Are we doing it right??
The first round of the playoffs just reinforced the need for a different playoff format in CIAC Boys Lacrosse as the current class format is not appropriate for a true fair playoff system.
A new young program like Stratford playing a team like Darien and RHAM playing a team like New Canaan seems like a colossal waste of time. The truth is Stratford should have been playing RHAM, which would have been a match up of teams with similar strengths. Instead both RHAM and Stratford were blown out.
It is not good for the sport to have teams blown out by 15 to 20 goals in championship playoffs or in the regular-season game for that matter. In the first round of the playoffs 67% of the losing teams lost by more than 7 goals and most were by 10 or more by goals. This is just absurd!
If we keep this format then I believe the qualification standards of winning 40% of your games should be changed to 60% or conference championship automatic qualifiers. The thought of a team with a losing record making it into a state championship tournament does not make a lot of sense to me. But I think there is a better plan!
I want to make an argument for a divisional platform separating the teams into 2 or 3 divisions whereas playoffs would based on the strength of the team and not the overall record or size of the school. A divisional format would also provide a more competitive environment while allowing the newer and younger programs to compete with like teams.
A Divisional playoff would also solve the age old question as to who is the best team in the state, as it stands now if two or three teams were to end up undefeated and win their class championship there would still be question.
Let's think about this for a moment, your Division I bracket would have the likes of Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, Ridgefield, Fairfield Prep, Staples, St. Joe's, and Simsbury, arguably the best teams in the state and in some cases Country. These teams are currently spread out through the 3 classes and my guess is a team from this group will win each Class.
The qualification and seeding needs to be done on a power ranking system not just based on Wins and losses. More emphasis needs to be placed on season play rather than just getting to the 7/8 game marker.
I'm not a huge fan of the laxpower website but it does utilize a power ranking system that may be appropriate for this kind of the structure in Connecticut - the power ranking system should take into account the strength of your schedule, for example, Darien is 16-0 so is Louis Mills but that is a big difference between those 2 teams and schedules, yet if they were in the same class they would be ranked the number one and two teams.
For example, a team like Wilton who did not make the playoffs and is a far better team than a Valley regional or Notre Dame of Fairfield would still have the opportunity to play assuming they rank in the top 36.
Let’s take a hypothetical look and use the laxpower power rating which I am not suggesting is the perfect, but it gets us closer to where I'm trying to go the top 16 or a Division I bracket. The top 16 teams would be
2 Greenwich HS
3 New Canaan
5 Fairfield Prep
8 St Joseph-Trumbull
9 New Milford
13 Amity Regional
14 Joel Barlow
16 North Haven
Ahhh…now we are getting somewhere.
The Division II would look like this;
6 New Fairfield
7 Brien McMahon-Norwalk
9 Hall-West Hartford
10 Daniel Hand-Madison
11 East Lyme
12 Notre Dame-West Haven
15 East Catholic
16 Granby Memorial
The pairings would now be more realistic than we have seen so far in the first round. Stratford V Darien – St. Joe’s V Valley Regional – really, what was accomplished!!
Now you would be having Darien play North Haven, Greenwich playing Brookfield, New Canaan playing Joel Barlow, Ridgefield playing Amity, Prep Playing Glastonbury, Simsbury playing Warde, Staples playing Newtown and St. Joe’s Playing New Milford. Makes for a nice competitive tournament!
Now in the Div.II bracket Somers plays Granby, Xavier plays East Catholic, Guilford plays Trumbull, Wilton plays Weston and so on and so forth. The moral of this story is pretty simple, better match ups and more parity within brackets.
Currently 66% percent of the states teams qualify for the CIAC Playoffs – two thirds! I think this is crazy! The power rating system would reduce that number to 40% of the teams putting more emphasis on the regular season schedule and competition.
Let’s take it full one more step, just for giggles have the division I champion play Division II champion and now you have an overall state champion A TRUE NUMBER 1, what other team sport can say that?! Lacrosse is much different than other sports in which you can play with two days rest so it would not require an extended season.
This sport is growing and will need to be nurtured to some degree, we want kids to continue to play lacrosse and not be discouraged because their team is designated as a punching bag to other teams. CIAC, please set up the divisional format and allow for some of the younger teams to compete in a fair more level playing field while the goliaths battle each other!
Let’s grow the game!!