Rick Ryan: MSAC hoops coaches can be more creative in scheduling

SAM OWENS | Gazette-Mail
South Charleston’s Vic Herbert and other MSAC boys basketball coaches now have more non-conference spots to fill on their future schedules with just nine league games being played starting in the 2017-18 season.

By the time the next basketball season rolls around, the Mountain State Athletic Conference will be down to 11 teams, as Ripley is scheduled to depart following fall sports.

MSAC teams now find themselves with a little more flexibility in their scheduling, as they will be mandated to play only nine league games — or all but one of the other 10 remaining teams.

With league members having to also hold one other game aside for a place-winner or Night of Champions game toward the end of the regular season, that gives them 12 spots to fill in their 22-game regular-season schedule.

As recently as two years ago (the 2014-15 season), MSAC teams had to hold 15 spots out of their 22-game schedule — 14 for regular league games and one more for a place-winner or Night of Champions game. That meant having the leeway to add only seven other games to your schedule.

Thus, teams with title aspirations might tend to get a little more creative in their scheduling.

Yes, some will contact fellow MSAC schools about doubling up their games, adding some non-conference matchups. But many will likely dabble with challenging opponents seldom seen in recent years — or ever before.

Because the idea is that: 1) You want your team to be tested a few more times before the postseason begins; and 1A) You want to secure as high a seed as you can for sectionals and, if it works out, the state tournament. After all, No. 8 boys seeds are 0-39 all-time since the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission adopted a seeding process for its eight-team state tournament fields in 2005.

So you want to make the open dates on your schedule tough enough, but not so tough that your team gets overwhelmed by a lopsided loss and becomes discouraged in the process.

“That’s why, strategically, you’ve got to consider what you’re doing when making out your schedule,” said South Charleston veteran coach Vic Herbert. “You want to make sure you get the best seed you can.”

Look for a potential increase in games against teams with a regional identity as prep powers — teams like Wesley Christian (33-11 last season) in Kentucky or First Love Christian (23-3) in Pennsylvania.

Wesley Christian came to West Virginia to play Capital, George Washington and SC last season. First Love had games against Capital and Woodrow Wilson.

It’s almost a win-win situation for MSAC or other in-state Class AAA teams to step up and play a prep school powerhouse.

If you lose against a team like that, you sort of get a mulligan in the minds of many coaches who do the seeding and media members who vote in state polls. But if you somehow pull out a win? That’s something to put high up on your resume.

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DeAundra Murphy of St. Joseph wound up leading West Virginia boys basketball in scoring this season, averaging 26.9 points in all games.

Finishing second was Taylor Straughn of Bishop Donahue at 26.0 points per game in the final season for the Bishops. The McMechen school (Marshall County) is closing its doors after the current school year.

With 1,715 career points, Straughn ended as the all-time leading scorer at Bishop Donahue, which captured Class A titles in 1981 and 1985.

No other state player averaged more than 26 points this past season.

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Hurricane may get to face a possible first-round Major League Baseball draft pick when it competes in the Mingo Bay Classic April 18 in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, area.

The Redskins are scheduled to play Monsignor McClancy Memorial of New York at 2:30 p.m. that day, giving them a look at Quentin Holmes (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), who is rated as one of the top outfielders in the country — high school or college.

Holmes is ranked No. 35 among the top 100 draft prospects by Baseball America.

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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