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Updated: Mar 28

(Check back here on Wednesday night following the Frisch vs DRS play in game for #4 Shalhevet vs #13 DRS/Frisch matchup predictions.)

Wednesday picks:

Play-In Game for 13-seed, DRS vs. Frisch:

Yosef Silver: This should be a good one. The stakes are arguably higher than ever, as for the first time, these teams will have to fight for a spot in the tournament. Both teams are looking to rebound after bad first round losses in the Yeshiva League playoffs. Although DRS ended their season with three consecutive losses to North Shore, Frisch’s 1-4 end to the season is more concerning. Frisch just seemed to lose their identity down the stretch. I like the paint matchup between Aiden Buchbinder for DRS and Ezra Berkowitz for Frisch. Look for Joe Aaron to be the difference maker in this one. DRS has played tight games against really tough competition this year and haven’t yet lost to a non-Yeshiva League semifinalist. Ultimately, the Wildcats will prove to have the willpower and mental toughness to prevail victorious in a game that will go down to the wire. DRS 55-53.

Ari Schopf: With both teams not playing in quite some time, I expect a sloppy start to this game and both teams will struggle to shoot from the three. DRS has lost 3 straight, but all 3 of those losses came against one team. Buchbinder and Berkowitz will be very important in this game as they try to dominate the paint offensively in a game that may not see great outside shooting. The game will come down to the final few possessions and I believe DRS will be the team that makes the bigger plays down the stretch. DRS wins this one and secures a matchup with the Shalhevet Firehawks. DRS 46-43.

Marvin Azrak: Aside from the championship, this is the most high-stakes game of the tournament because there’s no consolation prize for the loser. Both are coming off poor playoff performances in the Yeshiva league and haven’t played in over a month. It's going to be a gritty battle, with DRS relying on their mental toughness and Frisch banking on their defensive skills and offensive versatility. This game will be decided in the paint—between Buchbinder and Berkowitz. I'm picking DRS to come out on top, though it can go either way. DRS 53, Frisch 51.

Akiva Poppers: Hedge of the century coming. I actually think DRS is the better team. However, I’m concerned about the Wildcats’ mental toughness in what I think will be an even more mental game than usual, given the stakes and long layoffs for each team. DRS is way better than their record suggests due to their wildly good strength of schedule, but it’s HOW they lost that playoff game to North Shore—just absolutely smoked, showing no life in a win-or-go-home scenario—which bugs me. I’m worried about how well they will be able to execute against Frisch’s solid matchup zone, and the team which executes better will win this game. They will need good cutting action and patience to clear help assignments and create scoring opportunities—if they can do this consistently, they’ll be victorious. At the end of the day, Frisch has more options—places to go when they need a bucket—and if neither team is executing well, that will be the difference-maker. Give me the Cougars, 42-37.

Oren Glickman: This will be the game of the tournament. No disrespect to the Tier I Championship. A lot on the line and a brilliant move by the committee to institute this. A loss here will be worse than the first round playoff exit in the Yeshiva League for the losing team, in my opinion. Frisch had a 10-4 record that included a win over the champion Magen David Warriors. DRS fell into a North Shore trap their last 3 games and that’s how the season ended for them. They both haven’t seen action in awhile. I’m giving the edge to Buchbinder and Aaron over Berkowitz and Fischman. DRS 55 Frisch 50.

Thursday picks:

#14 Fuchs vs. #3 Flatbush:

YS: Flatbush comes into this game with fresh memories of their overtime loss in the Yeshiva League finals to Magen David. Having recently played in this gym and looking for revenge for the YL finals, I expect them to come out strong and overwhelm the Mayhem with their typical high intensity gameplan. Nate Jacobs is an extremely talented player but he just doesn’t have the help he needs to lead Fuchs to victory in this one. Flatbush 57-39.

AS: Flatbush will be motivated after a tough championship loss to Magen David. I expect them to come out fired up especially on the defensive end. Fuchs has the ability to stay in any game with how well they shoot the three and are led by Nate Jacobs, who is one of the top players heading into this tournament. Fuchs will keep this game close during the first half and Flatbush will pull away in the second to win by 11. Flatbush 59-48.

MA: It’s an ultra-motivated Flatbush group against a young team looking to cause some Mayhem. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for an upset it won’t happen here. The Falcons are dialed in following their devastating loss to Magen David in the Yeshiva League Finals 10 days ago on this court. Fuchs will only be able to contain them for so long before the Falcons run away with the contest. Flatbush 65 Fuchs 42.

