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SJS nixes rankings for hoops
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So long, power ratings.

The Sac-Joaquin Section Board of Managers voted unanimously Wednesday to accept a proposal that changes how teams qualify and are seeded for the basketball playoffs starting this winter. The formula-based power ratings system had been used by the section for 24 years.

Now, the way in is much more simple. The top three teams in each league advance, and the nine conferences with the highest postseason winning percentage from the previous three seasons will have a fourth qualifier. Playoff squads are then separated according to enrollment, though some of the section’s powerhouses will play at higher divisions.

Nonleague results will no longer help determine postseason qualifiers, though strength of schedule will affect seedings. Other factors such as overall win-loss record, head-to-head results, signature wins and losses, strength of league and standing of league will also be considered by the section’s playoff committee.

The Trans-Valley League boys and girls are among the conferences to be awarded an extra qualifier. That gives Ripon High’s competitive teams a better chance to make it. They have Modesto Christian to thank for that, although the Crusaders will compete in the Division-I Modesto Metro Conference for basketball starting next year.

The Valley Oak League, home to all five Manteca Unified schools, will only have three playoff teams this year, though that can change of the Sierra boys continue their recent run of success. The Timberwolves have reached the SJS Division III finals the past two years and were joined by rival Weston Ranch in the semifinals last season.

Also Wednesday, the Board of Managers voted in favor of preventing teams from dropping a division after winning a section championship in basketball, volleyball and soccer. Last year, Ripon Christian’s girls soccer team mounted a historic run to its first SJS title game in Division VII but lost 3-0 to a superior Bradshaw Christian team that was coming off successive championships in Division VI.

The section has also lessened its restriction for teams that move up a division after winning three or more section titles in a row. Ripon Christian also serves as an example in volleyball. Last season, the Knights moved up to Division IV following a streak of five straight D-V championships. Previously, teams like their volleyball squad could not move back down until they fail to make the playoffs. Now they return if they do not reach the semifinal round two years in a row.

Informally discussed during Wednesday’s meeting was the idea of adding Division-V conferences such as the Golden Empire and Southern leagues to the section’s 64-team pool of Division I-IV playoff qualifiers. That would allow smaller Mother Lode League and TVL teams — such as Hilmar (662 enrollment), Amador (655), Argonaut (597) and Modesto Christian (190) — to compete in Division V as opposed to the more competitive Division IV. Meanwhile, larger Division V schools such as Highlands (944) and San Juan (812) would have to compete with programs of like size.

 Will DeBoard, the section’s Director of Communications, said the issue will likely be further discussed in the Jan. 15 and April 30 meetings but may not be formally put up for vote until next year.