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Millard North vs. Lincoln Pius X, 1/5

Lincoln Pius X's Mitchell Sebek (center) goes up for a shot while sandwiched between Millard North's Jasen Green (left) and Nolan Rinn in early January. The Pius X boys are in Class B but picked up a Class A schedule this season.

The Class A basketball scheduling matrix is a good thing.

By taking the scheduling out of the hands of the individual schools and athletic directors and voluntarily ceding it to a centralized entity, it’s ensured that all of the schools in Class A are playing similar schedules and that the regional barriers have basically been eliminated.

With the seven districts in Class A totally determined by wild-card points, it’s important to have a large sample of games matching up the Metro Conference against the Heartland Athletic Conference.

The system, however, is not perfect, and a couple of situations that are becoming more and more prominent as the season progresses are revealing those flaws.

First there’s the issue of Gretna. This is Gretna’s first year in Class A and was not included in the current two-year scheduling cycle. Because of unsuccessful attempts to get into the matrix in midcycle and pick up some Class A opponents, the Gretna boys have no Class A teams on their schedule this winter and the Gretna girls have just one.

The Gretna boys are 12-2 and sit second in the Class A wild-card standings. Gretna is in a position right now where it could lose in the first round of districts, not have a single victory over a Class A school this season and still reach the boys state tournament by nabbing the lone wild card.

The flip side of this is there are two teams — the Lincoln Pius X boys (16-1) and the Elkhorn South girls — who went through the Class A matrix but are in Class B this season.

The matrix is closed to Class B schools, but because Pius X and Elkhorn South are in the HAC and Metro conferences, respectively, they picked up Class A schedules. And with that comes the benefit of getting two bonus wild-card points for every Class A school on the schedule.

So before the season ever started, the Pius X boys had 40 more wild-card points than everyone else in Class B and the Elkhorn South girls had 42.

Those bonus points are not a huge deal on the boys side right now.

The extra points, however, are looming large for the Elkhorn South girls, who are 7-11 against their rigorous A schedule. At this point of the season, the Storm has played 17 Class A opponents for 34 bonus points. With the bonus points figured in, Elkhorn South sits 10th in the B girls wild-card standings as of Wednesday. Without them, the Storm would be 18th.

These situations could play out again next year looking at the enrollment figures just released by the NSAA. While Gretna is moving into the Metro Conference and will have a Class A schedule next year, Elkhorn also rises to Class A in both boys and girls, but because they’re in the Class B Eastern Midlands Conference, the Antlers are not included in the new two-year Class A matrix that begins in the 2019-20 season.

The Pius X boys and girls (Pius X’s girls are Class A this season), the Norfolk boys and the Elkhorn South girls presumably picked up schedules through the Class A matrix, but will be in Class B next year.

These challenges, however, can be met if schools are proactive, flexible and do the right thing.

Since Pius X, Norfolk and Elkhorn South are members of Class A conferences and accept Class A schedules available to no one else in Class B, they need to opt up to Class A in basketball as a matter of fairness. A mandate from the Metro and HAC to do so seems appropriate.

If they choose to stay in Class B, however, they should offer up their nonconference Class A games next season to Elkhorn and then pick up the Antlers’ nonconference B games in their place.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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