There is no doubt which teams are the top three in the league. After that, flip a coin.
BSAL coaches agree that Piedmont, St. Mary’s and St. Patrick-St. Vincent represent the upper tier of the league. What order to put those teams in is a different story. When asked who they thought would win the league title, coaches split between the Bruins and Highlanders. We decided to go with St. Patrick based on the number of key returners and virtually no losses to a team that went 7-4 in the BSAL last season and started off this season 10-2. That includes all-league second-team selection Alexis Batiste. Despite losing Ashley and Courtney Paris, Piedmont returns Chazny and Casey Morris and has remained a very good team so far this season (9-3). We just felt that the loss of the Parises (who are doing very well at Oklahoma) and the emergence of St. Patrick gives the Bruins the edge. St. Mary’s is always solid and appears to have somewhat closed the gap on Piedmont. Graduating Shantrell Sneed and Natty Fripp are difficult losses to overcome, but the Panthers do return Courtney Dunn, among others.
After that, it gets real interesting. Virtually the rest of the league is in rebuilding mode. Albany was the surprise team last season, but is young now. BSAL coaches said that the Cougars, John Swett, Kennedy, St. Joseph and Salesian all have a shot at fourth place in the league. The top six qualify for the BSAL playoffs, which preceed the NCS playoffs. Holy Names and St. Elizabeth have struggled mightily heading into league play, which starts Tuesday, and may need a year of rebuilding before seriously thinking about the league playoffs.
We decided on Salesian for fourth. The Chieftains were impressive in defeating an improved John Swett squad 56-30 during the nonleague portion of the season. In another nonleague matchup between BSAL teams, St. Joseph beat Kennedy 49-34. Those early head-to-head matchups helped thin out some of the thick gray area surrounding the middle of the league pack.
Overall, the predictions are based in large part on a consensus of what the coaches think will happen. Sometimes, coaches may underrate or overrate their own teams because they don’t want their players to be overconfident or lose hope.
But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.