The SportsTalk Shop: “FINAL” 2017 Basketball Poll

I have to keep it real here—it was not the most exciting regular season in terms of monitoring our scholastic ranking system this winter.

While we’ve seen some well-played games (last Friday’s Freedom/Liberty game by far the best contest I’ve called this winter) and I’m anticipating a very entertaining post-season, there wasn’t a whole lot of movement among our “SportsTalk” poll results over the course of the regular season.

Before we get to our last rankings of the year, here’s a quick recap if you are not familiar with our program.

Our pollsters are comprised of a combination of local media members (Morning Call’s Keith Groller, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach and RCN basketball Announcers Tom Stoudt and Dennis Laub and Lehigh Valley Basketball Rankings’s Toomey Anderson).  We also have three distinguished head basketball coaches giving their insights on the top teams in the Lehigh Valley area.

All District XI schools were eligible for the poll and were divided into either our “big schools” (5A & 6A classifications) or “small schools” (4A & below) rankings.

The “small schools” consist of Wilson, Saucon Valley, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame-GP, Moravian Academy, Lincoln Leadership, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

The “big schools” are Bangor, Central Catholic, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall, Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg North & South, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Northampton, Parkland, and Pleasant Valley.

As far as our “final” results…which looked very similar to what our pre-season poll looked like:

Big School Basketball Poll—Class 5A & up (8 pollsters)

  • Allen – 40 points (8 first place votes)
  • Emmaus – 26 points
  • Parkland – 22 points
  • Pocono Mountain West – 14 points
  • Bangor – 13 points

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Small School Basketball Poll—Class 4A & Below (7 pollsters)

  • Becahi – 35 points (7 first place votes)
  • Salisbury – 24 points
  • Notre Dame-GP – 23 points
  • Saucon Valley – 15 points
  • Wilson – 5 points

Just to recap, Allen maintained its standings as the area’s (and the state’s) top “big school” team all winter by running the table (through this past weekend), and was only really challenged in a handful of games all year.

Among the “smaller schools,” Bethlehem Catholic lost just three league games to date—all by three points are less, and all of them to bigger-sized schools.

The only other teams that had any significant in-season movement in our polls were Parkland and Wilson.  The Trojans  got off to a slow start and fell off our poll completely before  bouncing back and, now, looking about as good as any team in the region (except perhaps Allen, who they played Monday night on RCN-TV).  The Warriors, under a new coach and armed with a very young squad, have made a late-season push and end the season as our “number five” team.

One other note, while Pocono Mountain West slid down from its “number two” position in our preseason poll, I had one local head coach whose opinion I really trust tell me last weekend that he is seriously concerned about “West” and does not want to face them in the post-season.  The Panthers dropped a few regular season games that, on paper, they probably shouldn’t have lost—but with all the talent on that squad and the match-up problems they could create–they very likely could play deep into the league and/or district tournaments.

To help break down these results in further detail and to talk about the Colonial League and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach will join us on this week’s “SportsTalk.”

We’ll also talk about high school basketball in the DC region on this Thursday’s show as DMV Elite’s Marcus Helton will join us via Skype to talk about the area’s regular season, identify the top players and teams and look ahead to a busy final week of the regular season.  Marcus will also give us some upcoming “match-ups to watch” along with his take on which teams will have the most success in the region’s post-season tournaments.

So tune in to the show this Thursday at 7pm or catch the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk and let us know your basketball opinions and questions. If there’s a team, athlete or playoff match-up you’d like us to address on that show, be sure to email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune-in for our panelists’ responses!

The SportsTalk Shop: Basketball “Halftime” Report

 

Traditionally, the first half of the college and high school basketball seasons is…. a little peculiar.

Initially, the preseason schedule begins in the shadow of high school football playoff time—and some of the top basketball players aren’t even part of their basketball team for several weeks of the season due to their commitments on the gridiron.  College football rivalry games are in full swing, and many college basketball teams open their season with “Midnight Madness” (or extremely early morning) games or other events conducted while many of us are sleeping and/or are occupied with many other things going on during the latter half of November.

Then, when the football playoffs finally reach the championship, you’re bumping up against Christmas/holiday season.  Then, around the holidays, teams frequently travel to–or host–tournaments involving teams outside their regular area (and, if possible, get a few days to relax with their families).

After New Year’s there are inevitably a few games postponed due to the bad weather (or heavy concerns about a storm’s potential anyway).  Despite no heavy precipitation, both high school and college games in our coverage area have been affected on a couple of occasions already since we flipped the calendar.

Next thing you know, you’re at the halfway point of the high school and college basketball seasons, and it’s time to take stock about what’s gone on so far—and what lies ahead as teams start to jockey for the best playoff positions.

