Well here we are, at the midpoint of the regular season, and the dust seems to have settled from a tumultuous opening to the year.There has been more close games than I can recall in recent memory, and the further we get into the season, the more we can see who’s the real deal, and who’s not.
So I thought it would be interesting to do a “Power Rankings” this week for the entire NTL boys basketball teams to give some input on where I think teams stand so far.
These ratings are based on strength of schedule which is based on a scale of 1-10, record and top wins on the season so far. We will look at the top three teams this week and some teams that are right on the outside looking in.
NTL Power Rankings
Number 1: Wyalusing; 9-1
Strength of Schedule: 7
Liberty, Wellsboro and Sullivan County.
We’ll start with the team that is tied for the best record and sitting atop of the NTL large school division with the Wyalusing Rams.
People always say “you gotta beat the best to be the best”, and the Rams have done just that all season long.
They currently sit with only one loss on the season, which was to a powerhouse school in Hughesville, and despite the NTL showing off some great offenses, Wyalusing has done it on the other end of the court.
Wyalusing is only allowing right around 42 points per game, and even though they won’t score 80 on anyone, they have held almost every top-tier NTL team well below their averages on a consistent basis.
The Rams have beaten Liberty, Wellsboro and a really strong non-league team in Sullivan County, where they held a then 7-1 team to only 36 points.
Against Wellsboro they were able to once again put the clamps down, and after falling behind in the first half, only allowed 14 points in the second and held premier scorer Joe Grab to 20 points, with only four of those in the second half.
Number 2: North Penn-Liberty; 9-1
Strength of Schedule: 7
Wellsboro, Athens and Troy
I have said it once and i’ll say it again, North Penn-Liberty is either the best or second best team in the NTL this year.
Wyalusing won the head-to-head so you have to give them the slight edge, but Liberty has opened up their season on a tear, and are currently 9-1 on the season with their only loss coming to Wyalusing.
They have a tough matchup against Mansfield this Friday night and a chance to extend their win streak to seven. If they can keep scoring at such a high rate (74 points per game over their last four) they should give the Mansfield team some problems.
They have by far the best overall offense in the league, where they average right around 64 points a game and have beaten Athens, Wellsboro and Troy during their opening run and have proven time and time again when they get into the final minutes of a game, they have closers.
They also boast in my opinion the best bench in the NTL, and Colton Litzelman is my sixth man of the year up to this point. Litzelman can shoot from deep, rebound, defend and drive the lane as good as any starter in the league, and he’s a player who does the little things that it takes to win games.
Number 3: Wellsboro; 6-5
Strength of Schedule: 9
North Penn-Mansfield, Jersey Shore and Canton
For the final spot in my top three, It took quite a bit of analyzing and it really was a toss up until I looked at each teams schedule to start.
Athens, Wellsboro and North Penn-Mansfield in my eyes are all right in the mix, and honestly it could have gone either way. Wellsboro sit with six wins while Athens and Mansfield sit at five.
Athens five wins this season come against teams with a combined 14-19 record and only have ONE win against a team with a winning record. They have yet to beat a truly good team besides Canton.
Wellsboro on the other hand has had what I would consider the toughest schedules in the NTL, and if they hadn’t had such rough stretch over the last two weeks, I would have trouble not considering them for the number two spot.
Wellsboro has beaten North Penn-Mansfield head-to head and even though Wellsboro has slid in the win column over the last two weeks, they pulled out a big win against Meadowbrook on Monday, where Joe Grab scored 36, and despite a tough game against Lewisburg has scored at a clip of 27 points per game over his last four.
Grab has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and against Meadowbrook he was seemingly unstoppable from anywhere on the court. He should be haunting the nightmares of other teams around the league.
On the outside:
A few teams are right on the outside of these rankings, and could jump up depending on how the next few weeks transpire.
North Penn-Mansfield and Athens both are right on the bubble, and Mansfield will have a legitimate shot to jump if they can string together a positive stretch with matchups against Liberty, Wyalusing and Wellsboro over the next two weeks.
Athens has a little easier of a schedule, but if they can string together wins and take a head-to- head against Wellsboro in a few weeks, there is little to no reason they wouldn’t be considered one of the top NTL teams.
The top end of NTL has been extremely tight so far, and looking forward it’s still anyone’s game, but until a NTL school can hand the Rams a loss, their spot at the top seems pretty secure.
So now that we have a legitimate sample size, my power rankings are set. But, basketball is an unpredictable sport, where any team could get hot during any given stretch.
Nick Coyle is a sports reporter/enthusiast for the Wellsboro/Mansfield Gazette and Free Press-Courier. Email me at email@example.com.