Despite the Corona outbreaks leading to several quarantine periods and cancellation of matchups, Yeshiva League varsity basketball has had a very productive and entertaining first half of the season. There is still a great amount of action to come, but here is an update on what has taken place to date in the western conference, followed by what can be expected as the playoffs approach.
The top two seeds of the conference are shared by four teams, with only one game separating the two spots. Despite how close they may seem in record, each team has their own story and will need to pave their own paths in order to achieve success.
The TABC Storm and SAR Sting currently share the throne with identical 8-1 records. For the Storm, their top quality has been the depth of their rotation which has been able to keep all their key players in a position to play at their peak potential. This has been noticeable in the score column as the Storm have 4-1 record in games decided by under ten points which displays their ability to keep fresh legs and composure in the game at all times and will definitely be important as the season continues. The Storm have an entertaining remaining schedule highlighted by hosting the Ohr Yisroel Flames who kept the Storm on their toes throughout the entirety of their previous matchup where the Storm prevailed by two points. Additionally, they'll go up against the Frisch Cougars who will look to stay undefeated against the Storm as they are the lone Yeshiva League team to defeat the Storm this season. As diverting as those two matchups may sound, what could potentially define the top team in the western conference will be the two games between the Storm and the SAR Sting.
The SAR Sting are a very well oiled machine on both ends of the court and only on one occurrence they have played in a matchup that has been decided by less than a ten point margin. In the beginning of the season the Sting had a scare against eatern conference top seeded DRS Wildcats where they couldn't stand the defensive pressure engaged by the Wildcats and ultimately were defeated by a fair margin. The Sting have displayed their short memory and left that game in the past, with more recent victories against notable powerhouses Ramaz, Flatbush and Frisch. Similar to TABC, the remaining matchups they face will determine their fate as they still face off against the Frisch Cougars at home as well as their highly anticipated home and away against the TABC Storm.
Second place in the western conference is a tie between the Frisch Cougars and Ramaz Rams. When at full strength the Cougars have been excellent, showcasing their offensive abilities by scoring north of sixty points in each of their victories which for Yeshiva League standards is very impressive. The Cougars started the season on a six game win streak, including an overtime defeat of top seeded TABC, appearing nearly unbeatable, but with a hard fought loss against DRS and an injury to star big man Ben Haber, the Cougars have dropped two of their past three games. With four of their five remaining games remaining against teams above .500 and all being played on the road the Frisch Cougars will need to continue to provide offensive outbursts and pray for a healthy roster.
Despite being linked to the top of the conference, the Ramaz Rams still have many questions to answer as the season continues. The Rams have beaten up on the teams ranked lower than them so far, which has been expected, but have not been able to surpass any of the more challenging teams they have faced. Most recently against the SAR Sting the Rams were heavily contained offensively only scoring twenty points while surrendering forty three. Fortunately for the Rams their remaining schedule isn't the most challenging and if they can defeat the Frisch Cougars they'll display that they deserve to be considered at the top tier of the hierarchy. An important matchup to focus on will be when the Rams visit the MTA Lions, the Rams were the victor in their previous matchup, but this time MTA hopes to be at full strength with an opportunity to present a greater challenge.
With potential to rise in the standings, the MTA Lions have shown loads of promise so far. In their final game before the break, the Lions picked up a much needed win after dropping their previous three games. These three losses were crucial since they were all against higher seeded teams, which questions the Lions ability of how they'll be able to go on a deep playoff run. Fortunately for the Lions, they still have half their games to play and now with their team chemistry rising they can make a push for a top seed in the conference.
The Heschel Heat, Kushner Cobras and Hillel Heat all place near the middle tier of the conference. Each team has shown moments of promise throughout the season and it is not too late to count them out yet. Each of these teams will be facing off against each other as well as other top tier competition, but will look to fight for a playoff spot. The spotlight of this tier will be on the Hillel Heat as they've been able to compete with more proven teams including taking Frisch to overtime, losing to Ramaz by two and a hard fights with TABC and SAR. Their biggest problem has been finishing these games strong, but with six games left there is plenty of time to change that. Don't sleep on the Heat!
Towards the lower tier of the conference are the JEC Thunder and Ohr Yisroel Flames. Despite their troubled records, Each team has shown promise in their own ways and should keep their heads held high because the season is not over yet. The Thunder and Flames each still have a home and away against each other which will definitely impact their ranking spot. Additionally, a key matchup to look out for will be when the Flames visit the TABC Storm and have another game that goes down to wire.