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High school basketball tourney needs tweaking

November 9, 2010

The new state hoop tournament that proposes to crown an overall champion has drawn criticism from a few coaches.

Nobody said the format to crown a single champion for the 2010-11 high school boys’ basketball season would be perfect. The event, which calls for a 16-team bracket, is the first of its kind, meaning it should be viewed as a litmus test by administrators, coaches and players.
But that hasn’t stopped some coaches from the lower divisions in voicing concern on how everything is arranged. The field is broken down so that the first eight slots are awarded to Div. I teams, the next five belong to Div. II, and the last three spaces are set aside for entries from Div. III.
“There’s already some complaining in that the No. 1 seed from Division II could play the No. 1 seed in Division I in the second round,” explained East Providence head coach Alex Butler. As vice president of the R.I. High School Basketball Coaches’ Association, Butler was seated in the war room as the Ocean State’s version of a Sweet 16 morphed from a pipe dream into a reality.
While his position on the coaches’ board makes him the perfect person to talk about this new and exciting endeavor, Butler understands he’s also a lightning rod for those coaches bemoaning the perception that the representatives from Div. II and III are being fed to the wolves in Div. I. As the Townies coach pointed out, this format is only on the docket for only this coming season.
“You’re not going to keep everyone happy, but if you’re going to win a championship, then you’re going to have to go through the No. 1 in Division I at some point in time,” Butler said. “Some people aren’t going to like it, but guess what? If things don’t work out after this year and we need to redo it, then we’ll redo it for the following year. It’s not something that we’re locked into a contract for four years where we have to do this.”
If the tourney is to become an annual end-of-season rite, it’s important to play within the guidelines already in place and see how everything shakes out. Trying to implement a seeding formula based on each team’s particular schedule – visions of college basketball’s RPI process immediately spring to mind – on the eve of a new season would only create more chaos.
“Scheduling is not even across the board for everyone,” Butler said. “For right now I think this just makes the most sense.”
When presented a suggestion to set aside the first three seeds in the field of 16 to the top winners from each division, Butler said the idea, “wasn’t viewed as an option because of the fact that if you win the regular season, you get an automatic berth. If you win the divisional playoffs, you get an automatic berth. Right then and there, we (the committee) thought that was enough to reward the teams for doing well.
“Could have that been possible? Yes, but then you would have to look at it and say ‘OK, who’s four then?’ Do you go to the second-best team in Division I and say they’re a four seed now? That’s also a possibility, but then you also look at it and say is it rewarding Division II and III too much by giving them a top three seed?”
How teams are seeded amongst their respective classifications will be based on regular season finishes. That’s why Butler said the Coaches’ Association implored keeping the league slate at 18 games for all divisions.
“We still wanted to put a lot of emphasis on the regular season. You’re playing 18 games for a reason,” Butler said.
The bottom line is that this state tournament is a proving ground to see which team is truly the best. That’s why it should be embraced rather than questioned, for it’s something many people have wanted to see come to fruition.
“If you want to throw teams into a hat and pick names out, we could play that. Then they’ll complain that all the Division II teams would play each other in the first round, then knock each other off,” Butler said. “This is the best opportunity for teams from II and III to match up with the teams from I, and then you get your chance to see if you can win.”

Brushing up with the best

If Brooke Coderre needed a reminder that she’s no longer in high school, the Woonsocket native and current freshman received one last Thursday when Division II Franklin Pierce faced perennial women’s basketball power Connecticut in an exhibition game in Storrs, Ct.
The final score – 112-41 in favor of the Huskies – doesn’t reveal the value Coderre and her Ravens teammates took away from their brush the sport’s reigning dynasty. The backbone of the Villa Novans’ back-to-back titles, Coderre was charged with running the point for Franklin Pierce, a position that father George mentioned Monday is new to her.
“She didn’t back down at all to the level of competition,” said George Coderre, the head coach of the Lady Novans. “She took all the pressure and ran the offense without any hesitation.”
The stands at Gampel Pavilion included 30 fans rooting on Brooke and the underdog Ravens. In 28 minutes off the bench, she turned the ball over just three times while facing some tenacious Husky pressure.
“They were really proud of Brooke and impressed with her poise,” said a proud George Coderre.

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