Out of Left Field with Matt Mowery


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Which girls hoops conferences are the toughest? Here’s a look, as we near the midpoint of the season

By: , January 10, 2020, 2:50 pm

An online discussion about which Michigan conferences currently hold the most girls hoops contenders sprung up earlier this week, and it got the wheels turning. Was the top conference the Southeastern Conference’s Red Division, with No. 15-ranked Ann Arbor Pioneer, No. 16-ranked Ann Arbor Huron, No. 22 Saline and honorable mention Temperance Bedford? Or was it the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s West Division with No. 2 Hartland, No. 9 Brighton, Howell and Novi? Or was it on the West side, with the Ottawa-Kent Conference’s Red Division, with No. 14 East Kentwood, No. 23 Rockford, No. 12 Hudsonville and Grand Haven? Or was it the O-K Gold, with two top-10 Division teams in the Associated Press’ rankings (Grand Rapids Christian and Wayland), and No. 6 East Grand Rapids?

All have good cases. All are top-heavy with contenders.

So I decided to do a little number-crunching — using records and MPR as of Friday (Jan. 10) afternoon —  to see what came out.

Here’s what I came up with.

Using the new MPR formula (Michigan Power Ratings) that the MHSAA will employ to seed the district tournaments this year (an explainer can be found HERE.), I weighed 10 conferences by the average MPR of all of their teams, and came up with the following:

 As you can see by the graphic, the Catholic League Central (with Birmingham Marian, Farmington Hills Mercy, Dearborn Divine Child, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, Warren Regina and Macomb Lutheran North) came out on top as the conference (among the 10) with the highest average MPR of all its members. The CHSL Central was followed by the KLAA West, the SEC Red and the Macomb Area Conference’s Red Division. All are considered deep conferences, with plenty of parity and a few contenders at the top of the stack.

But it doesn’t quite fit what the discussion was to begin with. A fan of one SEC Red team started it by asking which other conference in the state had a top foursome to match up with Saline, Pioneer, Huron and Bedford. So when you take the top teams four teams in each conference, and weed out the also-rans, you’re going to get a slightly different number.

Here’s what I came up with when I did that:

The KLAA West and SEC Red leap-frogged above the CHSL Central, while the Saginaw Valley League moved up from eighth to fourth. The top four SVL teams — Midland (8-0), Bay City John Glenn (7-1), Midland Dow (5-2) and two-time defending champ Saginaw Heritage (4-3) — would match up with the top four of most conferences. And, quite honestly, it was largely the outcome that we’d expected to get — at least with the top two — when the discussion started.

What does it mean, considering most teams haven’t yet reached the halfway point of their schedule? Nothing. Not a single thing. It doesn’t predict who’s going to win a state title, or even which conference might come home with the most hardware. It’s just a fun little way to look at the comparative strengths of conferences after the non-conference tournaments in December and early January, and stack them up against each other, mathematically. And the MPR isn’t necessarily designed to do anything more than attempt to measure relative strength of schedule. It doesn’t really tell you if you’re a good team, or not.

That’ll be settled on the postseason hardwood (as it should be). This was just for fun, and the purposes of sparking discussion. Below are the individual breakdowns of the 10 conferences used in this exercise. Obviously there are other conferences that probably could get into this discussion, but I didn’t hammer out the math on every league in the state.

Here are the KLAA West and SEC Red:

Here are the CHSL Central and SVL Red:

Here are the O-K Gold and O-K Red:

Here are the Capitol Area Activities Conference’s Blue Division and the MAC Red:

And, finally, here are the KLAA East and the Oakland Activities Association: