As a pollster for the Buffalo News, I'm asked to send in my weekly ballots ranking the top ten large and small schools. The polls are based on games played through Sunday of each week. Here's a look at how I see them and some of the rationale used to get there.
1. Niagara Falls (AA) - Big week ahead for Falls - Lew-Port & North Tonawanda visit.
2. Canisius (MMA) - After pounding on St. Mary's, the Crusaders put away their rivals before a capacity crowd at the Koessler Center. They face a pair of similar teams this week, traveling to Aquinas on Thursday and facing McKinley on Saturday in the MLK Classic.
3. Williamsville North (AA) - I was thinking about how well the Spartans played Falls in the Class AA semifinals last season. Then thought how impressively they handled things at Jamestown. I think it's time everyone just accepted this team as a legitimate contender.
4. Jamestown (AA) - Since losing to North, the Red Raiders have posted a pair of 20-point wins in ECIC I. They'll get a nice test this weekend at the rescheduled Irondequoit Tournament.
5. St. Joe's (MMA) - If you saw the game, you have to give St. Joe's credit for the way they battled after losing its two-year starting backcourt. Let's just hope they're better soon. The Marauders have some Section V business to attend to - they host Bishop Kearney Thursday night and travel to Aquinas on Saturday.
6. McKinley (A1) - The Macks are ready for a challenge this week after winning their last four games by an average of 37 points. If they don't get it from Middle College on Thursday night, I'll bet Canisius gives them a game on Saturday.
7. Timon/St. Jude (MMA) - Slid the Tigers up a spot this week. They handled Nichols to start last week, and the team I had in front of them had a much tougher time against McKinley than they did. Batavia visits this Wednesday night.
8. Clarence (AA) - I know they were disappointed with their showing at McKinley. Looks like West Seneca West found that out too, as the Red Devils beat them, 92-36, just two nights later.
9. Kenmore West (AA) - The Blue Devils struggled to keep up at Niagara Falls, especially with Quinton Campbell missing a lot of minutes in foul trouble.
10. Amherst (A2) - After cruising past Pioneer and Cheektowaga last week, the only thing the Tigers have to keep busy with this week is a visit from Springville.
1. Olean (B1) - Sam Eckstrom returned to the Huskies lineup, and Olean returns to the top of the poll.
2. Silver Creek (C2)- The Black Knights finally got a close game this year, an 86-79 win at Randolph. It was the first time Silver Creek won by less than 21 points this season, and it took nine 3-pointers and 39 points from the Cardinals' Bryce Morrison.
3. Nichols (MMA) - No shame in losing at Timon and the 11-point loss to Aquinas was no surprise (Aquinas beat East by 13). The more telling result for me was the way they showed up and put Niagara Catholic away by 15.
4. St. Mary's (MMA) - The Lancers picked up a convincing road win at ECIC II large school, Iroquois. We still have another week to wait for round one versus Nichols.
5. East (B2) - For now, the Panthers stay behind St. Mary's because of 13-point loss against them at the Pastor-Cooper Showcase. But they are on a roll, and the win at Middle College last week was a big one.
6. Middle College (C1) - The Kats never trailed in the second half against East, but managed just two points over the game's final six minutes and lost at home in OT. They will find out a lot about themselves this week, with games against Hutch-Tech, McKinley, and Sweet Home in a five-day span.
7. Cleveland Hill (B2) - The Eagles pullled away from Lackawanna in the fourth quarter, and then beat defending league co-champ, Tonawanda.
8. Lackawanna (B1) - They were even with Cleveland Hill through three quarters before bowing out. The Steelers only other loss was at Batavia.
9. Maple Grove (C2) - I'm a little late in voting for the Red Dragons. I had East Aurora here last week, and Maryvale ranked 10th. But a look at Maple Grove's resume shows they're 8-1 with a 10-point win over East, a 20-point win over Randolph, and four wins by at least 40. That lone loss - at Olean.
10. East Aurora (B1) - I moved them down a spot to make room for Maple Grove's poll ballot debut. I promise to move them back up if they beat East on Saturday at the MLK Classic.