Trumbull, St. Joseph to compete in new divisions

The Trumbull High and St. Joseph High boys basketball teams will compete for spots in the state tournament in new divisions that were designed by the CIAC for the upcoming season.

The CIAC Board of Control voted to approve the proposal that will feature five divisions for this upcoming season. It is a one-year trial format.

Coach Buddy Bray’s Trumbull Eagles split a pair of games in Class LL a year ago. They are in Division I.

“We lost our appeal to the CIAC in regards to moving down to Division 2 this year,” Bray said. “This is a one year experiment the CIAC is trying with five divisions, instead of the traditional four brackets as in year’s past.

“We were place in Division I because our record the last three years was 49-11, the number of boys in our school and because we play in a power conference (the FCIAC).

"The only benefit is that all Division I teams  do not have to have eight wins to qualify for the tournament. Other divisions must win eight games to get in, so we are in the tourney.

“We’ll will be ready for the challenge of D1 basketball — it’s a tribute to the three years of players before them that set the bar high. Tradition never graduates.”

Coach Paul Dudzinski’s Cadets went 1-1 in Class M. They are in Division II.

“Having been at Stratford and now being at St. Joseph, I now see both sides of the public school and private school perspective of the state tournament,” said Dudzinski, who led Stratford to state titles in 2008 and 2010. “My feeling has always been to play a competitive schedule during the season to hopefully prepare my team for the state tournament.

“I feel you should also compete against similar sized schools in the state tournament, but I know that my opinion definitely will not be shared by other coaches. I do understand that the state committee is trying to base the division you compete in for the state tournament will be for the time being based both on your size of school and past success.

“I am not sure there is any solution that every school will ever be satisfied with, but I do think the state did have to address the issue of historically strong programs competing in lower divisions.”

Every team in Division I will qualify for the state tournament, regardless of record.

There are at least 39 teams in each of the other four divisions. Teams must win at least 40 percent of its games to qualify for the postseason.

The committee has done away with filling the brackets for teams with six or seven victories.

Coach Brian Gardiner’s Shelton High Gaels, who split games in last year’s Class LL tourney, have been placed in Division II alongside St. Joseph.

“Stratford was in L and is now in Division III,” Gardiner said. “That makes sense considering that after you take out the twenty one schools that are now in Division I, it looks like Division II is mainly LL schools. Division III is mostly L schools, etc.

"Based on what I see, Stratford is properly placed. Bunnell is also Division III. As for us, our goals (berths in the SCC and state tourney) are the same.”

Teams were placed in the five divisions on the basis of enrollment, the power point system the CIAC employs (determined by sum of wins of opponents they defeated over the past three seasons), postseason success for both league and state tournaments and the overall strength of the conference a team plays in.

Bunnell coach Pat Yerina said, “We have always been an L school. Looking at Division III, I see some of the same schools. I think the CIAC is trying to level the playing field. At Bunnell, we have always scheduled top teams in the area and like tough competition.

"Being in Division III doesn't change our approach. We will try to improve all season and hope to be playing our best basketball come tournament time.”

Input from its member schools helped shape the original proposal, created more than a year ago, leading to the vote by the Board of Controls after the boys committee voted unanimously for it.

"This new format is the result of a lot of hard work from members of our boys basketball committee and aims to address the concerns we've heard from our membership about inequity challenges specific to the boys basketball tournament," CAS-CIAC executive director Karissa Niehoff said in a press release.

"CIAC is grateful for the feedback and participation of the CHSCA and CAAD along with all our member schools in vetting this proposal and we look forward to its implementation and an exciting boys basketball tournament."

Alongside Trumbull in Division I will be Bassick, Danbury, East Hartford, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Fairfield Prep, Hamden, Weaver, East Catholic, Hillhouse, Wilbur Cross, Norwich Free Academy, Ridgefield, Trinity Catholic, Crosby, Holy Cross, Kennedy, Sacred Heart, Northwest Catholic, Notre Dame-West Haven and Windsor.

Joining St. Joseph in Division II will be Shelton, Bloomfield, Bridgeport Central, Bristol Central, Cheshire, Immaculate of Danbury, Darien, Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Hartford Public, Ledyard, Manchester, Maloney of Meriden, Middletown High, Xavier, Naugatuck, New Britain Career of New Haven, New London, New Milford, Newington, Newtown, Norwalk, McMahon of Norwalk, Simsbury, South Windsor, Pomperaug of Southbury, Stamford, Westhill of Stamford, Stamford, Career of Waterbury, Wilby, West Haven, Staples, Wethersfield, Wilton and Amity.