PROVIDENCE – Monday saw the R.I. Interscholastic League Principals’ Committee on Athletics officially welcome St. Patrick’s School of Providence into the fold for boys’ and girls’ basketball, along with boys’ volleyball.
From the boys’ hoops perspective, the addition of St. Patrick’s signifies that the league is close to finalizing postseason plans for the next two seasons. The format has already been agreed upon by the PCOA and will feature three division tournaments, followed by a 16-team open state tournament. This system is similar to what was utilized in 2011 when St. Raphael Academy went on to capture the states.
After some brief debate, officials decided to place St. Patrick’s School in Division III. The next order of business is the schedule, notes Mike Lunney, assistant director for the RIIL.
Prior to St. Patrick’s arrival, Division I and II each housed 15 teams, with Division III containing 16. With the power rating system still in place as a determining means, Lunney says it’s important to come up with a schedule that puts participants on an even playing field. Speaking earlier this summer, East Providence boys’ basketball head coach Alex Butler noted that the game cap was kept at 18 league games.
The division tournaments will include 10 teams and be based on winning percentage. Their inclusion figures to be warmly received by Division III coaches, a group that has been the most vocal in the postseason menu containing the crowning of division winners.
“There was a lot of talk because a lot of teams were out of the playoffs early, particularly in Division III,” said Butler, also the vice president of the R.I. Basketball Coaches Association. “Now you go back and get your 10-team division tournament, which is great and what everyone wants and you still get 16 teams to the open tournament, which is what seems a lot of people still want.”
Last season’s hoops postseason featured an open state tournament that admitted 29 schools. Had the 16-team open state arrangement been in place, the breakdown would have included nine teams from Division II, six from II and one from III. When the 16-team open tourney format was used two years ago, each division was set aside a finite number of slots, with the first eight spots going to Division I qualifiers, the next five going to Division II, with the last three belonging to Division III.
For teams in all divisions, the divisional playoffs may either bolster or hinder their open tournament prospects, as power points will be on the table. Division I teams are awarded one full point for each league win with Division II teams earning .75 and Division III earning .50. As things stand, automatic berths to the open tournament will not be handed out based on winning the divisional round, though Butler says that possibility has not been ruled out entirely.
“The league was open in speaking about what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they felt was great and things they thought could be improved,” said Butler about the lengths the Basketball Coaches Association went in ensuring that compromise would be reached among all affected parties. “We wanted to have representation across the board.”
Besides finalizing the schedule, the other pressing matter is deciding on venues for the playoffs. The league wants the divisional and open tournaments to take place on campus sites with CCRI, Bryant, Brown and Providence College all mentioned as possible spots. One thing that is certain is that URI’s Ryan Center will remain the home for the state finals.