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. Canisius (MMA) - After a week off, the Crusaders handled St. Joe's for a third time this season, to advance to a sixth time in seven seasons.
2. Jamestown (AA) - The Red Raiders made it back to Buff State with ease, seeking their fifth Class AA title in six seasons.
3. McKinley (A1) - The Macks streak of advancing to Buff State has now reached 16 straight years.
4. Amherst (A2) - Semifinal of the week, Part 1, involves these Tigers, who take on Cheektowaga on Thursday night. Amherst will need to do the Warriors the same way they were done last season. Those two really love each other.
5. Williamsvillle South (A1) - Semifinal of the week, Part 2, tips tonight. South vs. McKinley, which has become an annual rivalry at Buff State, should give us everything you could want out of a high school basketball game. I'm going to try to get a good seat for it.
6. Williamsville North (AA) - The Spartans play in a semifinal game that I'd love to see, but one I'll be missing. North battles Niagara Falls on Wednesday, at the same time the team just below them on my ballot plays for the Manhattan Cup championship. Semifinal vs. final...priorities. I'll never understand why these games have to conflict.
7. Nichols (MMA) - In the tweet of the week, the Nichols student section, Gang Green, congratulated Canisius on reaching its first Manhattan Cup Final since 2013. It's definitely fitting that these two play one more time this season with some big stakes at hand.
8. Timon (MMA) - Saw their season end at the hands of Nichols yesterday after a brief fourth quarter lead got away, preventing them from a third straight appearance in the Manhattan Cup Final.
9. St. Joe's (MMA) - The Marauders drew the short straw and had to take on Canisius in the semifinals. They did beat the teams they're sandwiched between on my ballot, along with Nichols, all on the road.
10. Starpoint (A2) - Back at Buff State for the first time since 2003, where they'll face Olean, a team that's made a lot of memories in that sports arena over the past several seasons.
1. Park (MMA) - They got Niagara Catholic's best shot on Sunday, and they'll get the best St. Mary's has to offer on Wednesday night. The key for the Pioneers is to play at their best. When they are at their best, they are at another level from the other small schools.
2. Fredonia (B2) - Got quite the scare from Lackawanna on Friday, but survived to return to Buff State in their quest to win a sectional title. They'll need to get past a fiesty Wilson team first, for a shot at either East or Cleveland Hill.
3. St. Mary's (MMA) - The Lancers, who have been the best small school in the MMA for years, are fittingly playing in the first ever Class B Manhattan Cup championship game. They'll have something in store for the Pioneers.
4. Middle College (C2) - The Kats have the horses to get back to Glens Falls in Class C, and they'll begin that process this week as they go after a fourth straight Section VI crown.
5. Silver Creek (C1) - The Black Knights return to JCC for a fourth straight year, where they're the #1 seed in Class C1 after winning their division.
6. East (B2) - Took care of a good Health Sciences team in the quarterfinals to get back to Buff State. The Panthers face Cleveland Hill on Tuesday, who they beat in the title game last year.
7. Sherman (D) - The only undefeated team in WNY and one of three teams in a quest to win a third straight Section VI crown.
8. Tapestry (C1) - The Thunderhawks had the largest margin of victory of any Section VI team in Friday's quarterfinals. Now they'll need to win a second game in the Southern Tier against Salamanca for a shot at the title in Class C1 on Friday night.
9. Walsh (MMA) - I brought the Eagles back onto my ballot this week on the strength of road wins over Timon and St. Mary's, a home win over Nichols, and taking Starpoint to overtime. Their season might be over, but no other non-Park small school has those type of credentials.
10. Burgard (B1) - The Bulldogs are the #1 seed in Class B1 and have made it to Buff State. That was good enough for me. Can't wait to see their return for the first time since 2006.