To kick off the start of the MIAA basketball season, ESPNBoston.com is spending this first week of practices counting down and previewing the top 25 teams in the state.
Today’s preview includes the two-time defending state champion: Danvers, two potential tournament darkhorses in BC High and Springfield Cathedral, a potential Division 3 favorite in Cardinal Spellman, and a Dorchester squad that boasts one of the state's best stable of guards.
For a refresher on how the final 2012-13 poll ended up, CLICK HERE.
For a look at Monday's preview of Nos. 25-21, CLICK HERE.
Be sure to check back each day this week for the latest in the boys basketball top 25 countdown.
Coach: John Walsh
2012-13 results: 24-2, Division 3 state champions
Key players: Vinny Clifford, Kieran Beck, Peter Merry
Analysis: Vinny Clifford was a role player for Danvers in their second consecutive state championship run last year, but this year he will likely be their leading scorer and most consistent all-around player on what is a pretty young and somewhat inexperienced team moving up to Division 2. Kieran Beck got some important minutes in big games last year for the Falcons, while 6-foot-6 forward Peter Merry will be one of the best bigs in the NEC.
19. SPRINGFIELD CATHEDRAL
Coach: Justin Dalessio
2012-13 results: 13-9, Division 1 West quarterfinals
Key players: Darrick Boyd, Edens Jean-Baptiste,
Analysis: Playmaking junior Darrick Boyd will be one of the state’s best combo guards this year, with a team full of weapons around him to give him an opportunity to create. Perhaps the most dangerous weapon, besides Boyd, is sculpted forward Edens Jean-Baptiste. Make no mistake, Putnam and Central are the top dogs out west until proven otherwise, but if there’s any team in Western Mass. that can knock the last two D1 state champions, it’s this team.
18. CARDINAL SPELLMAN
Coach: Mike Perry
2012-13 results: 19-4, Division 3 South quarterfinals
Key players: Ryan Roach, Rory Donovan
Analysis: With Wareham graduating Darien Fernandez and two-time defending D3 state champ Danvers moving up to Division 2, Cardinal Spellman should be considered one of the big favorites statewide in Division 3. Stonehill commit Ryan Roach is one of the MIAA's very best scorers, while forward Rory Donovan will pose a major problem in the post for opposing defenses.
17. BC HIGH
Coach: Bill Loughnane
2012-13 results: 17-4, Lost in Division 1 South first round
Key players: Phil Leotsakos, Jack Loughnane, Zac Bailey, Steve Young
Analysis: The Eagles lost one of the state's best backcourts from last year in Jameilen Jones and Charles Collins, but bring back a solid core who will be looking to avenge two straight bounces from the first round of the D1 South tournament. Look for Zac Bailey, Steve Young, and shooting guard Jack Loughnane, who played well for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) this past summer, to pick up some of the scoring slack. Look for the Eagles to be a bit more uptempo as well.
Coach: Johnny Williams
2012-13 results: 14-9, Division 2 South quarterfinals
Key players: Khalil Newson, Markus Neale, Dean Lee, Justin Clarke
Analysis: The Bears were one of the best teams in the Boston City League last year and will look to make a deep run this year considering their depth and talent at guard. Throw West Roxbury transfer Markus Neale into the mix with returners Khail Newson, sharpshooter Dean Lee, and Justin Clarke and this team can be considered one of the early favorites to win the city championship later in the season.