April 11, 2012

Changes proposed for CAL basketball

Sports Columnist

The new Cape-Atlantic League basketball tournament was so successful this year that the league would like to increase the number of teams who qualify for it by 33 percent.

If the measure is approved later this month by the school principals, there will be eight teams in both the boys and girls tournaments next year instead of the six who played this past season.

There are three conferences in the CAL and three does not divide easily into eight, like it does into six. So, two wild card teams will have to be selected.

Consideration was given to expanding to four conferences and just taking the top two teams from each conference. But it was decided to stick with three conferences and add the two wild cards.

Assuming approval by the principals, this is how it would work.

The top two teams in each conference, based on their records within their conference, would make the playoffs. There are tiebreakers similar to last season, if needed. The conference alignments remain the same as in 2011-12, except that Atlantic Tech has been added to the United Conference. The Red Hawks will play their first ever CAL games on the opening Friday of the season, appropriately, against Cape May Tech – Red Hawks vs Hawks.

The seventh and eighth playoff teams will be selected by a committee of athletics directors based on a variety of criteria. They will not necessarily be two third place teams. They could be the third and fourth place teams from the same conference.

Once the eight teams are picked, they will be seeded by that same committee. However, in another change from last season, the conference champions will not necessarily be the top three seeds. The eight opening round games (four boys, four girls) will be played on Friday (Feb. 15) on the home courts of the highest seeds. The boys semifinals will be the following Tuesday as a doubleheader at a gym to be announced. Hammonton, which hosted the boys games last year, should be a leading contender. The girls semifinal doubleheader will be Wednesday at St. Augustine Prep. The championship doubleheader will again be played at Richard Stockton College on the final Saturday of the regular season.

Conference regular season schedules are also slightly different. Each of the seven teams in both the American and National Conferences will play 12 conference games and two crossover games. Teams in the United Conference, where there are eight, will play 14 conference games and no crossovers.

In addition, consolation games have been added in the final two weeks of the season. Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs will be assigned two consolation games, determined by the final standings. In other words, fourth place teams might play each other, etc. The four teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs will also play each other in a pre-determined consolation pairing.

This seems to be another positive step for the CAL in basketball. It will be coupled with a change by the NJSIAA in its seeding and selection process for the state tournament. A power formula, similar to football, will be used to seed the NJSIAA qualifiers starting next year and the teams below .500 who are added to create a 16-team bracket will apparently be determined by that power rating, rather than won-lost record. All of the final details for that NJSIAA formula have not been determined.

And don’t be surprised, with the Atlantic-10 taking its conference mens tournament to Brooklyn, if the NJSIAA brings championship basketball back to the Boardwalk Hall.


Kentucky comfortably won the recent NCAA Basketball Championship, defeating Kansas in the final. But, according to information gathered by Time Magazine, Kansas would have won a tournament based on each school’s academic progress rate.

The academic progress rate is a formula that predicts the graduation success of each school. Kansas would win the championship, beating Davidson for the title. The other two teams in the Final Four would have been Lehigh and Texas. Kentucky would have lost to Lehigh in the regional final.

And what about Harvard, you say? The Crimson lost to Texas in another regional final.

It is interesting to see how the great basketball programs are doing academically. And it is impressive that Kansas did so well both on the court and in the classroom.

Read more of Tom Williams' columns