By MICHAEL KELLY
With the collapse of the Big 10 Conference a year ago, the seedings for the Section II Class AA girls basketball postseason tournament will look a bit different this season, and there will likely be similar changes for the boys tournament next season.
In the past, the only two conferences in the area with a number of Class AA schools — the Big 10 and Suburban Council — were seeded in a split draw, with each league’s teams being ordered within itself and then matched up against a squad from the rival conference for the first round of games. This season, the Class AA girls tournament will use an open seeding system similar to the rest of Section II’s classifications, in which a squad’s league will not be a determining factor; meanwhile, the boys tournament is going to continue to use a split-draw system, with the former Big 10 teams and other independent squads still grouped together.
Section II boys basketball committee chairman Will Ferguson, head coach at Ichabod Crane, said recently that his committee saw little reason to change its format. However, for next year, when former Big 10 squads are expected to be placed into a variety of different leagues, he expects the committee to follow the girls committee’s lead.
“Next year, the big changes will come because a lot of these teams are going to be placed in different leagues, and then we plan on, between this year and next year, taking a look . . . and we may have to change the way we seed,” Ferguson said.
Both the boys and girls committees will meet Feb. 18 to figure out their respective brackets. Section II girls basketball committee chairman Dan Hytko, the Cohoes girls coach, said he expects things to run relatively smoothly in figuring out the Class AA draw, as the system used for the area’s largest classification will now simply replicate the system used for the rest of the classifications.
“Now, [Class AA] becomes part of the system that’s been in place for — who knows? — three decades,” he said.
However, that longevity does not automatically mean the shift will be effortless. Shenendehowa girls coach Joe Murphy — a committee member, whose school’s teams play in Class AA — said the top issue for the committee will be figuring out how to rank a team such as Albany, which is playing an independent schedule that includes only nine games against Section II squads; meanwhile, Shenendehowa is playing 17 such games and many clubs, such as Niskayuna — another Class AA competitor — are playing all their games against in-section opponents.
“I don’t know how you can rate a team based on [just a few] games, locally,” Murphy said.
That problem is expected to be somewhat alleviated next season, when the former Big 10 teams are scheduled to move into area leagues. Until then, Murphy said the committee members will try to find as many factors as they can to help them seed this year’s Class AA draw in a fair way.
Hytko said that should include win-loss record, head-to-head results, strength of schedule and results against common opponents. Taking the time to think, too, will be important.
“We’re trying to keep it simple to the point where everyone can be on the same page,” he said. “But a little common sense has to be thrown in there, too.”
And, of course, some just don’t mind how the committees figure out their brackets. Consider Niskayuna boys head coach Bryan Mattice among them, and with good reason — his bottom-ranked team a year ago offered an upset of top-ranked Catholic Central, showing that the seeds only mean so much for the postseason.
“Quite honestly,” he said, “it makes no difference to me. As long as there is some type of system in place that is fair, I don’t have any preference.”