COLUMN: About CAL seedings and alignments

By TOM WILLIAMS

OK, here we are.

It’s the final week of the regular season in Cape-Atlantic League basketball. The CAL Tournament is a week away and the NJSIAA Tournaments start a week later.

The NJSIAA tournaments have been seeded – you can see all the brackets here. The menu, created by bracketmaster Joe Fussner, includes all four sections of each public group on one page; all four non-public brackets on one page; and all four South Jersey public school brackets on one page. And, once the action begins, Joe will update the brackets every night.

The CAL Tournament seedings will be announced tomorrow and Joe will have them, as well. There might be some contingencies in the announced CAL seedings because the St. Joseph boys play Pleasantville on Wednesday and the Atlantic City girls play Atlantic Tech on Thursday – important games after the seeding meeting is concluded.

CAL rules say the seeding will be done by a committee and will “be based upon, but not limited to, NJSIAA power points, CAL record, overall record, strength of schedule, head to head results and common opponents”.

In other words, the judgement of the committee will decide the seedings using which ever information its members each deem most important. These are dedicated professionals on this committee, directors of athletics at various CAL schools, and they will do their best to create a fair bracket. But there is no actual criteria – a step by step comparison – that coaches, players, fans and the media can follow.

For example, when the Eagles played the Giants in their final regular season game everybody who cared knew whom the Eagles would play if they won. It works that way in the NFL, the NBA and most other leagues or conferences.

This year, for the first time, each conference champion is promised a home game in the first round. In the boys bracket St. Augustine Prep and Mainland have clinched conferences. If St. Joe beats Pleasantville, the Wildcats will tie Wildwood Catholic for the other conference title. So there would be four champs or co-champs and each would open the tournament at home.

In the girls bracket, however, things are not so simple. It looks like Wildwood Catholic and Middle Township will share the United Conference title, Ocean City and Mainland will likely tie in the National Conference and Atlantic Tech could create a tie in the American Conference if the Red Hawks can beat Atlantic City on Thursday.

If there are five or six teams who claim conference championships, and only four home teams in the first round, what do you do?

Here is a suggestion.

Use the power points.

In the boys tournament, assuming St. Joe finishes tied in the United, you take the four home teams and seed them by power points. It would put Wildwood Catholic at No. 1, followed by St. Joe, St. Augustine and Mainland at No. 4.

Then you would select the other four by power points making Atlantic City No. 5, Holy Spirit No. 6, Ocean City No. 7 and Cedar Creek No. 8. The first round would be Cedar Creek at Wildwood Catholic, Ocean City at St. Joe, Holy Spirit at St. Augustine and Atlantic City at Mainland.

In the girls bracket, you would compare the various conference champions by power points making Wildwood Catholic the top seed, Middle Township No. 2 followed by Mainland and Ocean City. The rest of the bracket would be Atlantic City at No. 5 followed by Our Lady of Mercy, Absegami and Atlantic Tech. So, the first round would be ACIT at Wildwood Catholic, Absegami at Middle Township, OLMA at Mainland and ACHS at Ocean City.

But these are just examples, using the NJSIAA power ratings that included only each team’s first 16 games and considers all games, including non-league contests.

Why not create a special CAL Power Rating that, for example, might only include games against league opponents and would include every game right up until the league tournament begins?

Of course, you’d need somebody to compile that, somebody with a love of high school sports and a great flare for mathematics. Maybe somebody with experience as a public address announcer, music mixer, scoreboard operator and original school mascot would fit the bill.

By seeding your tournament that way, the ratings could be published and anybody who cares could follow them and understand how the result of each game could impact their team. It would make the process more informative and entertaining.

A few more suggestions.

In a discussion with an award-winning newspaper journalist (the guy with the New York accent) the idea of creating permanent West Jersey Football League divisions and keeping them from year to year was suggested. Geography, school size and past history would be considered. Then the crossover games could be selected every two years to try to balance schedules to competitive levels.

For example, what sense did it make to take Mainland out of the division it won against Ocean City, Absegami, Oakcrest and EHT and move the Mustangs into a division with Hammonton, Clearview, Delsea and Deptford?

One final thing.

When Hammonton re-joins the CAL next school year there will be re-alignment necessary in most sports. Each coach wants it to be done so his or her team benefits. But frequently, in an effort to be fair, things get so complicated it doesn’t make sense.

For basketball, as one veteran coach suggested and many others agree, lets just do it by enrollment. That would put seven teams in each conference.

The American Conference in boys basketball (based on current enrollments) would be Atlantic City, Atlantic Tech, Bridgeton, Egg Harbor Township, Millville, St. Augustine and Vineland. The National Conference would be Absegami, Cedar Creek, Hammonton, Lower Cape May, Mainland, Oakcrest and Ocean City. And the United Conference would include Buena, Cape May Tech, Holy Spirit, Middle Township, Pleasantville, St. Joseph and Wildwood Catholic.

For the girls, move Hammonton into the American Conference (to replace St. Augustine), move Pleasantville up into the National Conference and add Our Lady of Mercy to the United.

Just trying to make things simple, yet fair, and easy for everybody to understand.

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