Central Aroostook and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

by Maine Basketball Rankings

The good folks of Mars Hill had every reason to be hopeful for the C North tournament, as both their boys and girls teams entered the tournament as the #1 seed. That generally means you’re in for at least one solid tourney run and several trips to Bangor. Yesterday, they both lost in the quarterfinals.

The girls got blown out by #9 Stearns and the boys lost at the buzzer to #8 Sumner. Shocking!

Except it isn’t.

The model had Stearns winning that game by roughly 3 points and while it picked the boys to win, it was by a far smaller margin than you’d normally see in a 1/8 game (the same margin as the Cony/Medomak game, ironically) and it only gave them the 4th best odds of winning the region. So how is the model so low on both the 1 seeds?

The first reaction would be to blame the schedules, but they each played an overall tougher schedule than their opponents. So let’s dig.

The girls played 10 Class D schools, and while I’m not a believer that scheduling inside your class is essential in terms of getting quality opponents, because the math just doesn’t support that, that theory does start to gain some value when you get to Class D schools, partly because you hit a tipping point where it’s hard to field a team. They played 5 teams outside the top 100 and naturally crushed them. But they also did well against Madawaska and Fort Fairfield, going 4-0, so it’s not like they were a paper tiger who feasted on Our Sisters of Mercy Middle School. The model had them as the 7 seed in a very tough C North, which is nothing to sneeze at, and had Stearns as the 4. So I think what you’ve got here is some really bad luck with the Heal Points. They had 4 wins against Washburn and Ashland, 2 schools outside the top 100 who happened to be worth a lot of Heal Points, plus 2 wins against #127 Van Buren, who rode the easiest schedule in the state to 5 wins. That’s a lot of Heal Points from 6 mediocre opponents.

The boys had a similar issue, to a lesser degree. The model had them 4th, playing a properly seeded Sumner team that had been outscored by 32 points on the year against the 101st toughest schedule in the state (15th in C North). There’s no big red flag in Sumner’s statistical profile that would have caused you to pick this upset. Like the girls, the Central Aroostook boys got quite a lot of value out of sweeping Washburn (6 wins). But, again, they weren’t drastically over-seeded.

Again, generally you don’t suffer from playing teams in the class below yours in terms of getting quality opponents (unless you play the bad teams in that class, of course), but I think you hurt yourself in the sense that you go into a tournament where you have to play teams you aren’t familiar with. Unless you’re playing a tougher schedule than those teams, which Central Aroostook certainly is not. Part of the issue here in conferences. Part of it, I’m sure, is that Mars Hill is nearly in Canada and that’s a lot of travel.

If you’re looking for a solution, here’s one:

We switch to a 24 game schedule (because we should do that anyway).

You’re required to play 14 games in your region (because of AA’s 8 team regions).

Conferences aren’t allowed to have closed schedules (because that’s dumb).

The other 10? Play whoever you want.

That way, you’re not out of your depth come tourney time, the Heal Points have more time to eliminate outliers like the Central Aroostook girls, and you still get to schedule the schools near you, which means more rivalry games that’ll bring in more fans. It’s more travel, especially for the teams in the County, but it’s better than driving 290 miles round trip to get blown out by the 9 seed.

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