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A first for R.I. basketball: 'Selection Wednesday'

February 19, 2012

Cumberland High and Shea High will be among the teams on Wednesday waiting to see who they will play in the first round of the state tournament.

In NCAA Tournament speak, Selection Sunday is a day for fist clenching as teams wait on hands and knees to see if they made it or were denied admittance. Taking a page from how the field of 68 is unveiled to the viewing public, the Interscholastic League plans to replicate at least some of the drama by conducting a live broadcast of the releasing of boys’ basketball tournament pairings.
The first of its kind event takes place on Wednesday night at 9 o’clock on Cox Sports (Channel 3). For those non-Cox subscribers, you can still follow the proceedings by clicking on NBC 10 sports director Frank Carpano will host the half-hour program with the hope of having representatives from several teams in studio to talk and offer insight about what can be expected come playoff time.
The main draw on Wednesday won’t entail whether teams are part of the field or not. As RIIL assistant director Mike Lunney explained over the weekend, the suspenseful caveat pertains to schools learning their particular path and what opponents they may run up against on the road to reaching URI’s Ryan Center, home of the Final Four.
“This way everyone can see it live,” Lunney said. “Plus this is an opportunity to make it a fun thing.
“The only part that’s different from the NCAA Tournament,” Lunney continued, “is that teams literally won’t know what seed they’re going to be. There’s not going to be any bubble teams that are going to watch and say ‘Oh God, we didn’t get in.’”
The regular season wraps up Wednesday with a pair of Division I games – St. Raphael at East Providence and Mount Pleasant at La Salle. Once those final outcomes trickle in to the league office, the field will then become crystallized.
“We’re going to have everything pretty much done,” Lunney noted. “Once the [Wednesday’s] results come in, it becomes a matter of when and where teams are playing. We’ll have a graphic ready.”
A few area teams have already warmed up to the idea of “Selection Wednesday.” Gary Reedy will gather his Cumberland High squad at Cumberland House of Pizza while St. Raphael’s Tom “Saar” Sorrentine plans to order a couple of pizzas upon the return trip to Alumni Hall following Wednesday’s contest at East Providence.
A quick check of the Power Point Standings shows that 27 teams have garnered the necessary eight wins needed for postseason inclusion. Lunney expects the field to round up to about 30 teams once the dust settles, a numerical development that would result in the two top seeds receiving an opening-round bye. The opportunity to strengthen one’s position still exists with Tuesday’s game pitting 15-2 and Division II-Central leader North Providence at 14-3 Shea serving a perfect example.
All first-round games will take place on school grounds beginning Friday. The Interscholastic League is not requiring teams to play that night, knowing full well that the gym might be tied up due to a scheduled girls’ basketball game. With that in mind, St. Raphael and Shea, two local squads that are locks to host a game, figure to go after it Friday.
The league’s only mandate is that the opening-round games must be complete in advance of the Round of 16, set for Feb. 28-29 at CCRI-Warwick and Bryant University.
“They can play any time next weekend,” Lunney said.

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