WAHCONAH BEATS TACONIC BOYS BASKETBALL

Taconic's Sam Sherman tries to block Wahconah's Aidan Trager during a game in March. Berkshire County high school basketball teams will now have Feb. 25 circled on their calendars. That's the date when the seeds for the 32-team state tournaments will be unveiled.

If things go according to the way any Berkshire County high school basketball coach dreams of it happening, that team will be playing for a state championship on Saturday, March 20, 2022.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Basketball Committee met Wednesday and approved the format for the inaugural year of the 32-team state tournament format. The vote was 14-0.

"We're basically putting a range of three days as a goal for completing each round of the tournament starting on Monday, Feb. 28," the MIAA's Peter Smith told committee members during a video conference. "What you would see is alternating Monday through Wednesday and then Thursday through Saturday, leaving Sunday as a potential opportunity to play if needed to start a round earlier or to complete a round, if needed."

The MIAA is going to a previously-approved 32-team statewide tournament format that replaces the sectional tournament formats that ended in basketball in 2020 and will end with the spring sport tournaments later this month.

Ultimately, the MIAA's Tournament Management Committee will have to approve the format changes.

"Change isn't easy all the time. The format of the tournament is going to look different next year," said Smith. "I think the sub-committee has done a fantastic job working out all the details, and knowing there could be more items that may look a little different than what's proposed here, based on what the Tournament Management Committee finalizes."

Under the new system, the top 32 teams in each division would qualify for a statewide tournament. The brackets would include the top 32 plus ties and Sullivan Rule teams. That's where teams that play in a league with predominantly higher-division teams, and are .500 or better in their respective division, would qualify.

According to the tournament format, the cutoff date for games would be Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, at 6 p.m., with the seeding meeting for the statewide tournament scheduled for Friday, Feb. 25.

Tournament play would begin with any preliminaries Monday, Feb. 28 until Wednesday, March 2. The Round of 32 would begin on Thursday, March 3 through Saturday, March 5. The Round of 16 would be Monday, March 7 through Wednesday, March 9, while the Round of eight would be Thursday, March 10 through Saturday, March 12. 

Every game so far would be held at the home of the higher seed. For the first three rounds, the format requires a minimum gymnasium capacity of 250, with a 500 minimum capacity for games in the Rounds of 16 and Eight.

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If home teams don't meet the criteria, the MIAA tournament directors have the option of moving the game to the lower-seeded team or a neutral site.

Bob Rodgers, the athletic director at Whitman-Hanson High School and a committee member, asked about the use of TD Garden, and who would possibly play there. The Garden has historically hosted the Eastern Massachusetts state semifinals. The winners of those games traditionally headed for Worcester and the state championship games. Rodgers is also head boys basketball coach at WHHS, the team that was slated to play Taconic in the Division II state championship before COVID-19 forced immediate cancelations.

Just what will happen with the state semifinals and finals has yet to be determined.

"That's an item we're working on now is the sites that are available for next year," Smith told Rodgers. "Those dates have been advanced with the Garden. That is going to be something that needs to be addressed and probably when we come back in the fall, when we have sites lined up and finalized."

The other topic of the day was an explanation of the new power rating system that will be used to seed teams. 

The system was devised by long-time former Boston Herald editor and current Globe staffer Jim Clark. Under the new system, a team's average margin of victory and the average of opponent's ratings equals the overall rating that will determine how teams that qualify for the state tournament would be seeded.

"You're just trying to get as accurate a picture as you can," Clark said on the video conference. "It all depends on the data you put into it — the teams you're playing, the score. Everything has an effect on it."

The margin of victory component is capped at 10 points.

Clark and MIAA officials did a simulated seeding of every basketball team from the 2019-20 season based on the new system. The simulation ran the power ratings by school and not by division. But looking at the boys Division II field, for example, Taconic was the No. 34 team in the state overall, and would have been the No. 6 seed in a 32-team Division II bracket. The top seed would have been Mansfield, the No. 3 overall team in the state. Whitman-Hanson, the ninth overall team, would have been the No. 2 seed. Two other Western Massachusetts teams, Sci-Tech and Longmeadow, would have been the ninth and 10th seeded teams, respectively in the Division II field.

"Once you get to seeding time, if you want to see who's No. 1 in Division IV, you go right down the list and go from there," Clark said in his explanation to the Basketball Committee. "Divisions don't matter. Leagues don't matter. It's all based on who you play and how you do against them."

Howard Herman can be reached at  hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253. On Twitter: @howardherman

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.