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Seven stories to follow as the WVC schedule gets under way JOHN ERZAR NOTEBOOK

High school basketball is unique in that the exhibition season gives plenty of perspective into what will happen when the regular season begins.

Not so in other sports.

For example, take high school football. You hear scuttlebutt about how a team performed at a passing camp or 7-on-7 competitions. A few things can be gleaned by watching a scrimmage.

But play a half dozen or so opponents under game conditions – like in basketball – and things sort themselves out.

Here are some items from a month of exhibition games as the boys teams start their WVC schedules tonight.

Keeping track is difficult.

The best thing about basketball is the preseason where teams can work out the kinks under game conditions.

The worst thing is trying to keep pace with all those games. Tournaments, out-of-town games, multiple games on consecutive nights. It makes it difficult not to miss one. (We already did with Tunkhannock earlier).

So every coach needs to look at their records in the accompanying standings to make sure it’s correct. If not, email me at jerzar@timesleader.com with the correct record entering tonight’s play.

Wyoming Valley West appears for real.

The preseason media night has one common occurrence. Coaches will heap praise on a team they feel is ready to take that next step and become a legitimate contender.

More often than not, those teams fizzle out by midseason. Wyoming Valley West could be the exception.

The Spartans are 6-3 entering conference play after winning just eight games in 2009-10. The losses have come against teams that are combined 17-4. They showed plenty of mettle on Dec. 22, blowing a double-digit lead against a very good GAR team and then rallying for a 61-56 win.

In the past, Valley West teams didn’t have the intangibles to be a winner. This team appears to have them.

Upsets might not really be upsets.

Holy Redeemer is the class of the WVC. The Royals, though, are vulnerable to being knocked off. So are the other top teams – Crestwood, Hazleton Area, Meyers and Wyoming Valley West among others.

The gap between the haves and have-nots is closer than it’s been in quite awhile. Coaches love to speak in clichés like “you need to be prepared every night” and “every game is a battle.” They may finally be right about that.

The battle for the D2-3A playoffs will be interesting.

Holy Redeemer should easily gain one of five WVC berths in the eight-team District 2 Class 3A playoffs, barring a rash of injuries that forces coach Mark Belenski to go deep into his bench.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Perennial power Crestwood is down a bit and is in a group of seven legitimate contenders for the four other spots. (Berwick and Wyoming Area probably won’t contend).

Since District 2 has done away with the silly open tournament, every game will take on a significance not seen recently. And that’s the way it should be.

The best three teams might not make the D2-2A playoffs.

Here’s where eliminating an open tournament in Class 2A might end up hurting the WVC.

Only three WVC teams make the eight-team playoffs. And the best three WVC 2A teams – Meyers, GAR and Hanover Area in that order – reside in Division III.

If one of them goes 0-4 against the other two, then either Northwest or Wyoming Seminary – both in Division IV – could get the final spot.

The WVC hasn’t said how it will determine its three qualifiers, but the situation is worth watching.

Crossovers could determine championships.

Beating divisional opponents isn’t enough. Crossover games against teams from other divisions could determine championships.

For example, Division I favorite Valley West has to play Division II favorite Holy Redeemer in the first-half season. And Redeemer has to play perennial Division I powers Crestwood and Hazleton Area in consecutive games in the second-half season.

There are other inequities as well in a schedule divided into a six-team first-half season with two interdivisional games and a seven-team second-half season with three interdivisional game.

Why not just play a 13-game season so the champion is determined on a level field?

Division IV will be competitive, but not as good.

Wyoming Seminary is the defending champion, but has several holes to fill. So do the Blue Knights’ closest competitors for the division – Northwest and MMI Prep.

None of the three has established itself as the team to beat in the preseason. Northwest leads the trio with three victories thus far, but they’ve come by a combined margin of four points.

The basketball might not be as good in the division as the last few seasons, yet the champion might not be determined until the final day of play.

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