CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Change is on the horizon for basketball teams in the area's largest conference, and it's not just coming on their current schedules.Mountain State Athletic Conference commissioner Fred Aldridge revealed that the current format of the MSAC will be scrapped after this year, with the West and East divisions being removed in favor of one 15-team pool. Under current rules, the top teams in each division are determined strictly by games within each team's division, leaving games against teams in the other division virtually meaningless in terms of winning the conference championship.At the end of the year, the pairings for the MSAC Night of Champions and place-winner games are set according to where each team finishes within its division, with the first-place team in the West taking on the first-place team in the East in the championship game, and so on.
That will not be the case next year, however, with every conference game counting toward a team's final league record.The change has been discussed for several years and was finally passed at last year's coaches' meeting and will go into effect in August."The coaches felt like it would be a better way to make sure we get the best teams in position to play each other," Aldridge said. "This way [No.] 1 would play [No.] 2, [No.] 3 would play [No.] 4 and so on."South Charleston boys coach Vic Herbert explained further."Right now, we're 1-1 in the league after beating Princeton and losing to Capital, but it really doesn't make any difference in terms of playing for the championship in the MSAC," Herbert said. "In theory, you can lose all your games in the other division, then win all the games in your division and be 7-7 and in the championship game. Games you play in the other division are basically meaningless."With the new setup, not only will all conference games count, but it will also prevent one division from being loaded with good (or weak) teams, thus resulting in mismatched championship, consolation and place-winner games.While the boys side of things is fairly even across both divisions thus far this season, there is a huge disparity between the records of the girls teams in the two divisions."The girls are really one-sided," Aldridge said. "If you look at the teams this year and you look at the East and those records versus what it is in the West, it's not very even."The numbers back him up.As of the completion of Tuesday's games, the West Division (Nitro, Cabell Midland, Spring Valley, Huntington, St. Albans, Winfield, South Charleston and Hurricane) sported a combined 37-8 record, with every team having a record over .500.Meanwhile the East Division (George Washington, Capital, Ripley, Parkersburg, Riverside, Woodrow Wilson and Princeton) was a combined 12-30, with no team at .500 or better.
That glaring difference was also represented in the Class AAA state rankings, with Spring Valley (No. 3), Huntington (No. 4), Nitro (No. 9) and Cabell Midland (No. 10) all appearing in the poll with St. Albans and South Charleston also receiving votes.Meanwhile, no teams from the East were ranked, with GW the only team receiving votes.The balance of power between the divisions shifts on a year-to-year basis as teams rise and fall, but St. Albans girls coach Scott James estimated that the two sides have been relatively even only four or five times in his 11-year tenure."I like this just because of what is happening this year," James said. "A few years ago, the East had more strength than the West did, but arguably the four best teams might come from the West this year. If there's good balance on both sides, [the current system] works, but if all the strength is on one side of the conference, it doesn't."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.