The 2022 Bergen County girls basketball tournament will be played soccer-style.
Tuesday night, the Bergen County Women Coaches Association approved a proposal that transforms the single-elimination tournament into a 16-team, pool-play event. BCWCA president Nicole Pacciani referred to it as “World Cup style”.
“The coaches brought this to the BCWCA, and we voted to give something new a try during a season with such uncertainty,” Pacciani said in a text message to NorthJersey.com. “It’s a big change, and we are so excited about it.”
Under the new format, teams will be voted into the tournament by a committee in groups of four, starting with the top four schools, followed by Nos. 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16. Teams will not be seeded, but rather each group will be randomly drawn.
The idea originated with Old Tappan coach Brian Dunn, one of the tournament committee members. He brought it before Pacciani and tournament director Mike Weaver, and the discussion that resulted with coaches was largely positive.
“My thinking was – we didn’t have a tournament last year, and this year with the COVID running around, there are some great players out there that people have never seen in a county tournament atmosphere,” Dunn said.
“If we go with the standard format, you’re risking a team maybe having to shut down and forfeit the game. Or, maybe your best player or two is not healthy, and they can’t play that day – we’d have some great kids who go two years with no county tournament, and that would be a sad thing.”
Not only do pools give teams more opportunities to play county games, they provide a chance for teams to get games on their schedule amid cancellations.
“In a typical year, a player's team would need to advance to the semifinals in order to play three tournament games,” Weaver pointed out. “Now, if there are no cancellations, every player in the 16-team field is guaranteed three tournament games over the course of 10 days.”
Pool play is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jan. 27, Saturday, Jan. 29 and Saturday, Feb. 5. The top two finishers in each pool will advance to elimination play and be seeded 1-8 by coaches of the eight teams that have been eliminated.
Should a team be unable to play due to a COVID situation, the game will be considered a loss for tournament purposes but not count toward that team’s overall record for state seeding purposes.
The quarterfinals are slated for Feb. 13, the semifinals for Feb. 20 and the final for either Feb. 23, 24 or 25. Saddle River Day is the five-time reigning champion and must go through a heightened challenge in order to defend its crown.
“In this scenario, the best teams are still going to advance,” Dunn said. “You’ve got three games, and the best teams should rise to the top. But you’ve also got a chance for a team to score an upset against someone they’re more competitively balanced with, and maybe win two out of three.”
The Bergen Invitational Tournament – comprised of teams that applied for the county championship but were not selected in the top 16 – will continue as a single-elimination event. Midland Park won the last BIT contested in 2020.
Neither the Bergen championship nor invitational took place in 2021 due to the pandemic.
Greg Tartaglia is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Bergen County girls basketball tournament going to 'World Cup' format