GMC will keep pilot program for Red Division boys’ basketball in ’23-’24

Junior Jaden Kelly of St. Thomas Aquinas puts up a shot against St. Joseph-Metuchen in the GMC Tournament semifinals on February 15, 2023 at Monroe Township High School. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

The pilot program that allowed GMC Red Division boys’ basketball teams to only play each other once this past season will continue next year.

Greater Middlesex Conference President Mike Pede confirmed the recent extension of the program by the division’s Athletic Directors for another season, since the league is in the middle of a two-year scheduling cycle.

Typically, teams in each division play each other twice. But some public schools didn’t want to play powerhouses like St. Joseph-Metuchen and St. Thomas Aquinas twice in a season, fearing it would hurt their potential playoff standing. And the pilot allowed some schools more scheduling flexibility to play in showcases in and out of the state.

The GMC Red was a mammoth nine-team division last year, meaning each team otherwise would have had 16 division games, more than anyone else in the conference. With a shorter season thanks to NJSIAA changes to the school year sports calendar, that limited opportunities to find opponents that could help their power point totals.

So, a pilot program approved last spring that would allow teams to play each other once. They would be permitted to play any other school twice, but when it came to seeding the county tournament, only the first matchup would count.

Now, that will continue for another season. Beyond that, in the future, the league could change divisional alignments, scheduling, or come up with some other idea entirely.

“The GMC has done an amazing job looking forward and thinking outside the box,” Pede told Central Jersey Sports Radio. And he says all those changes are considered with the student-athletes in mind.

For example, in baseball, the league moved to a five-division setup based on factors beyond school size, adding the GMC Silver. As a result, Piscataway – a large school which has struggled in the Red (5-15 in 2021) and White (7-18 last year) Divisions of late – is in the Blue this year. They are 3-5, but have lost only one of those five games by ten runs or more. Last year, they lost eight of their 15 games by that margin.

“This is not a GMC issue,” Pede said, indicating that it’s not something being considered in other sports. “This is a boys’ basketball Red Division issue.”

“If they feel there’s a problem with boys’ Red Division basketball, let’s fix the problem,” Pede added. “Let’s not fix what’s not broken.”

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