By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
Wyoming Valley Conference basketball will switch from three to two divisions next season, but will retain the four-team overall conference playoff that debuted in the 2018-19 season.
Realignment became an issue with the combination of Coughlin, GAR and Meyers athletic programs into the new Wilkes-Barre Area Wolfpack in the middle of a two-year Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association enrollment cycle and two-year scheduling cycle for the conference.
After three seasons with three six-team divisions, the WVC will have a pair of eight-team divisions for both boys and girls basketball in the 2019-20 season.
Wilkes-Barre Area will be in Division 1, along with Berwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Hazleton Area, Nanticoke, Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West.
Berwick and Nanticoke each make the move up after competing in Division 2 where Nanticoke was the boys champion.
Hazleton Area won both Division 1 titles a year ago, taking the boys in a playoff over Crestwood.
The new Division 2 will feature Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, MMI Prep, Northwest, Tunkhannock, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary.
Tunkhannock and Wyoming Area were in the old boys Division 2 last season. The other six teams were in Division 3, which was won by Wyoming Seminary.
While Meyers and GAR had been Division 2 teams on the boys side, they were in Division 3 in girls.
The new format combines 2018-19 Division 2 girls champion Holy Redeemer and division rivals Lake-Lehman, Tunkhannock and Wyoming Area with Division 3 champion Wyoming Seminary and its division rivals Northwest, Hanover Area and MMI Prep.
Teams will play each division opponents in a home-and-home series for 14 conference games, leaving flexibility for eight other games.
The Wyoming Seminary boys and Holy Redeemer girls won overall titles in the first WVC championships, which included three division champions and a wild card. The four-team playoff will remain with the top two teams in each division.
With fewer league games – Division 2 teams played 17 games while Division 1 and 3 teams played 16 in the old format – the conference schedule does not need to start in December, as it did in 2018. The girls schedule will open Jan. 2, 2020, one night before the boys.
The Wilkes-Barre Area conference debut will come in a girls home game against Wyoming Valley West.
The division alignment and schedule format could change after one more season when the PIAA determines enrollment classifications for the next two years.