Today is Feb. 2. We are officially in the month of the basketball playoffs.
And we are officially in the middle of what I believe to be the craziest large school poll I've been a part of in a decade at The News.
Every week 10 voters participate in The News' large and small school polls for boys basketball. The poll is published Tuesday in the Sidelines of the Scholastic Spotlight.
And here's this week's ...
1. East (9-2) [last week: 1] - I'm sticking with my pick from last week. The argument was aided after Canisius had onlookers calling them the best team in Western New York after Sunday's rout at St. Joe's. Two weekends earlier, East beat Canisius at the MLK Challenge. Is Canisius a different team now, probably -- but to ignore the East win over Canisius you've got be wearing blue-and-gold colored glasses (or the big foam Crusader mascot head, which is awesome).
2. Niagara Falls (10-3)  - From what I saw at Lockport, the Wolverines (who did win at Canisius in December) seem back on track. Can't wait for next Tuesday for NF at NT.
3. Canisius (15-3)  - Blair Helton and the Crusaders had one of the best performances of the season.
4. Nichols [11-6]  - I repeat from last week: Just to make sure everyone realizes this -- with Canestro, Nichols wins those games they lost at Timon and at Canisius -- and superpower Jamesville-Dewitt in Syracuse -- and is still No. 1 by a full-court shot. Period.
But they didn't, and we have to vote on what's happened lately, even though the Vikings seem to be getting used to playing without Canestro. They get another test tonight when they end a five-game road swing by hosting one of Western New York's hottest teams in St. Francis (which is broadcasting the game online). Feel free to delay the 7:30 p.m. tip-off some -- I'm heading there after catching the 7 p.m. game of Lockport at North Tonawanda.
5. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (14-4)  - The loss at Frannies doesn't look as bad; Nichols is ahead of them because I think Nichols would hold serve on their home court, just like Timon did.
6. Williamsville South (10-3)  - All I've heard about Friday's game are raves about Mark Coppola. The margin of victory deserves to be rewarded.
7. Jamestown (12-1)  - Yes, Jamestown is here. The Red Raiders lost at home to Frontier, which is unranked and is still under .500 overall and in ECIC I.
And yes, I realize there is a good excuse for the Red Raiders. Except it's a bad excuse. It's not an injury like Canestro's. It's a code of conduct violation. The school is addressing it, and their (boys and girls) teams are paying for it, and the administration is doing the right thing. However, teams do not get a pass on this ballot because multiple players aren't on the floor due to suspensions.
When it comes to this poll, it's about who deserves a vote right now, and this may be the most top-heavy week I've ever seen. I didn't think it was right to put Jamestown ahead of teams which I think would be fantastic opponents -- and that's with everyone at full strength. When it comes to this poll, there is always next week.
8. Sweet Home (9-2)  - Can they answer South winning Game One?
A huge shoutout to Sweet Home for holding a Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser during Friday's game (the doubleheader starts with a girls game with Williamsville East visiting) that benefits Shell Strong, the initiative to support Jacob Shell, the 9-year-old son of Burnt Hills football coach Matt Shell (Sweet Home has played Burnt Hills in the last two state championship football games). Read Kim Shell's journal about Jacob's battle with neuroblastoma. Deshanaro Morris is again among those behind the efford.
9. Orchard Park (8-1)  - Move up one spot.They take on a Rivera-less and Paige-less Red Raider team tonight in Jamestown.
10. North Tonawanda (11-2) [NR] - The Maryvale win is a high quality one to earn them a spot here ahead of St. Francis, Clarence and St. Joe's. For those dancing on St. Joe's poll grave, they definitely should have been ranked last week, they definitely don't deserve to be ranked this week.
1. Olean (12-2)  - Some of you out there, including two voters (not that there's anything wrong with that), are underestimating the Huskies. The same Huskies who have won three straight sectional titles, have three starters back and are crushing everyone not named Jamestown and Nichols.
2. Middle College (10-1)  - Can McKinley push them this evening? I aim to find out after my weekly pickup hoops game.
3. Grover Cleveland (10-1)  - Presidents with an excellent performance at Lackawanna. Ricky Alejandro was fantastic.
4. Depew (13-1)  - Only four games left, including Thursday at Amherst and next Tuesday hosting Maryvale.
5. St. Mary's (11-7)  - If anything, their resume got stronger in the past week as St. Francis (St. Joe's) and Lafayette (at Riverside) had good wins.
6. Maple Grove (8-5)  - Bold prediction: Chris Secky passes 2,000 points with less than two minutes left in third quarter of Section VI Class D title game.
7. Allegany-Limestone (11-3)  - For what it's worth, the Gators are crushing CCAA teams about as bad as Olean is. The two meet in the swamp on Friday.
8. Wilson (11-2)  - Newfane visits Thursday.
9. Medina (10-3)  - Newfane visits today. After a 60-34 win over Akron, looks like the Mustangs mean business.
10. Lackawanna (10-3)  - Loss to Grover wasn't something to shake your head over, but losing to unranked (but very dangerous) Alden will cause you to lose your footing with the caliber of teams that are in this poll.
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