo courtesy of Overtime High School Sports Blog

Last year the Bridgeport Central Hilltoppers lost only one game in the FCIAC. This year they have won just one. This year’s top team is the Ridgefield Tigers who are 11-1 in conference play and have already eclipsed their win total from last year. It is incredible to see the opposite directions these two programs have gone in after it was Central who beat Ridgefield in the first round of the 2010 FCIAC playoffs.

The drastic differences in Ridgefield and Bridgeport Central from last year to this year prove just how bizarre the 2010-2011 FCIAC campaign has been. Long time powerhouses in Trinity Catholic, Stamford and Harding now reside toward the middle of the pack while Ridgefield, Brien McMahon and Staples have climbed their way to the top of the standings.

In fact, the Wreckers with their nine conference wins are just one game behind the Westhill Vikings for first place the Western Division. While the rise of schools like Staples is certainly exciting, the biggest story line this season has been the decline in competition.

“I think the FCIAC is the weakest it has been in some time. The top teams are nowhere nearly as strong as they have been in past years and there seems to be more really subpar teams,” said Stamford Advocate sports reporter Dave Ruden.

With the competition the worst it has been in years, it is ironic to think that the FCIAC wants to expand the playoffs to 12 teams. Now one would that having more teams is better because there are more student athletes who get to join the playoff basketball party. Stipulations such as a bye week for the top teams are certainly tempting in order to rest injured players however the extra week would only hurt schools’ momentum. In this case more is not better. Allowing mediocre teams to enter the playoffs would just degrade the elite status of the FCIAC and it would create lopsided results.

If 12 teams were to play in the playoffs this year, as it stands now the number one seeded Ridgefield Tigers would take on the 5-7 Trumbull Golden Eagles. In their matchup on January 19, the Tigers won easily 63-37. This 26-point beat down would most likely repeat itself in the playoffs and as Dave Ruden wrote in his column a few weeks ago, this system just doesn’t make sense.

“I just think the 12-team playoff is one of the worst ideas the FCIAC has had in some time. All it will do is artificially reward teams that don’t belong in the playoffs, and I believe at cost to the league’s reputation,” Ruden said.

It is illogical to expand a playoff system in a league where half of the teams competing have records under .500. The ideas of financial motivation behind this idea do not supplement for the lack of competition. If there was never a time to expand this would be it as the weaknesses of the FCIAC conference is damaging perception of basketball not only in the Fairfield County area but also in the state of Connecticut.