River State Conference Releases new playoff format for 2021

Written By Mason Strawn, Co-Sports Editor

The River State Conference (RSC) has formally released its new playoff bracket for the upcoming 2021 postseason. The conference has declared that they will be using a double-blind draw style of tournament for men’s and women’s basketball; something that has never been used by the RSC before during its time in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). This decision comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted the league immensely this season. 

The 2020-2021 basketball season has been a chaotic one this year, thanks to COVID-19. Many of the universities in the conference were faced with outbreaks across their sports programs, with several opting out of the season and some having to simply delay play until their players were healthy again. During the fall semester, the RSC declared that in-conference games would be suspended until 2021 for all teams, leaving many teams to have to wait until the new year rolled around, and left others like Point Park to scramble to find other teams to try and fill out their schedule. 

In double-blind draw tournaments, it’s essentially like drawing straws to see who you face. A team will be drawn and placed into a seed, and the next drawn team will face off against them. This will continue until the bracket is entirely filled out. This means that record and rankings will not affect who faces who this year, and the process is to be completely random. 

The selection process will happen on Wednesday, Feb. 17, and the first round of the tournament games will start five days later, on Monday, Feb. 22. The second round will continue on Feb. 24, and the semi-finals will take place on Feb. 27. The RSC finals will take place on March 2, with both teams getting automatic bids into the NAIA national tournament if they accept. If any team is to drop out or cannot play their match up, the team they were supposed to play will advance instead. Teams are allowed to opt-out of the tournament before it begins without penalty. 

There will be 11 to 12 teams in this year’s tournaments, leading to any extra round needing to be added to help with this. Each game will be played on the home court of a team in the matchup and will not be played on neutral ground. The decision regarding which home court they play at will be made at a later date. In subsequent rounds, most teams that were on the road will host the next round, and teams that were at home will be on the road, and so on and so forth. Fan attendance will be determined by school and state protocols, and decisions will be made from school to school. 

The men’s team has been lucky in a way, with many of their rescheduled games being against much tougher opponents, giving them more experience than what most teams will have this year.

 “I think [the new tournament] will have little effect on us at all,” Senior forward Garret McHenry said. “Not only have we prepared all season for this, but we’ve played and dealt with this type of impromptu play all season.”

 McHenry isn’t wrong about this, as several games this season have been abruptly cancelled, delayed, or games have been added out of the blue several times this season for both teams. The women’s team has had such an odd season that they will be playing regular-season games all the way up until Feb. 20, only two days before the tournament is sure to start. They were only able to play five games this year before the month of February. 

“We are used to having a pretty crazy schedule with all of the travel we do (in a regular season),” sophomore guard Jordan O’Malley said. “Having a busy next two weeks won’t really be anything new to us.”