The CIAC tournament begins Monday. Which four teams will be crowned state champions on Nov. 15?
Five things to look for
• Class LL is a loaded minefield: Start with Suffield, the top seed, which had its 43-game winning streak snapped this season and is seeking its fourth straight state championship. At No. 2 is FCIAC powerhouse Fairfield Ludlowe. West Haven and Farmington are seeded third and fourth, respectively. Four other FCIAC schools, Danbury, Norwalk, Darien and Greenwich, are all dangerous teams and maybe the hottest team in the field, SCC champion Fairfield Prep, won’t even get a first-round home game. The Jesuits are seeded 20th. The last team standing will be the state’s true No. 1 team.
• New champs in L, M divisions: Farmington and Suffield, last year’s Class L and M champions, respectively, are in that loaded LL bracket. That can open things up for NVL champion Naugatuck, the No. 2 seed, or the reigning CCC champion Maloney, the No. 7 seed, among others in Class L, while Lewis Mills and Bacon Academy are the top two seeds in Class M.
• Better than expected: While there was no dominant team in the Southern Connecticut Conference, there was plenty of balance. Three teams, Hand, Shelton and Lyman Hall, all went unbeaten during the regular season, West Haven had one of its best seasons in years and then there’s Fairfield Prep. How successful will the SCC teams be over the next two weeks? The conference hasn’t had a state champion since 2000.
• Don’t mess with the Law: The Lawmen earned their first state tournament berth since 2001. Now can they win a tournament game? They are seeded 28th in Class M and will face No. 5 Waterford Monday night.
• Old Lyme’s turn?: After falling short the Shoreline Conference championship final Friday night to Cromwell in overtime, Old Lyme now gets down to CIAC business as the No. 3 seed in Class S. The Wildcats have a solid defense and has plenty of offensive weapons to still be standing on Nov. 15.
Five players to watch
• Salah Oumorou, West Haven: Forward has been one of the big reasons for the Westies’ turnaround. He has to be a factor on offense if West Haven is to have any chance of advancing to the second week of the Class LL tournament.
• Austin Mankouski, Suffield: Goalkeeper posted a shutout over Avon to help Suffield win its fourth straight NCCC tournament title and avenge the tie Avon was able to get against Suffield during the regular season. Mankouski was a part of nine shutouts by Suffield during the regular season.
• Max Condon, Branford: The Hornets’ leading scorer and best player will have to get loose on offense against a tough Notre Dame-West Haven squad this afternoon in order for the Hornets to advance.
• Noah Rattet, Guilford: Co-SCC Player of the Year and leader of a perennially tough out in tournament play. The Indians received the same exact seed – 14 – as a year ago, but moved down to Class L and could make a tournament run.
• Ryan Murphy, Cromwell: Last year’s MVP of the Class S tournament is back to help the Panthers try to defend. Came up big with three quality saves in overtime of Friday’s Shoreline Conference tournament final. Cromwell takes a nine-game winning streak into the tournament.