Buy the hype on Fairfield private- school hoops.

Trust me on this one.

You might remember each team's disappointing end of the 2011-12 season; neither ND nor Fairfield Prep took home any hardware. You might think the Lancers and Jesuits will be depleted thanks to graduation-- Terry Tarpey for Prep and Arkel Miles for ND.

You might be right.

But both teams will be back.

Will Prep be 18-2 sans Tarpey and with the addition of SCC- and state-powers Career and Hillhouse on its schedule? Not likely, but 15 wins is certainly plausible. The Jesuits will be tough inside with the addition of Pascal Chukwu-- a veritable volleyball player on defense. Plus, Tim Butala and Tommy Nolan are returning starters and, Dave Zielinski is an X-factor.

Prep critics could point to this year as the one in which Leo Redgate gets exposed as a basketball coach. Maybe he will, but I think it's the year he puts his stamp on the Jesuits' program. Some claim Tarpey and a weak schedule were the main reasons why Redgate has a 33-7 regular season record and has reached both the SCC and state semifinals in back-to-back seasons.

I think he does more and says less than meets the eye. Plus, results speak for themselves.

"I think it's the coach's job to adapt to the players you have and put them in the best position to maximize their abilities," Redgate told me Monday.

It's not rocket-science. But then again, neither is basketball, really.

Has Prep been out-classed in its state and SCC tournament games under Redgate? Not particularly. Talent wins games, and Prep still has that. And Redgate hasn't screwed it up yet. Why would he start now?

Meanwhile at ND, some would view the loss of four-year starter Arkel Miles as a sign of the Lancers' re-building, but they don't do that.

ND had a catastrophic campaign a year ago and still won 21 games. How can you expect anything less when the Lancers return dynamic guards Earl Coleman and Dan Upchurch.

The only question is if they can avoid believing their headlines and survive a hellacious early-season schedule. I think they have to be considered the favorite to, at least, get back to the SWC championship game for the third straight year, and-- although the team's head coach Vin Laczkoski wouldn't admit it-- he knows it's probably true too.

"For me to tell you that we'll be SWC and state champs, I'd be a fool," Laczkoski said Monday. "But when you have kids like Earl Coleman and Dan Upchurch leading the way, you can be confident."

But whether ND can actually get over the hump and win its first state championship remains to be seen. But they way Laczkoski uses his bench, the Lancers are in a position to win more than just this year.

I think ND's farther along than Prep, but that's only because of the Lancers' experienced back court.

Do I think they'll meet for the Prep Holiday Championship? Yes. Am I stating that both teams will win championships this year? Nope. It's hard to win championships. ND-- which has never won a state title in boys basketball-- can attest to that.

But when we look back at the 2012-13 season, I think the Lancers and Jesuits will go down as two of the state's best.And what more can you ask for than that?

Might as well buy


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