With this year’s football champions having been crowned a little more than a week ago, it is time to turn your attention to the hardwood. Several varsity basketball teams took to the court Thursday night in non-league fundraising tournaments, giving coaches and fans their first official look at the talent they have to deploy from 2011 into 2012.
The biggest key to watch for this year will be the change in playoff seeding for the state tournament. Unlike in previous years, there will not be automatic berths for the division tournament winners. The idea is that by applying a more subjective formula, teams from Divisions II and III with great records and/or talent will be able to earn higher seeding than in previous years. For example, a top team from Division II could earn a fifth or sixth-seed if the formula determines they can hang tough with some of the lower seeded teams from Division I. The goal is to produce the best possible tournament and reward those teams who achieve great success appropriately.
Several coaches that I have spoken with believe their teams could hang tough with those from Division I, making this year’s tournament experiment very interesting. Still, even if it produces the results coaches and league officials believe, many of those same people don’t think this system (one without divisional tournaments) will last beyond this year. Realignment for basketball is up again after this season and few think the divisions will be shaken up without putting the divisional championships back in. Only time will tell.
To the court, arguably the most interesting change during the offseason between St. Raphael’s state title and tip-off on Thursday will impact the Cougars in North Providence.
Despite his rehab from ACL surgery, former North Kingstown guard Rob Hazard expects to debut with his new teammates in North Providence shortly after the start of the regular season. Cougars head coach Paul Rizzo has said he expects Hazard back on the floor sometime around December 15th, pending the results of said rehab. He’s excited about what a 1,000-point scorer for his career can bring to a team already featuring a pair of 2nd team all-state guards in Austin Van Bemmelen and Michael Ferrante. Those three will lead a team returning all but two players from last year’s 15-win D2 Central champions. While that’s going to be fun to watch unfold, we all know one thing: we get to watch them play the games.
Stay tuned to the varsity blog for additional features and stories as the season progresses. I hope we see many of you down on the sidelines this season.