Big Nine Conference Needs Split For Basketball
Minneapolis North is a repeat as the Class 1A Champion and will bump up to Class 2A next season.
One of their wins was against this year's Class 2A title holder Minnehaha Academy, which happens to be in Minneapolis. So next year it would not be out of the question to see two Minneapolis schools play for the Class 2A title.
Kenyon-Wanamingo, Cannon Falls and Pine Island are just a few of the schools from our area that are in the same class.
Minneapolis DeLaSalle became the Class 3A champion for the sixth consecutive time, defeating a very good Austin Packer team 72-44.
They do what Austin can't - schedule very stiff competition from out of state. The Islanders' only losses this year were to a team from Florida and two Class 4A teams in the Minnesota State Tournament - Maple Grove and Champlin Park. DeLaSalle lost to the Crimson 67-64 and Rebels 87-77, so they did compete. The Islanders also picked up wins over schools from Des Moines and Sioux City, Iowa; Mitchell, S.D.; and Kaukauna, Wis.
The Class 4A champion was Apple Valley. Not a single out-state school is a title holder.
The expansion to the four classes in boys basketball was meant to give the smaller schools an opportunity to do something they otherwise would very rarely if ever do, compete in a state tournament.
Since moving to the four class format in 1997, only two out-state schools have won the Class 3A or 4A tournaments, the two largest school divisions: Mankato West in Class 3A in 2004 and Buffalo in 2007 in Class 4A.
Talent was not the issue in the Austin versus DeLaSalle game.
The Packers had talented enough players to win, but they simply don't see the competition DeLaSalle does during the season to prepare themselves for the state tournament.
Because of the current size of the Big Nine Conference, Austin can only schedule four non-conference opponents just like every other team in the league. Their non-conference opponents this season were Byron, Stewartville, Kasson-Mantorville and Caledonia. Three of those teams were in their section.
I've suggested the past few years and shared my views with a reporter at the state tournament this past weekend that in order to be able to compete at state the Big Nine must split. By that, I mean go to two divisions like the Hiawatha Valley League does.
The HVL has 12 teams just like the Big Nine and has the Blue and Gold divisions determined by enrollment.
If you were to use the same criteria to set up, let's say, the Maroon and Gold divisions, here is what you would find.
I used enrollment statistics from the U.S. Department of Education as provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The Gold Division would include the top six schools by enrollment, listed by highest to lowest enrollment
- Rochester Mayo
- Rochester John Marshall
- Rochester Century
The Maroon Division would include the next six, listed by highest to lowest enrollment.
- Mankato West
- Albert Lea
- Red Wing
- Mankato East
The Hiawatha Valley League has each team play their own division opponents twice and other division once and has an overall championship game at the end of the season in girls and boys basketball. It raises money for the conference.
Obviously the Big Nine would not have to follow the same format, but it would allow the teams to schedule five more opponents outside the league, for a total of nine.
After Lakeville North breezed to victory over Rochester John Marshall for the fifth straight time in capturing their sixth straight section boys basketball crown, a Rochester fan told me, "Lakeville needs to be booted out of this section."
I don't agree. I assume you would not want your team to go to state and be unable to compete for a title. I believe in order to compete better, schools need to schedule stiffer competition.
The HVL does not have two divisions in all sports, and you would not have to in the Big Nine either.
But in basketball anyway I believe if you want to be more competitive at the state tournament you need to give schools the ability to schedule stiffer competition.
I would love to get some input from you on this. Please voice your opinions.