This is the fourth in a series of articles exploring the impact of a potential expansion within the PSAC to include the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Seton Hill University in Greensburg following reports that the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference will be splitting as early as the fall 2013 sports season. Today’s article focuses on the impact on PSAC basketball.
Part 3: Basketball
With 16 teams in the PSAC, men’s and women’s basketball is organized nicely into two eight-team divisions. Last season marked the first year of full cross-over play within the league, giving each team 22 conference games out of 26 permitted by NCAA rules. Plus, the upcoming season will mark the first year of an expanded playoff format, as the top six teams in each division will now qualify for the PSAC tournament.
Should Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill join the league, as has been rumored, expect major changes in the PSAC basketball landscape.
Though the initial instinct would be to expand to a pair of nine-team divisions, it might not work out too well. Presuming 16 divisional games (home-and-home against divisional rivals) and nine cross-over games, that leaves only one open date for non-conference play.
A more likely suggestion, put forth by a Western Division coach, would be to organize basketball into three six-team divisions. That would give teams 10 divisional games and 12 cross-over games, retaining the four non-conference dates across the board.
But, how do you organize the divisions?
An Eastern Division could consist of Bloomsburg, Cheyney, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown, Millersville and West Chester; the Western Division could comprise California (Pa.), Clarion, Edinboro, Gannon, Mercyhurst and Slippery Rock, while a Central Division would include Indiana (Pa.), Lock Haven, Mansfield, Pitt-Johnstown, Seton Hill and Shippensburg (though you could easily flip Seton Hill and Clarion).
Then, there’s the matter of scheduling cross-over games. There might be some weekends of all cross-over games, some game dates with one division playing divisional games with cross-overs between the other two divisions, or some dates with all divisional games.
How the PSAC puts a schedule together under a three-division format remains to be seen, though it’s certainly workable, perhaps with divisional play in the last five weeks of the schedule. Given that the current seven-week divisional play starts while students at the state-schools are on winter break, that couldn’t hurt attendance for the more critical games.
Finally, the post-season format would have to be adjusted. Twelve teams would still qualify, but, in a three-division format, do you take the top four teams in each division, the top three teams plus three wild cards, or even the division winners plus the nine best remaining teams?
One thing is known: it will be very interesting to see the landscape of both men’s and women’s basketball when the dust settles.
Next: Part 4 – Men’s Soccer
Creighton Rabs covers the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for pingroof.com. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect official statements of the PSAC or its member institutions.