Throughout the boys basketball season, 10 voters rate Western New York's best teams from 1 to 10 in the large and small school polls. The News has one vote in each poll.
This is the last poll of the regular season; the next one will be the final poll of the year. With the playoffs starting Wednesday, here's how we filled out our ballot, with an eye on how far teams might be able to go:
1. Niagara Falls (19-1) [last week: 1] -- If they play like a team, like they played against Grover, I could see them going to Glens Falls. And winning a game.
2. Grover Cleveland (19-1)  -- I filled this one out last. I could see them losing to McKinley. And I could really see them winning a state championship. (Yes, even if Glens Falls regular Peekskill is an overwhelming favorite to win their third straight state title behind Syracuse signee Mookie Jones -- you never know what's going to happen. All I'm saying is that Grover has that kind of talent).
3. Canisius (17-6)  -- After seeing them beat St. Joe's, I thought they would beat Nichols the second
time around and could win the Manhattan Cup. Whoops. If there's a third meeting, I still think they can.
4. Riverside (15-5)  -- The Frontiers' wins over McKinley and East -- and a superclose loss to Grover -- in the last two weeks move them past Frontier. Their AA road is tough, but some are already hoping for another building-buzzing version of Buffalo taking on the Falls at Buffalo State. They're capable of making it happen.
5. Frontier (16-4)  -- Can't get the stumble at Jamestown a few weeks ago out of our head, which deflates their stock a bit here and in our AA guessing game. But if it woke them up, they've got an outside shot at knocking off Falls in the AA final.
6. McKinley (15-5)  -- Almost put them at 5 -- maybe if the Riverside loss was closer. Mansa Habeeb, Chandler Williams and Tamere Shannon are veterans who could certainly win a A-1 rematch with Grover.
7. St. Joe's (15-8)  -- Two close games in a split with Nichols, two big losses to Canisius. For whatever reason I can't see them winning the Manhattan Cup. But if this year's Cup is as crazy as last year's, who knows?
8. East (13-6)  -- Lost very close ones to Grover, at McKinley and at Riverside. If the Panthers develop even half of a killer instinct, they could certainly topple the A-2 competition and get another shot at Grover in the A final.
9. Lafayette (15-4)  -- The Mighty Violets are talented and fun to watch. But they're also lined up for possible A-2 semifinal with East, which beat the Violets fairly handily at home.
10. Jamestown (12-8) [NR] -- This has been, by far, the toughest spot to pick in the poll all season. The Red Raiders earned the spot by beating previous resident Williamsville North; plus, they have a win over Frontier. Depew lost to Williamsville South, which lost to Lake Shore and Will North. Hamburg lost to Sweet Home. Kenmore West played Falls tough but loses to Kenmore East. Lackawanna? East Aurora? They split with each other. See what I mean? As for the rest of the way, another part of the reason they're here is that I could see them ending up where they always seem to end up: playing Falls at Buffalo State.
1. Nichols (22-2)  -- Canisius win was huge in margin and importance -- and confidence. The Vikings return to Manhattan Cup favorite status and a are threat to do damage in the Catholic state playoffs, perhaps even all the way to Glens Falls -- and yes, that's as an A school.
2. Olean (18-2)  -- Another trip to Glens Falls appears extremely attainable, and this is a classification in which Section VI teams have done
historically well in at the state level.
3. Maple Grove (18-2)  -- A C-2 title seems theirs for the taking after the xx-point win at Randolph, and
a C title would seem theirs for the taking as well (no C-1 teams made the poll
this year). Red Dragons were schooled in the regionals last year by a living
basketball coaching clinic named Campbell-Savona. With that said, if they keep
playing the way they've been playing, and keep hitting their free throws, they
could win a state championship.
4. City Honors (12-8)  -- I will resist the urge to say I will play the Prophet
and say they should win the B-1 title. Really, I will. They'll likely have tough tests against Seneca and Wilson, however. But, if the Centaurs and Olean wind up in the B final, it's a fun matchup which include two big men going at it. Maybe Honors could knock them off?
5. Randolph (18-2)  -- It's the C-2 final for Maple Grove-Randolph III, and based on the last time, that's where you would think the road will end.
6. Newfane (13-5)  -- Definitely some weapons and definitely a well-coached team from a gritty, gutty league. But Olean's been up at No. 2 for a reason.
7. Alden (14-6)  -- The Bulldogs have already beaten Akron? Could they beat Newfane? The B-1 bracket should be interesting, even with Olean's favorite status.
8. Niagara Catholic (9-11)  -- It's now or never, Patriots. They're the Grover of this poll. I could see them being this year's Cup surprise and even winning the thing. Remember last year? Nichols-St. Francis? Dyrell Dolson could be this year's Kevin Roth. And, on the other hand, the could lose early and miss out on even the Class B berth. Stay tuned.
9. Akron (15-5)  -- I want to say that those N-O battles might make the Tigers sturdier for the third matchup with Alden, but the Bulldogs have had plenty of tough-game seasoning in ECIC IV as well. Either way, they're in the same bracket as Olean.
10. Wilson (12-7)  -- Top-seeded in B-2 and good enough to be able to back it up. Signs point to a final against the Yale Cup in City Honors or Seneca, which they could win. But if they did that, see the above references to Olean.
-- Keith McShea