AP: Flatbush got a horrendous bracketing draw in this tournament. They’ll be ready to prove that they deserved the two seed and an easier draw. Mizrachi is a good team, but it’s not last year’s Tier II Champions. Nate Jacobs might be the best player on the floor, but while Fuchs has played good competition, Flatbush guards with remarkable intensity not commonly seen on the high school level. I think this turns into a full court game. Advantage Falcons. Flatbush 62-44.

OG: Flatbush will have had the proper time to recover from their devastating OT championship loss to rival Magen David. If they were only playing a few days after, I’d be more curious to see their mental state. I’m not now. The Falcons should win by 20+. Nate Jacobs on Fuchs is one teammate short of making this a competitive game. Flatbush 56 Fuchs Mizrachi 35.

The panelists are split on whether Nate Weinstock and Maimonides will be able to get over last year's woes and advance to Tier I (Photo Credits: Eidan Horn/MacsLive)

#9 HAFTR vs. #8 Maimonides

YS: This core for Maimonides is in their third Sarachek and they know what it takes, while HAFTR impressed this season in the Yeshiva League, especially after the loss of big man Peter Drukker. Drukker returned in the playoffs, but the Hawks are still relearning their offense with him in the lineup and went through some growing pains during their semifinal run. Look for Maimo to play through Gewurz and Weinstock as they try to stretch the floor and force Drukker away from the paint. Ultimately, despite Drukker’s return, I think the M-Cats claw their way through to Tier I. Maimo 45-39.

AS: Maimonides has struggled in this spot over the last few years. Despite not being one of the bigger teams in this tournament, the M-Cats do a great job keeping the ball out of the paint with their heavy help defense. This will be important for the M-Cats when they face this HAFTR team with the big man Peter Drukker. The duo of Gewurz and Weinstock will lead the scoring for Maimo in a low scoring affair. Maimonides 42-38.

MA: Maimo will look to summon their ammo against the Hawks, who may be better than advertised with Peter Drukker being back in the lineup. The Hawks normally flow through their wings but now will have some paint presence to back them up. The M-Cats will look to prowl you into submission through their depth. However, this matchup may be perfect for HAFTR. Maimo defends the paint well, but it may not matter. As we saw in their playoff victory over the Ramaz Rams, they can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. While it may take them time to get used to the quirks of the gym, I’m predicting they’ll sprout some birdseed in the M-Cats litter box en route to a 53-47 HAFTR victory.

AP: HAFTR is a different team with Peter Drukker on the floor. Even though they are a guard-centric squad, the ability to play inside out adds a dimension—and defensively they are much more sound with his rim protection. But I am actually going to pick Maimo here. I think HAFTR wins this game if it’s played in the halfcourt. If HAFTR is hitting shots and is able to set up their zone, the M-Cats will be in loads of trouble. My guess is that the Hawks will struggle to hit shots—it’s hard to play on the MSAC floor due to the three point lines, and of the HAFTR players, only Kevin Levy has competed in Sarachek before (two years ago), while Maimo was in the tournament last season. Maimo will make HAFTR pay for playing Drukker and hit enough easy shots in transition to make up for the issues the Hawks present in the halfcourt. Maimo 51-47.

OG: This should be a very interesting matchup. The 8-9 always is. But this one in particular is because both of these teams love to shoot the rock from beyond the arc. Since Peter Drukker has returned from injury, this looks like a Hawks team that’s been in sync. Maimo can get their points from various players, including Weinstock and Gewurz, but I’m not sure they have the size down low and the depth to make it through four quarters down the stretch with HAFTR. NY over Boston. HAFTR 45 Maimo 36.

#10 Ramaz vs. #7 Ida Crown 

YS: Ida Crown has a lot to prove this year after falling short of expectations in previous tournaments. After a season marred by injury, the Aces are getting healthy at the right time. Jakob Wortman is one of the premier guards in the tournament and 6’4” Avi Okner will cause Ramaz problems with his versatility. Ramaz’s Isaac Ohayon will give Ida Crown problems, but I think the Aces’ experience and unique 1-3-1 zone will help them prevail in a tight one. Ida Crown 49-46.

AS: This is the year Ida Crown makes their statement. The 1-3-1 zone will give Ramaz some trouble and lead to some easy baskets in transition. Avi Okner will star in this game with his ability to score both inside and outside. Ida Crown 52-44.

MA: The only thing that’ll be crowned in this game is who can play the trap better. The 1-3-1 trap Ida Crown brings has been aced in the opening round for the last dozen years. Opponents have beaten them on the MSAC floor through speed, using the wide court to spread out and take them out of their structure. Ramaz is another group who won’t be fooled. They’re also sticklers of hard-nosed defense, but will ram you into defeat through their depth and star power, led by Milan Kushner. The Aces will have their moments, since you’re bound to fall into their trap a handful of times throughout a basketball game. Yet Ramaz will prove superior here. They’re better than where they’re ranked and will prove it. They complete the conquest by hitting their shots from the charity stripe late. Ramaz 47 Ida Crown 40.

AP: Looking forward to calling this one with the great Oren Glickman and the legendary Harold Katz in Coach’s retirement game. Ramaz is a really good basketball team which took one bad quarterfinal loss in which their opponent (HAFTR) shot 11/17 from 3. If that game goes differently, they are probably a 7 or 8 seed. Ida Crown, on the other hand, is looking to prove that last year was an anomaly, and that they actually were deserving of a high seed. It’s been 13 years since the Aces have advanced to Tier I. This could be the year that changes, but I think Ramaz is deeper and a tad better overall. I’ll take the Rams, 50-45.

OG: Every year, we hear about the promise and potential of the Ida Crown Aces to make a deep run. Will we finally see it here? Ramaz were a top two team in the MYHSAL Western Conference led by Kushner and Ohayon before getting upset by HAFTR in the quarterfinal round. This will be the most closely contested game in the round in my opinion. The Rams give the YL another win. Ramaz 40 Ida Crown 36.

#13 DRS vs. #4 Shalhevet 

YS: DRS are storming into the tournament after a strong win over Frisch in the inaugural play-in game. After struggling in the first half, the Wildcats made in-game adjustments and played much better in the second. After halftime, DRS pivoted to a much more up tempo style while maintaining their aggressiveness defensively. Shalhevet will prove to be a much tougher challenge. I expect DRS to start this game out hot, due a combination of DRS momentum and Shalhevet rust (which has hurt them in previous tournaments). However, I see Shalhevet settling in at around halftime and overwhelming DRS with their dynamic offense and stifling defense. If DRS is hitting their shots, they can keep it close but ultimately it will be Shalhevet moving onto Tier I. Shalhevet 51-42.

AS: DRS dominated the second half against Frisch and it all started on the defensive end. DRS executed a great defensive gameplan throwing multiple defenders at Berkowitz whenever he caught the ball on the low post. Next up for the Wildcats are the Shalhevet Firehawks. The Firehawks may be at a slight disadvantage facing a team that has momentum while the Firehawks themselves may be dealing with some rust. That being said, the Firehawks will stay in this game early with the help of their defensive pressure and in the second half will get the offense going to advance to the Tier I quarterfinals. Shalhevet 57-38.

MA: It feels good to start 1-0. DRS and Shalhevet is going to be interesting. DRS showed some  grit in their 52-41 play-in victory over Frisch, especially with their defensive adjustments in the second half, spurring the 22-6 game-changing surge. That’s a quality win against one of just two teams to defeat top-ranked MDY on the season. 

Yet, Shalhevet is a different beast than your traditional Yeshiva League opponent. They’re deep compared to the Wildcats and can beat you in various ways. I can see DRS coming out strong, riding the momentum from their win and maybe catching a rusty  Shalhevet squad  off guard early. However, the Firehawks will catch fire in the second half with Bitran leading the charge. Shalhevet 55 DRS 45.

AP: As ugly as the basketball was in the play-in game, it was DRS who exercised great discipline, owning the paint through their off-ball movement, not settling for threes. This bodes well for their upset chances. It’s a huge advantage to play the night before against a team which is coming in having not played in a while. I think DRS holds the halftime lead here. At the end of the day though, Shalhevet is just a better team. Bitran will be the best player on the floor, and the Firehawks will come back and avoid the upset. Shalhevet 53-45.