Which brings us to this week’s “SportsTalk” show…

Morning Call Sports Writers Keith Groller and Lynn Worthy will be on the program to break down the first half of both the local college and scholastic hoops season, and also talk NFL playoffs and other issues being debated in the world of sports this week.

And…we’ll also discuss our high school basketball poll in more detail on this week’s program, along with allowing you, our viewers, to chime in and make your opinions be known.

A bit of background on our HS basketball polls, which are a little unique from any other ranking system out there…

Our pollsters are comprised of a combination of local media members (Morning Call’s Keith Groller, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach, RCN basketball Announcers Tom Stoudt and Dennis Laub and LehighValleyBasketballRankings.com’s Toomey Anderson).  We also have three distinguished head basketball coaches giving their insights on the top teams in the Lehigh Valley area.  We won’t reveal the names of the head coaches to avoid any “bulletin board” material or repercussions towards them—and allow them to be honest about their picks.

All District XI schools are eligible for the poll and will be divided into either our “big schools” (5A & 6A classifications) or “small schools” (4A & below) polls within the RCN footprint.

The “small schools” consist of Wilson, Saucon Valley, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame-GP, Palmerton, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

The “big schools” are Bangor, Central, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall, Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg North & South, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Northampton, Parkland, and Pleasant Valley.

So tune in to the show this Thursday at 7pm or catch the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk and let us know your basketball thoughts at the midway point of the season.

And a special note to our diehard wrestling fans: we’ll be taking a look at the action on the mats and previewing the upcoming post-season action on next week’s “SportsTalk” show (January 26 ).  If there’s a team, athlete or wrestling issue you’d like us to address on that show, be sure to email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune-in for our panelists’ responses!

The SportsTalk Shop: The New PIAA Classifications

The biggest topic of conversation has been the shift from four classifications to six, with many schools moving to new groupings, approved by Pennsylvania’s governing body over high school sports—the PIAA.  We had a chance recently in studio to discuss this big shake-up with local media members…

Coming up on this Thursday’s live show at 7 pm on RCN-TV (the podcast will be available the next day), District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman, along with local head coaches, will be on “RCN SportsTalk” to discuss and debate the advantages of these new alignments.  They will also outline the changes to the regular season schedule, the playoff criteria, the reasoning behind moving some teams and not others and many more issues.

Viewers will have the benefit of calling into the show live or emailing us (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) questions and concerns about the radical change—including the usually lengthy procedure for these alterations, which took place in a surprisingly quick fashion.

Among the areas of confusion that we’ll hope to clear up on this show include: identifying where the different teams “landed,” why a particular school is sometimes in different classifications for different sports (including different grouping for boys and girls sports), the number of teams that will qualify for the postseason and many more issues.

To help clarify some of the confusion ahead of the show, here is a rundown of where the various schools fall for a couple of the most-covered PIAA sanctioned sports.

FOOTBALL CLASSIFICATIONS…
CLASS 6A:
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mt. East, Pocono Mt. West and Stroudsburg

CLASS 5A:
East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Southern Lehigh and Whitehall

CLASS 4A:
Bangor, Bethlehem Catholic, Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, Northwestern Lehigh, Pottsville and Saucon Valley

CLASS 3A:
Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Northern Lehigh, North Schuylkill, Notre Dame-Green Pond, Palisades, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Tamaqua and Wilson

CLASS 2A:
Catasauqua, Mahanoy Area, Minersville, Palmerton, Panther Valley, Pine Grove, Minersville and Schuylkill Haven

CLASS A:
Marian, Nativity, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley and Williams Valley

BOYS BASKETBALL CLASSIFICATIONS…
CLASS 6A:
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, East Stroudsburg South, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain Easton, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg

CLASS 5A:
Bangor, Blue Mountain, Allentown Central Catholic, East Stroudsburg North, Pottsville, Southern Lehigh and Whitehall

CLASS 4A:
Bethlehem Catholic, Jim Thorpe, North Schuylkill, Northwestern, Pen Argyl, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Tamaqua and Wilson

CLASS 3A:
Catasauqua, Minersville, Northern Lehigh, Notre Dame-Green Pond, Palmerton and Pine Grove

CLASS 2A:
Mahanoy Area, Marian Catholic, Moravian Academy, Panther Valley, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah Valley and Williams Valley

CLASS A:
Lincoln Leadership, Medical Academy, Nativity, Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg, Tri-Valley and Weatherly

As I mentioned months ago on this blog, I myself am taking an optimistic “wait-and-see” approach to see how this new classification system shakes out.  There are some clear advantages for student-athletes and some of the local school sports programs. However, there have also been a number of coaches in the state who have raised concerns about this year’s changes.

Again, you will have the opportunity to call or email the show directly and our guests will be able to address your questions and concerns on this Thursday’s program.  We hope you’ll join us for this important show and let us know your thoughts!