LOGAN, W.Va. — Just how strong is the Cardinal Conference this season?
Just look at the Class AA preseason boys’ basketball poll.
Five Cardinal Conference teams were ranked in the top 10, while three more received votes in the Associated Press poll.
The Poca Dots, a state tournament team last year, was ranked No. 2 in the state. Much-improved Mingo Central was fifth, Chapmanville Regional sixth, Sissonville seventh and new league member Logan was tied for ninth.
Winfield, Herbert Hoover and Wayne also received votes.
Nitro and Scott were the only two conference teams not to get any votes.
“I think the conference is deeper than it’s ever been,” Chapmanville Regional coach Brad Napier said. “Even going back to the days with Winfield and East Bank back when I played at Harts. It’s a deeper conference now. There’s six teams in our conference that should be ranked in the top 10.”
Napier said the Cardinal Conference will also have a lot of parity once it gets to league contests.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Napier, who led CRHS to the state tourney last year with a 17-9 mark. “It’s probably going to be one of those things that you are going to lose some games because everyone is going to be beating up on each other. It’s very balanced as well.”
Napier said Sissonville, Poca, Logan and Mingo Central will be very good.
“Sissonville has got their whole team back from last year,” he said. “Poca has Frampton and a lot of kids who played a lot of minutes. Logan is probably one of the most athletic teams in the state. Mingo Central is very very talented. They could be a top two or top three team in the state before it’s all said and done.”
Napier said Winfield, another first-year conference team, will also be strong.
“Winfield is always good and they have a great basketball tradition,” he said. “It could be anybody who could win the conference this year. It’s going to be a challenge. If you can win our conference you have a good chance at winning the state championship.”
Napier said he also looks for a better showing for the conference at the upcoming Big Ten/Cardinal Conference Shootout, which pits all 10 Cardinal teams against opponents from the northern-based Big Ten Conference.
The Big Ten is headed by preseason No. 1-ranked Fairmont Senior, which the Tigers are scheduled to play on Dec. 16 at Robert C. Byrd High School in the Shootout.
“When we had the Big Ten/Cardinal Conference Challenge last year the Big Ten kind of beat up on the Cardinal Conference,” Napier said. “But a lot of teams last year in the Cardinal Conference had a lot of young kids playing for them. A lot of the Big Ten teams had a lot of senior-dominated teams with the exception of Fairmont. So, I think this year, you’ll see a little bit of a flipping of that. There’s a lot of talent in our conference this year and a lot of good teams.”
Logan first-year coach Zach Green also said the Cardinal will be very tough.
“Poca will be really good and so will Chapmanville,” Green said. “Mingo Central will also be very good. There’s a lot of unknowns with Poca. They lost their point guard in Cuffee and their longtime coach Allen Osborne resigned after 35 years. They might be in the same spot as us with some new guys, news faces and a new system. But those kids over there always play hard and are super competitive.”
Green also said the Cardinal has a lot of parity from top to bottom.
“Winfield is going to be good as will Sissonville,” he said. “People forget that Sissonville last year was a basket away from beating Chapmanville and going to the state tournament in the regionals. There’s six or seven teams in the conference that could be in the top 10 in Double-A basketball. I think that it’s the best basketball conference in the state in Double-A right now. We’re excited for the fans here. There’s going to be some good games. Our guys are going to get to play in good environments and we’re really excited about the season.”
Logan is set to open the season Friday night at home against Scott.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Logan High School’s Willie Akers Arena.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).