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Who’s No. 1? The SEC Red comes out as the top conference in girls hoops, but which league is No. 2 might surprise you

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, April 1, 2020, 3:25 pm

So who’s the best? What’s the toughest conference in the state? Who plays the hardest schedule in-conference?

Those are always the arguments we get in, both when we’re comparing players — be it for all-state or any other award — or when we’re comparing teams, and their relative chances to make it through the playoffs. 

The MPR formula (Michigan Power Ratings) — which the MHSAA adopted this year to allow the seeding of the top teams in each district — allows us to get an approximate view of who played the toughest schedule. It’s calculated by a formula that takes into account each team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of its opponents, and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents. 

It’s not a perfect formula, for sure, but it at least gives us some numbers to play with, to see if — by looking back over the season — the numbers are showing us the same thing as our eyes.

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Here’s what I did over the last few weeks of enforced home time:

I ranked the 97 conferences in Michigan (excluding the Indianhead Conference and Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference in the UP, which only have one Michigan member each, and the Northern Lights League, which only had two of seven member schools register on the MPR list) by the average of the members’ MPR totals for the regular season.

Just for comparison’s sake, I averaged the regular-season win totals for each league’s members, to see how that compared to the MPR average. That’s where we see some of the ‘quality wins’ or ‘not all 19-1 teams are created equal’ factor. A league might have a bunch of teams with gaudy records, but if those records are generated by beating up on teams with poor records …

I also calculated where each member team’s MPR ranked in that team’s division — for instance, Detroit Cass Tech’s MPR of 0.607 was tied for 31st in Division 1 — and then averaged out the rankings for the entire league.

(As an aside, I probably could have figured out where each team’s MPR ranked on the overall listing, and averaged THAT, but that would’ve required yet another chart, and more plugging and chugging.)

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So what did we find out?

Well, sort of like when I did a similar project mid-season, the Southeastern Conference’s Red Division came out on top, with an average MPR of 0.607. The SEC Red had three teams with 17 or more wins in the regular season — Ann Arbor Huron (17-3, 0.721 MPR), Saline (18-2, 0.673 MPR) and Temperance Bedford (17-3, 0.648 MPR) — that all ranked in the top 13 in D1 MPR. 

Two of those teams — Bedford and Saline — went on to win district titles (Saline knocked off Huron in the district title game), and both were were still alive when the MHSAA postseason was put on ‘pause.’ 

The MPR also meshes nicely with the results on the court: Huron beat O-K Black runner-up Muskegon, KLAA East champion Wayne Memorial, Charter School Conference champ Harper Woods Chandler Park, D3 powerhouse Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Huron League champ Flat Rock and SEC White champ Chelsea in a crossover.

Huron’s only regular-season losses were to Saline, No. 1 Detroit Edison and D4 runner-up St. Ignace, a loss that cross-town rival (and the fourth-place team in the SEC Red) Ann Arbor Pioneer avenged two days later. The River Rats’ MPR of 0.721 was top in D1.

Saline beat Downriver League runner-up Woodhaven and champ Trenton, Western Wayne champ Dearborn Heights Crestwood, and Charter School West Division champ Dearborn Henry Ford Academy. 

Bedford beat a trio of Ohio teams in the non-conference, as well as Flat Rock and Huron League runner-up Carleton Airport. 

So the top ranking certainly makes sense.

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Who’s next?

Well, that might be more surprising.

The Great Northern UP League is second with an average MPR of 0.592, and a regular-season average win total of 12.2.

Menominee went 20-0 and handed D3 power Ishpeming Westwood one of its two regular-season losses. Seven of the Maroons’ wins were against Wisconsin teams. 

Second-place Marquette was 7-2 before a four-game midseason skid, but split with D3 powerhouse Calumet, and beat most of the teams from the Big North Conference throughout the season. Three of the five teams in the league posted MPR scores over 0.600, with Menominee’s 0.694 ranking second in D2.

Just behind the GNUP is the Catholic League’s Central Division, with D1 powerhouses Farmington Hills Mercy and Birmingham Marian, which both ranked in the top 10 in D1 in MPR. All but one of the six teams in the division had nine wins in the regular season. 

The Macomb Area Conference’s Red Division is fourth, boasting three teams — Grosse Pointe South, Macomb Dakota and Grosse Pointe North — with 14 or more wins in the regular season (and three with MPRs over .600), while three teams won district titles. 

As you’d probably expect, the Ottawa-Kent Conference’s Red Division — with East Kentwood, Hudsonville and Rockford — was also in the top 10, but it ranked sixth, one spot behind the MIAC’s Blue Division — with D4 powerhouses Allen Park Inter-City Baptist and Plymouth Christian, and D3 stalwart Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.

Led by St. Ignace (18-2, 0.686 MPR) and Sault Ste. Marie (17-1, 0.628 MPR), the Straits Area Conference is seventh, while the Saginaw Valley League’s Blue Division is eighth.

The Tri-Valley Conference’s East Division — with D2 powers Freeland, Standish-Sterling and Frankenmuth — was ninth, followed by the Oakland Activities Association’s Red Division (with West Bloomfield, Southfield A&T and Clarkston) to round out the top 10. 

The O-K’s Gold Division (with East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian) was 11th, while Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s West Division (with Hartland, Brighton and Howell) was 12th.

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Here are the top 25 conferences overall:

 

Here are the top 10 conferences with primarily D1 teams:

Here are the top 10 conferences with primarily D2 teams:

Here are the top 10 conferences with primarily D3 teams:

Here are the top 10 conferences with primarily D4 teams:

 

Here is the full conference chart:

Conference Chart by Matthew Mowery on Scribd


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And here is the full listing overall, with each of the leagues’ constituent members:

Conferences Compared by Matthew Mowery on Scribd