OG: This is not the strongest Firehawks team coming to Sarachek compared to years past, but Ryan Coleman will have them locked in and fully loaded led by junior phenom Bitran. DRS had a very up and down season. This is not a typical 13 seed you would want to draw normally because they have the talent via Buchbinder and Aaron. I think Shalhevet does come out on top though. Shalhevet 51 DRS 42

#15 Kohelet vs. #2 YULA 

YS: YULA is coming off of a very strong season that saw them make a deep playoff run back in LA. They will look to start a deep Sarachek run in this Tier I qualifier vs Kohelet. The Panthers returned star players from last season in Alex Gabbay and Yishai Rosenblatt, among others. The Panthers are experienced and play good team basketball. Kohelet’s Asher Kahlon and Daniel Benjamini showed us what they can do in last year’s tournament, but the Kings are no match for the well-balanced Panthers. YULA 66-37.

AS: YULA is primed to make a deep run in this Sarachek tournament and it will start with a big win in this first matchup. Kohelet has had a nice season with some great players in Asher Kahlon and Daniel Benjamini, but it will not be enough to make this a close contest. YULA 57-31.

MA: Kohelet, welcome back to Sarachek. You were an intriguing group last year, heavily reliant on Benjamin outshooting  your mistakes. Maybe that’ll happen against lower-seeded teams in the field, but not YULA. These Panthers are deep, led by Alex Gabbay and Yishai Rosenblatt, who return with unfinished business after losing to rival and eventual repeat champ Valley Torah in the semifinals last year. The redemption tour starts with a quick capture of these Kings’ crowns. YULA 70 Kohelet 35.

AP: Benjamini will hit some deep ones, but Kohelet can’t match YULA’s depth. This won’t be over after eight minutes, but the Panthers will slowly pull away. YULA 60-32.

OG: The Kohelet Kings should just be happy to be in Tier 1. They have nothing to lose in this one as they take on YULA, which this past year has reclaimed the top spot among LA’s elite ahead of Shalhevet and Valley Torah. Yishai Rosenblatt leads the charge and I anticipate this game being done after one quarter. YULA 62 Kohelet 28.

#16 MTA vs. #1 Magen David

YS: The Magen David Warriors are storming into the tournament as the defending Yeshiva League champions and the #1 overall seed. They have only lost two games all season and are primed for a deep run in this tournament. We have seen MTA come out strong to start previous tournaments, but those were against out of town teams. With Magen expected to bring a strong crowd, MTA’s home court advantage will be neutralized and this one won’t be close for too long. MDY 71-34

AS: Magen David will look to cap off a dominant season with a Sarachek championship. This matchup should not give the Warriors much trouble and I anticipate them jumping out to an early double digit lead behind their dominant ball pressure defense. MTA will make a nice run in the second half of the game, but it will be too little too late. Magen 67-43.

MA: Magen David proved they’re champs of team the Yeshiva League and will be motivated to prove they’re the best in the nation. It’s not an accident they’re 35-2 and enter this tournament on a 21-game heater. The hosts MTA will begin with a roar but once they realize where the lion’s share of the points are going, they’ll leave with a Tier II chore. MDY 75 MTA 40.

AP: Oh gosh. Not sure the home crowd will be able to save MTA in this one. The Lions have a couple nice pieces in Treuhaft and Baron, but they can’t hang with the mighty Warriors. Spike will pull the starters in the third. Magen David 73-34.

OG: This is the only all Yeshiva League matchup in the first round. These teams did not meet in the regular season and I think that should be considered a good thing for MTA. The Lions had a dreadful season, only garnering two wins against Kushner, while Magen David has only suffered two losses all year while cruising to a Yeshiva League championship. MTA playing with the crowd and house money. The Warriors will score the most single-game points in the tournament in this one. Magen David 80 MTA 41.

#11 Beth Tfiloh vs. #6 Valley Torah 

YS: The Valley Torah Wolfpack are coming into the tournament as the back-to-back defending champions. While Johny Dan and Noam Mayouhas have moved on, the Wolfpack still return veteran players such as Ethan List and Gabriel R’Bibo. Beth Tfiloh can prove to be a sneaky underdog in this tournament. They play an aggressive defensive game that is paired with a high tempo offense and a gritty mentality. I see this one going down to the wire. Ultimately, I think Beth Tfiloh may struggle with opening day jitters as well as the larger MSAC court, which will limit the effectiveness of their high flying style and aggressive defense. Give me the experience of Valley Torah and Coach Lior Schwartzberg in the top game of the Tier I qualifiers. Valley Torah 50-48.

