Sanford Pentagon Tournament Series inside look

One of the new elements of this 2013 AAU season was the Sanford Pentagon Tournament Series (SPTS).  With favorable reviews by the league members, I decided to take a deeper look into the league.  I had the opportunity to talk to league director Paul Seville to get some inside background on the league.

The Basics
The intent of the league was along the lines of the Nike EYBL.  EYBL member Howard Pulley and previous member All Iowa Attack had started discussions about having a league of teams from the upper midwest.  The Schoolers then ended up in the discussions.  After the possibility of 2 leagues, eventually the league ended up with 17 members.  3 teams backed out and gave the league its current 14 team membership.  Half of the teams are Minnesota based with other members from Iowa, both Dakotas and Wisconsin.  That includes top teams from Select, Heat, Comets, EOTO and Fury which explains why those teams haven't been as visible locally as they have been in past years.  The schedule is a round robin against all 13 teams with the top 8 advancing to the championship bracket.  The 1st 5 games were played at All Iowa Attack in the April open period. MN Select hosted the 2nd round of the event at their local tournament in May.  The Dakota Schoolers are hosting the final week and championships this weekend in the Sioux Falls area.

The Benefits
There were very interesting points made about the benefits of the league
  • Eliminating duplication of opponents.  All of these Minnesota teams would see each other a ton, 2 Comets events, state tournament, Kings of the Court, Jayhawk, at least 1 of the D1 Minnesota tournaments.   Now many of those duplicate games are eliminated.  Playing a team twice in a season is enough, more than that gets old for the kids and coaches.
  • A place to take all your teams.  One of the focuses of the league was to get organizations that had teams at all levels. As opposed to the EYBL which only has Howard Pulley's top team, an organization can have their top 15s, 16s and 17s all in the league.  Makes a director's life far easier for scheduling.
  • Along those same lines, these organizations were able to take their 2nd teams and play against 2nd teams.  Ditto that for 3rd teams.  This means you have teams playing like competition many weeks rather than being stuck in a pool week after week with a top team and not having success.
  • Similar to the point above and to the EYBL, you have teams with reasonably similar talent participating.  That makes for mostly competitive games week in and week out.  That's more enjoyable and more valuable to all the teams involved.  Its the old argument of quality vs quantity.  Better to play fewer games and have them all be quality then a bunch of blowout games from the standard pool play format of most tournaments.
  • One of things Nike talked about with the EYBL was the importance of every game and how big it was to win.  The same is true here as each game goes on the standings.  However, a very interesting point was that not having that bracket game and loss made a loss in a league game far more manageable.  Losing didn't mean losing a tournament, you had more league games to make it up.   Keeps parents happy when you're going home not "losing" a tournament.
  • Costs - Sanford covered the entry fee for all the teams.  Tournament expenses are a large chunk of the AAU budget and when it covers that much of a team's schedule, that's a huge benefit.  
  • The Sanford Pentagon.  For those not aware, Sanford is building a brand new basketball palace known as the Sanford Pentagon.  That will open this fall and host the league championships in future years.  The championships on a D1 college level court make it something for all the players to strive for.
This Weekend
This weekend wraps up the first season of the league.  The teams will play their final 3 games of the round-robin schedule.  The top 8 teams will then advance to the championship bracket.  The Minnesota Comets Lewis 17s and the Dakota Schoolers Vincent 15s have run the table thus far in league play.  But once bracket play starts anything can happen.    The pressure on those teams that did well in the regular season schedule will be a major factor to watch.  As always, it will come down to matchups as well.  All of the NSIC, the 4 D1 Dakota schools and Northern Iowa all expected to attend.  A crew of 10-20 D1 schools are expected to attend.

2 comments:

  1. Love the concept and the execution of the league this year. It would be nice to see if and how the league grows in years to come. Perhaps they'll even allow some of the small and independent teams/clubs join without placing teams at every grade level. Kudos to Pulley, Schoolers, and AIA for spearheading the effort.

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  2. This kind of information is of great value for parents thrust into basketball by a child who has interest and talent. It can be a daunting decision and sorting through options confusing. Thanks for this. I even think there is a market for a workshop or presentation targeted to parents of middle school players trying to figure out where to put their time and money.

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