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Girmindl's Ghost

A diary of Shaker High School's 2005-2006 basketball season, a retelling of Shaker's fabled 1979-1980 season, and general commentary on high school hoops, updated daily...

"I like sitting in the back row. I found that sitting against the wall is just easier on your back." -Dean Smith, on the comfort of the H-gym bleachers

Times Union Area Rankings....

Times Union Area Rankings: As you probably know by now, I’m no fan of the Times Union’s high school hoops coverage. This is mostly because I don’t think they dedicate enough space to it, but it’s also because I’ve always felt they have a pretty strong Big 10 bias. Today, I’m going to examine their area rankings.

Here are the Class AA rankings as published by the Times Union last Friday (1/20), along with their explanation of how the rankings are done:

Boys basketball rankings are determined from overall and league records and from head-to-head matchups as of January 18th.

1. Schenectady
2. Bishop Magin
3. CBA
4. Albany
5. Shaker

Just so that we have all the facts here, here are the overall and league records of each of these teams as of last Friday:


1 0.900 11 1 0.923
2 0.818 10 3 0.800
3 0.727 9
5 0.667
Bishop Maginn
0.545 9


Blue Division
1 0.909 11
3 0.800

Ok. So if I'm looking at this correctly, the TU rankings are really fishy, at least if we judge them by their own logic: Boys basketball rankings are determined from overall and league records and from head-to-head matchups as of January 18th. Because if we rank the teams by overall record, it looks like this:

1. Schenectday, 11-1
2. Shaker, 11-3
3. CBA, 10-3
4. Maginn, 9-4
5. Albany, 9-5

And if we rank them by league record, well, it looks like this:

1. Shaker, 9-1
2. Schenectady, 8-1
3. CBA, 7-2
4. Albany, 7-3
5. Maginn, 5-4

Ok, so what about head to head records? Let's look at all the encounters between these five teams:

Schenectday: 4-0, with a +26 point differential (beat Albany by 1; beat CBA by 5; beat Maginn by 8; beat Albany by 12)

Maginn: 2-2, with a -7 point differential (lost to Albany by 5; beat CBA by 2; beat Shaker by 2; lost to Schenctday by 8)

Shaker: 1-1, with a -1 point differential(beat CBA by 1; lost to Maginn by 2)

CBA: 2-3, with a -2 point differential (beat Albany by 2; beat Albany by 3; lost to Schenctady by 5; lost to Maginn by 2; lost to Shaker by 1)

Albany: 1-4, with a -13 point differential (lost to Schenectady by 1; lost to CBA by 2 ; lost to CBA by 3; beat Maginn by 5 ; lost to Schenctday by 12)

Of course, none of this is perfect because the teams have played each other different amounts of times (and playing Schenectady is clearly not in your interest for this analysis), but I still think we can say a few things:

point #1: It's obvious that Schenectady should be ranked #1. I think that is clear from the above statistics. They may or may not be the best team, but they have performed the best so far this season, and that's what counts for the rankings.

point #2: The four other teams - Shaker, Maginn, CBA, and Albany - seem very evenly matched. Each has beaten and lost to one of the others, and the games have generally been very close (this ignores CBA's whipping of Maginn last night.) It's pretty hard to honestly say who the second, third, and fourth best teams are.

point #3: That said, there is no way the TU should have Shaker behind Albany in their rankings. No way. Shaker is ahead of them in every category that the TU uses - overall record, league record, and among head-to-head matchups bewteen the top 5 schools. Just absurd. Should Shaker be behind CBA and Maginn? Maybe. Maybe not. If you simply go by what the TU says you should go by, I think Shaker should be ahead of them. But if you add in some additional factors (discussed below), I can understand why they are behind them.

point #4: No way Maginn can be ranked #2. Even before last night. That's just silly. As of last Friday, they were 5-4 in the Big 1o. Obviously, CBA has now rectified this error, so it's a moot point.

Ok, so what are some other factors we might want to take into account when we try to stack these teams up, given that they seem awfully close (except for Schenectady) right now:

factor #1, conference: Obviously, if the Big 10 has 4 of the top 5 and the Suburban just 1, it might behoove us to admit the Big 10 is better this year overall. Now, we partially mitigate this by looking at the head-to-head matchups. But it's still true that Maginn, Albany, CBA, and Schenectady play a harder schedule than Shaker. So that's a point for each of them.

On the other hand, you can take this too far. For the last 40 years, it has been common practice to assume the Big 10 schools ( or the "city schools" prior to the formation of the Big 10) are generally better than the Suburban schools. And, my god, does the TU ever play this up. Did you ever notice how much they hupe the matchups betweeen the Big 10 powerhouses? You'd think the Suburban didn't exist sometimes, given the way they treat the Big 10. Annoying.

factor #2, other wins/losses: One thing we want to check out when ranking teams are the quality wins and/or bad losses they have on the side. So discounting any of the heads up play, what do these five teams have in those categories:

Schenectady: quality outside wins over Carnasie and Cardinal Hayes; bad loss to CCHS;

Shaker: no quality outside wins (lost to Averill Park in OT); 1 bad loss to Lasalle.

CBA: quality win over Averill Park; no bad outside losses.

Maginn: no quality outside wins; no bad outside losses.

Albany: no quality outside wins; no bad outside losses.

And right there is where I think Shaker gets really hurt in these rankings. I think the editors of the rankings look at that loss to Lasalle and wonder. I guarantee you, if Shaker had not lost to Lasalle (or had beaten AP), things would look very different. Because if their only losses were to AP in overtime and Maginn by 2 (both games they had in control), people would have little to point at.

factor #3, Battle's injury: Taylor Battle missed a key stretch of games for Maginn. And I think that's why the TU editors are forgiving Maginn's weak conference record.

Overall, then, I think you can see why Shaker is 5th in the eyes of the TU editors. Obviously, they aren't just going by schedule and heads-up mathcups like they say. They are taking into account things like conference evaluations, outside wins/losses, and Battle's injury to arrive at their standings. Otherwise, there's no way Maginn is #2. No way.

Still, Shaker should be ahead of Albany. All that Albany has on their resume is a win over Maginn and some tough games against CBA and Schenectady. They might be better than Shaker, but they certainliy don't have the resume to be ranked higher. And that's true of all of these teams, more or less. Schenectday deserves it's #1 ranking, but after that I think it's a crapshoot as to who is actually the second best team. And the really good news is that this is not Schenectday '98, or even '02 - any of these five teams has a crack at sectionals.

Bouns question: who cares about the TU rankings? Well, that's a good point. The only real reason to care is that these rankings will have an influence on the section 2 basketball committee when they make the seeds for sectionals. But that doesn't really matter because they seed the Suburban and Big Ten separately (so Shaker would not be the "5 seed" or "4 seed," but just simply the #1 seed from the Suburban. So, honestly, it's not anything to really get in a twist about. It's just a ranking.
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