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D1 Boys Seeding Might Be Irrelevant

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D1 Boys Seeding Might Be Irrelevant

Post  Tuesday and Friday on Thu Mar 03, 2016 4:31 pm

Interesting article from today's UL on seedings for the boys' playoffs:


High School Basketball: Scramble for seeding is on in Division I
By JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

The Division I boys’ basketball postseason field has been set for a couple weeks now.

Upon learning the tournament’s 16 participants were already decided, many likely presumed there would be nothing left to play for in the remaining regular-season tilts prior to the second season commencing next Wednesday. Not so fast, friends.

According to league standings on the NHIAA website, no playoff seed had been secured in Division I as of press time on Wednesday. In fact, every team that has a game left can either help or hurt their current playoff standing depending on their performances in regular-season finales Friday.

There are a slew of seeding battles up and down the standings, but few are simpler yet more important than the fight for the No. 1 seed. Nashua North holds the top seed with their regular season in the books, but Pinkerton Academy of Derry can change all that with a win on Friday against Merrimack. The Astros would end the season tied with Titans atop the standings at 15-3, but would earn the No. 1 seed through a tiebreaker, which is their regular-season win over the North.

Pinkerton has the most to lose out of the two vying for the top spot, as it could fall as low as third with a loss to Merrimack and an Exeter win over Bedford.

“Obviously it would give us the best overall and head-to-head record, which is what you shoot for every year,” Pinkerton coach Pete Rosinski said. “It’s a little bit of a different year though. Teams at the top have lost some players and have others now adjusting to new roles, which leaves teams inconsistent from time-to-time and makes every game count.”

The inconsistencies Rosinski alluded to have resulted in an unusual amount of parity within Division I that might make playoff seeding irrelevant. The current standings support the even-playing field, as many teams have identical records or are within a win or loss of each other.

The most recent example of even competition came when Bedford walloped then-No. 1 Pinkerton, which was riding a nine-game win streak heading in, by 20 points on Feb. 12. That started a four-game unbeaten stretch for the Bulldogs before they fell last Friday to Concord, who had previously won just two games on the season and is not postseason eligible.

First-year Bedford coach Mark Elmendorf expected a difference in competition when he moved up from Goffstown and a top-heavy Division II field, but remains surprised with how easily a team can fall on a given night in D-I.

“There’s a huge difference between the balance here compared to Division II,” Elmendorf said. “Last year there were games we knew we were going to win going in. We just knew we had the better talent in some matchups.

“That’s not the case this year. You have to be ready to go every single night or you’re going to get beat.”

Bedford is in a unique position itself heading into Friday, as they are one of four teams sitting at 11-6 on the season. Depending how other teams in that log jam perform, the Bulldogs could finish as high as fifth or drop all the way down to ninth, where they would lose the right to a home playoff game.

Winning Friday would serve Bedford well, but they’ll have to do it against an Exeter club that beat them mercilessly during the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament over Christmas.

“We’re definitely playing better now than we were then,” Elmendorf said. “No question, it’s going to be huge. We had it figured before that this was going to be a fight for fourth, but now it’s just a matter of us shooting for the highest seed possible.”

- - - - - - - -- - - - --

FOR ALL the possibilities left open in the Division I boys’ ranks, the same cannot be said about D-II and III playoff races. The discussion has centered on the next-level performances by Portsmouth in Division II and Pelham in Division III, and rightfully so.

Portsmouth, which sits at 17-0 and is trying to wrap up a perfect regular season, has cruised past all but two of its opponents by at least 24 points during their run, including five wins by 50-plus point margins. Pelham lost to fellow D-III power Conant of Jaffrey by one on Jan. 19, but otherwise cruised to a 17-1 finish in similar fashion to Portsmouth with eye-popping point differentials nearly every time out.

Each club will be heavily favored in their respective tournaments, with Portsmouth starting tournament play next week and Pelham kicking off Friday, but each have some unfamiliar competitors sneaking up on them.

Unlike Division I, teams in Division II and III do not play every team in their league during the regular season. With this in mind, Lebanon and Kearsarge might be capable of surprising the D-II and D-III favorites in a prospective playoff matchup.

While not as glamorous as the Clippers, Lebanon is working on its own undefeated season in Division II. The Raiders and Manchester West have been viewed as Portsmouth’s biggest competition, but Lebanon lack of in-game experience this season against Portsmouth might work to coach Kieth Matte’s favor.

“We’d both be lying if we hadn’t been keeping an eye on the other one,” said Matte, who has scouted Portsmouth every chance he’s had over the course of the season. “I think we match up well with them. They overwhelm teams with their athletic ability, but with our guard play it is harder to overwhelm us.”

KJ Matte, Ryan Milliken and Austin Whaley are just a few of the athletic frontcourt options have to combat a handful of Portsmouth aggressors, including Cody Graham and Shon Parham. Clippers big man Joey Glynn would be the only uphill task for the Raiders, but Matte doesn’t see any other areas the Raiders don’t match or better the Clippers in.

The task first is to get to Portsmouth in the title game, which is easier said than done for Lebanon after three consecutive seasons of bowing out in the semifinals.

“We can’t even begin to think about them,” Matte said. “We committed since last year’s loss to Portsmouth to getting better and taking that next step. They’ve done everything they can do work-wise and honestly will be disappointed if we can’t win this, but we have to take it a game at a time.”

When it comes to Kearsarge’s chances at a surprise, it comes down to finding a way to maybe not stop, but neutralize Pelham’s Keith Brown. The Cougars know Brown is good for upwards of 25 points a game on a given night, but that’s come without big bodies in the paint like Kearsarge has. Brothers Tayler and Zach Mattos, who both stand over 6-foot-5, pose the threat of altering anything Brown tries from inside the paint, leaving the Pythons senior to maybe remain on the perimeter or become a facilitator.

Also in the fold to help aid Kearsarge is senior guard Trent Noordsij, who could play a similar role stopper role to that of Conant’s Simeon Hodgson in the Orioles’ upset of the Pythons.

“Trent’s done a lot for us to where he could be a first-team selection, but especially with his defense,” Cougars coach Nate Camp said. “Whenever there was a long, lanky player on me back when I played, that was always something to worry about. Trent has that working for him and it something like that should make Keith really work for everything.”

- - - - - - - - --

I MADE a mistake in my reporting of last Friday’s boys game between Manchester Memorial and Merrimack. Memorial coach Jack Quirk commented on the absence of captain Brandon Scott, saying Scott was missing due to a family function. I mistakenly reported Scott’s absence was due to a family vacation.

While I always strive to be precise, mistakes indeed happen. My apologies go out to all parties involved and I vow to be more careful going forward.


High School Basketball runs Thursday’s during the season. To reach Joe Duball, e-mail jduball@unionleader.com

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