Over the next few weeks, Wyoming Valley Conference boys basketball teams will hone their games in anticipation of the regular season that starts just after the New Year.
There's plenty to digest until then, so here's some of it.
The WVC won't have first- and second-half champions. Instead, the champion will be determined in Division I by a 14-game schedule and Divisions II and III by 13-game schedules. Any ties will be resolved on the court.
The WVC season kicks off Jan. 3 and runs through Feb. 14.
When West Side Tech and St. Michael's abruptly dropped out of the WVC prior to last season, the conference had to change divisions on the fly. Well, they've changed again for the new two-year cycle.
Division I swells from five to eight teams. Berwick, Dallas and Tunkhannock move up from Division II to join holdovers Coughlin, Crestwood, Hazleton Area, Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West.
Holy Redeemer and Wyoming Area remain in Division II and will be joined by former Division III teams GAR, Lake-Lehman and Nanticoke.
Division III will be Hanover Area, Meyers, MMI Prep, Northwest and Wyoming Seminary.
Only two teams have moved. GAR goes from Class 2A to Class 3A. Nanticoke drops from 3A to 2A.
The PIAA has eliminated state play-in games, meaning only the District 2/4 Class 4A champion and District 2 Class A champion advance to the state tournament.
In the past, The D2/4-4A runner-up would play the District 1 ninth seed for a spot in the tournament. The D2-A runner-up would play the District 3 fourth seed for a berth. Those spots now go to D1 and D3, respectively.
After two seasons of making teams earn their way into the postseason, District 2 have reverted to the open tournament. Win all your games, you're in. Win none of your games, you're in … unless a certified letter opting out is sent in by a specific date.
When the district had an open tournament during the 2008-09 season, an opening-round game featured Berwick (0-22) at Western Wayne (1-21).
There's a movement afoot to hold a four-team playoff for the overall WVC championship. The three division winners and a wild-card team would form the field.
Well, it doesn't look good for this season. The WVC regular-season ends Feb. 14, weather permitting. Then with the possibility of divisional playoffs and the district switching to the open tournament, there probably won't be enough time for WVC playoffs before the state tournaments begin March 3.
Dec. 18: Meyers hosts Holy Cross in a rematch of last season's District 2 Class 2A championship game and in what many believe will be a preview of this season's title game.
While it would be an excellent idea to move the game to a bigger venue – perhaps Wilkes or King's – don't expect that to happen.
Jan. 31 and Feb. 1: These dates are designated for the Coaches vs. Cancer games in boys and girls basketball in the WVC and Lackawanna Conference.
The games and other fundraisers raised $72,000 last season. The goal this season is $100,000.
Feb. 14: The new division alignments means GAR and Meyers meet only once this season. It will be on the final day of the regular season at GAR. (Coincidence? Umm … sure it is.)
Last season's two games were played in front of capacity crowds (OK, that's not a big achievement at Meyers) and were physical, spirited contests. It's a shame they will play only once. They can't meet in the district playoffs since GAR is now Class 3A.
April 5: Senior All-Star Games. Once again, the contests will be played at Holy Redeemer High School. It's part basketball, part showboating and all together for a very good cause.
Sal Biasi, Hazleton Area: The 5-foot-10 junior has two years of varsity experience under his belt and with four starters departing he will assume the leadership role. His contributions don't always show up in the box score.
Isaiah Francis, GAR: The 6-foot-3 junior is a plug-in guy. Put him at any position – even against the big bodies in the WVC – and he'll get the job done. He's an incredible athlete and an excellent player who still hasn't reached his limits on the court.
Ryan Krawczeniuk, Meyers: The 6-foot-3 senior just looks like a basketball player. Put him in a room with 50 other high schoolers and you'd point at him and say, That guy plays basketball. And Krawczeniuk plays it with a passion and skill not often seen.
Devon Mazonkey, Northwest: The 6-foot-2 senior was a do-everything player for the Rangers last season. The plan this season – as crazy as it may sound – is for Mazonkey to be a do-less player. The thinking is he can be even more effective if he isn't required to do all the heavy lifting.
Rasheed Moore, Meyers: The 6-foot-6 senior went from a role player as a sophomore to a standout last season. He can jump through the roof, rebound with authority and has developed a nice shooting touch. Like teammate Krawczeniuk, he plays with zeal.
Jaquan Ingram, Wyoming Valley West: The angular 6-foot-6 senior is aggressive under the basket at both ends of the court. His play has become more consistent and he'll likely be the Spartans' go-to guy this season considering the losses to graduation.