AS: The Valley Torah Wolfpack are the reigning two time champions. Coach Lior Schwartzberg has built a winning program that knows how to win. Despite this, I have Beth Tfiloh winning this game. Beth Tfiloh is very well coached by Ari Braun and this team is as physical as any team in this tournament. On the offensive end Michael Cohen will be one of the premier scorers in this tournament with his tremendous ability to get to the basket and he also can hit the outside shot when needed. Valley Torah will jump out to an early lead as Beth Tfiloh deals with some early jitters, but in the second half Beth Tfiloh will make their presence felt and take a late fourth quarter lead and hold on to win. Beth Tfiloh 51-48.

MA: The two time reigning champion, Valley Torah Wolfpack haven’t tasted Sarachek defeat since 2019. Yet all indications point to a new champ, as I don’t think they have the pieces to make another run this year, being the stars from their mini-dynasty have graduated. On the flip side, Beth Tfiloh will ball pressure you until the cows come home and won’t give you an inch of space. Transfer stud Dani Ocken alongside Michael Cohen and Jake Schloss will give Valley Torah nightmares. That said, there’s championship pedigree in the Valley, so they won’t give up their throne easily even if star Ethan List can't go. Yet even if he does, the Warriors should still prevail with clutch shotmaking. Their hungry legs will feed their heart of a wolf as they send the champs packing. Beth Tfiloh 52 Valley Torah 42.

AP: This has all the makings to be the best game of Day 1. Two-time defending champ against under-seeded Beth Tfiloh in prime time. Not a fun draw for VTHS. I think this one will be a defensive battle and come down to the wire; good chance whoever loses this will win Tier II. BT is a bunch of dawgs. They get up in you with immense ball pressure and just straight up outplay teams. Valley does have winning DNA and is extremely well coached. Winning teams create winning culture and the practices established in a winning culture get passed down even after the key players on the winning teams are gone; the Wolfpack are still a threat to make some noise in this tournament. I don’t think either team will hold a double-digit lead the entire contest as both struggle to get good looks in the halfcourt. I think the game will come down to whether Valley can handle BT’s ball pressure well enough to run halfcourt offense without being taken out of a rhythm. Not sure they’ll be able to do so often enough, so I’ll take Beth Tfiloh to win, 46-44.

OG: The 11’s did well against the 6’s in March Madness. I expect Sarachek to be no different. I had an opportunity to see BT in person this year with my friend Coach Harold Katz. Dani Ocken transferring from YMC was a big boost to compliment Michael Cohen and Jake Schloss. If Vogelstein is ready to go, they should be capable of coming out on top in this one. While small, they defend off the ball very well and are well coached by Ari Braun. Meanwhile on the Valley Torah side, there are a lot of question marks regarding the health of star Ethan List. They already have a tough road ahead—even with a healthy List—to win three years in a row. Warriors deny the Wolfpack a three-peat. Beth Tfiloh 42 Valley Torah 35.

#12 Berman vs. #5 TABC

YS: TABC is looking to rebound after a disastrous home defeat in the Yeshiva League playoffs which saw them put up a woeful 24 points. The Storm have brought in a strong core of juniors from last year’s championship winning JV team. The Storm are a very large team, with 6’3” Eyal Kinderlehrer and 6’5” Ayden Gurin among their 9 players listed over 6’. This will prove to be a tough matchup for the undersized Berman. Alex August will do some damage for the Cougars, but ultimately TABC will storm through. TABC 55-42.

AS: Berman by 30. No bias.

MA: TABC clinched the top seed in the Yeshiva League’s Western conference. They were left in disbelief as North Shore waltzed into their gym and stunned them in the quarterfinals. You can laugh at their 24 point output in that game, but that’s how they roll. They’re patient with the ball and love to lull teams to sleep. Berman is the polar opposite as they love to run and gun. Yet what TABC doesn’t give you on offense, they make up for on defense. They’ll slow the Cougars down and storm out of day one with a victory. TABC 56 Berman 46.

AP: Berman always plays tight with good teams in Sarachek but is never able to get over the hump and make it into Tier I. I don’t think this year will be different. While TABC is by no means a “strong” five seed, they are a good team which can score in many ways and is solid defensively, and it would be foolish to take recency bias too much into account. The Cougars will need to turn this into a full court game in order to pull the upset. In first round games between one team which wants to slow the pace down and another which wants to speed things up, patience usually prevails. TABC 53-39.

OG: This is a conflict of interest for me. I will recuse myself from making a pick here.

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