While time may be standing still for those of us eagerly anticipating the start of Sarachek 2012, the tournament is just 5 short days away! With that said, it's time for a preview of each game scheduled for the first day of action. Games are listed in the order in which they are scheduled.
Overall, 16 of the tournament's 20 teams will be in action on Thursday, with just the top four seeds (SAR, YULA, Frisch, and North Shore) earning automatic inclusion in Tier I for their accomplishments during the regular season. The rest of the teams will scratch and claw to make it into the highest tier they can. Teams seeded 5 through 12 will attempt to qualify for the last 4 spots in Tier I while the remaining 8 teams battle to stay alive for Tier II.
Game 1: #15 Hebrew Academy High School Heat vs. #18 Hillel Miami Hurricanes at 10 AM
The opening game of the tournament pits the United States against Canada and sandy beaches against ice-cold winters in what should be a close affair. This international flavor should draw out YU's sizeable Canadian crowd for this early game. Hebrew Academy lost many contributing members from their team due to graduation last year, so it will be up to their youngsters led by do-it-all guard/forward Aaron Azeroual to knock out the defending Tier II champions from Miami. Miami returns only one of their big three from a year ago in shooting guard Joseph Ammar, who averages 15 points per contest.
Game 2: #14 Fuchs Mizrachi Mayhem vs. #19 Yeshiva Atlanta Lions at 11:30 AM
The next game on the docket will be a contrast in style of play. Mizrachi's attack is fueled by point guard Akiva Lautman who leads his team in points, assists, and steals, while Atlanta leans heavily on big man Yondi Kadosh, who was named a member of the all-tournament team in Memphis earlier this year. The winner of this game will probably be the team which can get more contributions from their secondary weapons in an effort to control the tempo of the game.
Game 3: #16 Yeshiva of Virginia Raiders vs. #17 Maimonides School M-Cats at 1 PM
Though only a Tier II qualifier, this could be the game of the day, and it could not have been scheduled in a better timeslot, as YU students will come to the gym in waves to check out the action during their lunch break. Yeshiva of Virginia is making their first-ever Sarachek appearance, and is looking to show the Jewish basketball world that they have been ignored for far too long. They have a tough task ahead of them, because they will essentially be playing a road game due to the huge Maimonides crowd that normally shows up. But Virginia has the weapons to silence the crowd with 3 players averaging double digit points per game. On the Maimonides side, Yoni Klausner looks to continue the reputation of his legendary brothers before him by leading his squad to victory.
Game 4: #6 Shalhevet High School Firehawks vs. #11 Weinbaum Yeshiva High School Storm at 2:30 PM
If you like high-scoring games, this may be the contest for you. Shalhevet can really get up and down the floor, and put up points in bunches. They used this style to win the Yaffe Tournament in Houston and win a league championship back home in LA this year. On the other side, Weinbaum will look to continue their undefeated season against Jewish schools by slowing down the high-powered Firehawks attack. If they are able to do that, we could see a surprise entrant into the Tier I field.
Game 5: #5 Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy Lions vs. #12 Yeshivat Or Chaim Knights at 4 PM
If the MacsLive comments are to be believed, this could be the game of the year, let alone the day. Or Chaim fans are steamed about their team's perceived low seed given their success this year against the tougher non-Jewish teams they faced this year. The crowd will be raucous for the tournament-host Lions, so if Or Chaim comes away with a victory here, there will be no doubt that the argument has been settled. That said, MTA is not the shoe-in that its fans think it is, having lost superstar Yisrael Feld due to graduation. The onus will fall on big (and I mean BIG) man Zev Senter to control the boards and finish around the basket if MTA is to avoid the upset. He will also need to personally contain Or Chaim's star big man Josh Teller, who averages over 25 points per game. If either big man gets in foul trouble, their team could be in trouble.
Game 6: #7 Houston Bnei Akiva Stars vs. #10 Cooper Yeshiva Macs at 5:30 PM
The nationally-hyped team from Houston will have another moment in the spotlight in game 6 of the opening day festivities at the Max Stern Athletic Center in what should be a hard-fought contest between two out-of-town teams looking to show what they've got on a national stage. Cooper's coach and Sarachek's all-time leading scorer Richard Lewis will try to help his hometown Memphis team knock off the sentimental favorites from Houston and qualify for Tier I, while Houston looks to show that it is every bit the powerhouse that its reputation dictates. Lewis has a perfect apprentice in star point guard Eli Osdoba, who Lewis maintains is a "YU-quality" player and who shocks the crowd when he misses a shot. Houston counters with big man Zach Yoshor, who averages an NBA-like 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Cooper will have to really focus on Yoshor to make sure that they don't give up too many easy baskets, and hope that the rest of their players can take some of the pressure off of Osdoba in order to come away with the victory.
Game 7: #13 Torah Academy of Bergen County Storm vs #20 Columbus Torah Academy Lions at 7 PM
In the second-to-last game of the day, Columbus will look to shock both the Yeshiva League crowd and the Sarachek seeding committee by pulling off a huge upset over the Storm from just over the river in Teaneck, NJ. The Storm, though favorites, rely heavily on the outside shot from players such as Zeke Rosenblatt, Jonathan Packer, and Asher Malech. If the Lions can get their hands up on the shooters, that could give their star Jared Stavsky the opportunity he needs to lead his team to a big win. Columbus must also watch their turnovers, because those grant the balanced TABC team extra opportunities to score.
Game 8: #8 Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy Thunder vs. #9 Yavneh Academy Bulldogs at 8:30 PM
In the last game of the day, Yavneh's 3rd-leading scorer of all-time Jordan Prescott will have his work cut out for him against the Thunder from Elizabeth, NJ. RTMA/JEC won their division in the Yeshiva League this year, and has 4 wins against teams in this year's tournament. Their coach, Robert Hoenig, has always stressed defense to his team, and they will need to heed his words to contain the constant motion of the Princeton offense run by Yavneh. The Bulldogs, of course, hail from the sports-crazy state of Texas, and they will certainly play with an extra intensity that RTMA will have to match to qualify for Tier I.
As you can see, every matchup is loaded with intrigue. Almost any game could go either way, and that should make for an electric atmosphere in the MSAC on Thursday. If you can't make it out in person, you can catch all the action right here on www.macslive.com. In addition to our normal audio broadcasts and live scoreboard, you can also watch all the action this year in HD video. As always, if I overlooked anything or anybody, please let me know in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.