As the last FCIAC regular season came to a close the drama was limited to which eight of nine teams would make the playoffs.
Outside of the top nine, Darien finished three games back of the pack, but nobody else was within six games of making the playoffs and four teams finished with three wins or less.
It was a stark divide between the top of bottom half of the league and not the typical way a FCIAC season plays out.
This year, the same challengers remain up top, but that pack of teams at the bottom of the standings are hoping to make things more competitive down the stretch.
New Canaan, Ludlowe, Westhill, Staples and Greenwich all bring back a plethora of varsity experience and are hoping for better days because of it.
Not that it will be easy to crack the top eight with both championship game participants back and reloaded in addition to a bevy of hungry contenders in the top end.
FCIAC PLAYERS TO WATCH
Danbury: Denali Burton, Keyon Moore, Javon Hernandez, Taylor Heady, Jah Joyner
Darien: Will Rolapp, Henry Williams, Ryan Darby, Peter Bredahl
Greenwich: Oliver Milledge, Billy Nail, Gavin Muir, Chris Genaro, Dan Arnold
Ludlowe: James Bourque, Jadyn Tabois, Christian Peterson, Jeff Meyers, Patrick Kilbride
McMahon: Saikwon Williams, Justin Lebron, Latrel Stewart, Micheal Fuller, Jason Tagariello
New Canaan: Alex Gibbens, Luke Rwambuya, Jack Richardson Ryan McAleer
Norwalk: Zyaire Sellers, Jayden Grant, Jahmai Green, Rudy Robert, Dylan Polka, D’Andre Bullock
Ridgefield: James St. Pierre, Luke McGarrity, Christopher Knachel, Derek Szpakowski, Matthew Misurelli
St. Joseph: Dan Tobin, Brendan Kade, Steve Paolini, Paul Fabbri, Jared Grinrod
Stamford: Josh Thervil, Jaden Bell, Tyhiem Burgess, Jay Jaudon, Rasheed Constant, Jalen Lindsey
Staples: Dylan Ward, Jake Thaw, Evan Vishno, Dylan Honig, AJ Konstanty
Trinity Catholic: Akim Joseph, Ras Fisher, Xavier Riullano, Anthony Anderson, Matt Hennessey
Trumbull: Timmond Williams, Chris Brown, Evan Gutowski, Jack Therriault, J.P. Fromegeot, Quentar Taylor
Warde: Matt Becker, Matt Houghton, Jeff Seganos, Nick Crescione, Owen Edminster
Westhill: Jack Schlachtenhaufen, Eli Stockman, Anthony Scott, Wilmer Guevara
Wilton: Kyle Hyzy, Nick Kronenberg, Tucker Walden, Ryan Schriber, Ryan Biberon
Bridgeport Central did not respond to a request for information
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
Danbury: The Champs are back. Well some of them anyway. The Hatters bring back seniors in center Denali Burton and guards Javon Hernandez and Keyon Moore along with a strong supporting cast. The Hatters have reached the CIAC D-1/LL tournament quarterfinals the last three seasons and would love to move on further this time around.
Trumbull: The FCIAC runners-up a season ago bring everybody back and have their eyes on not only returning to the title game, but winning it all. The team is as deep as they come with 11 players ready to see time on the floor this winter. Timmond Williams, Chris Brown and Evan Gutowski lead an impressive roster featuring both speed, height multiple scoring threats.
Stamford: If any team is out to prove big men are not needed to win at this level anymore, it is Stamford. The Black Knights have an explosive array of guards including Jaden Bell, Jay Javdon, Josh Thervil and Trinity Catholic transfer Rasheed Constant. Teams with size will could put the Black Knights to the test, if they can keep up with the Knights speed.
Ridgefield: The Tigers took some big graduation losses. Count them out at your own risk. Ridgefield has established itself as a perennial playoff contender and this season should be no different. James St. Pierre is back at point guard and he will be joined by Luke McGarrity and Christopher Knachel. The Tigers will need to fill in the pieces around those three, but should once again be playing meaningful games at the end of February.
Wilton: Like Ridgefield, Wilton is now among the teams playing meaningful basketball into February. Four-year varsity player Nick Kronenberg is back and will be joined by a deep roster including 6-foot-4 junior Kyle Hyzy and senior Ryan Schriber. The Warriors have some question marks heading into this campaign but if they can answer them, look for them to be back in the playoff mix.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jaden Bell, Stamford: Bell came into his own last season as a sophomore and the 5-foot-10 junior is back leading a stellar group of Stamford guards. Bell is lightning quick off the dribble, can score near the hoop and has range from outside.Read Full Article
Denali Burton, Danbury: The 6-4 center has established himself as the best big man in the league and is among the GametimeCT Top 25 Players to Watch in the state. He’s a beast on offense and defense in the post and can occasionally pop outside, creating plenty matchup problems.
James St. Pierre, Ridgefield: The 5-10 guard saw big minutes on Ridgefield’s FCIAC championship team two seasons ago and emerged as a top player in the league last season. St. Pierre can handle the ball under pressure, get to the basket off the dribble and knock down shots from beyond the arc.
Zyaire Sellers, Norwalk: The guard averaged 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists a game last season, coming on down the stretch for the Bears. Explosive player who can beat defenders off the dribble, score, dish or pull up.
Timmond Williams, Trumbull: Williams averaged 21 points a game during his breakout junior season. The 6-3 guard can fire from deep or take the ball to the basket with equal aplomb. Only junior All-FCIAC first team selection last season. Picked as a GametimeCT Top 25 Player to Watch in the state.
5 GAMES TO WATCH
Trumbull at Stamford, Dec. 19: The FCIAC season kicks off in style with two of the league preseason favorites locking up in a pre-holiday tussle.
Ludlowe at New Canaan, Jan. 25: The teams combined for four wins last season but bring back a lot of players with varsity experience.
Staples at Darien, Feb. 8: Two teams with hopes being relevant in the playoff picture will need to win games against other up-and-comers if that is to become a reality.
Ridgefield at Warde, Feb. 20: Both Warde and Ridgefield feel they are playoff teams. The final day of the regular season might be make or break for one of them.
Trumbull at Danbury, Feb. 20: We must wait until the last day of the regular season for the championship rematch.