Sports

Shawn Jansen: Golden Valley-Merced boys hoops will be a ratings war

Shawn Jansen
Shawn Jansen

Marcus Knott doesn't crunch the numbers.

Not yet, at least.

Maybe in a week or two, using the Sac-Joaquin Section power ratings formula, Knott will break out the calculator to try to figure out where his Merced boys basketball team is going to end up.

For now, the Merced boys basketball coach can rely on others to give him the information.

"I don't do the math, but I know several people that do," Knott said. "I usually know what to expect. So I was aware that we would be taking a little bit of a drop."

Merced (8-1 Central California Conference, 16-8 overall) was ranked No. 3 in Division I when the section released the first power ratings last week.

Merced dropped to No. 5 this week despite winning both of its games last week.

For those unfamiliar with the ratings formula, it might seem strange to see a team drop two spots without losing a game.

Those same people might be scratching their heads to see a team like Golden Valley leapfrog Merced even though GV only won one game last week.

Golden Valley (6-2, 19-4) wasn't the only team to pass Merced. Stagg jumped ahead, too.

How does something like that happen?

The quick answer is because both Golden Valley and Stagg's conference winning percentages received a bigger boost than Merced's with last week's wins.

The improvements were enough to propel both teams past Merced.

The power rating formula multiplies the conference winning percentage by the league strength rating, which is handed out by a seeding committee halfway through each season. That number makes up 70 percent of the team's power rating.

I know what you're thinking: Exciting stuff.

The other 30 percent comes from how the teams fared during its non-conference schedule.

Both Stagg and GV have an advantage over Merced there.

"A lot of it has to do with our non-conference record," said Knott, whose team was 7-6 during non-conference games that counted toward its power rating. "We always have to take the good with the bad with our schedule. We've always played a pretty good non-conference schedule."

So what do all these ratings mean at this point of the season?

Not much -- especially for teams like Golden Valley and Merced. Both teams are going to be in the playoffs.

The goal from this point is to stay in the top eight to secure a first-round home game.

Which team gets the higher seed out of GV and Merced will likely be decided on the court on Friday when Merced plays Golden Valley.

That's why Knott isn't going to lose sleep about falling two spots in the power ratings with two weeks left in the regular season.

Believe me, there's going to be a lot more teams moving up and down before the final ratings come out and the playoff brackets are filled out.

"Whether we're third, fifth or we move down depends on whether we win or not on Friday," Knott said. "If we win, (Golden Valley) will move down and we'll move up. If we don't win, then we'll drop anyway.

"It's a mathematical equation. We just have to do our part and worry about it later."

Teams that should be concerned about the power ratings are the teams on the bubble.

Teams like the Los Banos girls, who are No. 17 in Division I.

The top 16 teams qualify for the playoffs.

Teams on the outside know where they stand and what they have to do to fight their way in.

That means Los Banos (No. 19), Hilmar (No. 19) on the boys side and Livingston (No. 18) on girls side also need strong finishes to squeeze into the playoffs in their respective divisions.

While it may be too soon to be overly concerned about the power ratings, it's still fun to track.

Fans and reporters can look at possible first-round matchups.

For instance Knott wouldn't be thrilled with No. 12 Sheldon coming to Merced in the first round if the playoffs were to start today.

Sheldon jumped eight spots from No. 20 with two wins last week. The Elk Grove school might have the most talent of any school in the Division I field.

A first-round matchup against Sheldon would be a reason to lose sleep.

The Merced girls basketball team will be hosting an alumni game on Feb. 19.

The game will be played 30 minutes prior to the Merced-Buhach Colony girls basketball game.

Former Merced players interested in playing in the game should contact either Merced coach Brad Reed at 201-9718 or Karen Mathieu at Rivera Middle School at 358-6680.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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