For the first time in five years, the PSAC-West will have a different look to it. Seton Hill University and the University of Pittsburgh -Johnstown men’s and women’s basketball teams are leaving the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to join the PSAC.
“Slippery Rock basketball is now entering its most difficult era in its history with these additions,” men’s head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “Six schools in the conference are now able to offer the maximum scholarships under NCAA rules. The conference is already the best, and arguably the most challenging in all of Division II and it is only going to get more difficult.”
SRU women’s head coach Tanya Longo also said that the level of difficulty in the conference will be higher than ever.
“These additions keep the competition very similar,” Longo said. “It is an extremely competitive conference. Now we have two more teams that are in the upper half of Division II basketball.”
Pitt-Johnstown has held the advantage in head-to-head meetings against the Rock in their series history.
The Rock men’s team holds a 13-30 record against the Mountain Cats, but they haven’t met in a regular season game since the 2003-2004 season.
“We have scrimmaged Pitt- Johnstown one time in my five years here and they beat us,” Reynolds said. “They were the better team that day. It is going to make it very difficult playing them twice a year now.”
The Rock has had more success against Seton Hill. They hold a 2-2 all-time record against the Griffins.
Being unfamiliar with a team can make it hard to prepare for them, and the Rock will face some unfamiliarity this year dealing with teams they haven’t played in two years.
“We go see them play in person because NCAA rules allow us to scout them,” Reynolds said. “We are 2-1 against Seton Hill since I began coaching here. We won two games at home and lost one at their place.”
Like the men, the Rock women’s team hasn’t had much success against Pitt- Johnstown, but they have performed better against Seton Hill. They are 9-28 against Pitt Johnstown and 3-2 all-time against the Griffins. They have not seen either team since the 2010-2011 season.
“Both teams are going to be very different from the last time we met them,” Longo said. “They have new personnel and new coaches. When we meet these teams for the first time, we will have a lot of film on them, and by the second time we play them we will have that first meeting to evaluate. They will also have film on us which really makes the games more of a dogfight.”
The addition of the two teams will make it harder for Slippery Rock to enter the postseason.
The percentage of teams that qualify for the conference tournament has now dropped from 75 percent to 66 percent.
Also new to the PSAC this year are the changes to conference records. Beginning this year only games played against PSAC-West opponents will count towards conference records for PSAC-West members, the same will go for PSAC-East members.
“Every game is the biggest game of the year,” Reynolds said. “We are one of the only conferences where all of the teams don’t get in. Why every team doesn’t make the conference tournament is one of the most confusing things I have dealt with since I’ve been here. Giving each team the opportunity for a March dream is what makes March madness such a special thing.”
The women’s team will be fighting this season for their first winning season in ten years.
The addition of their new competitors and the changes to conference records are a concern for Longo.
“Only games against West teams dictate who makes the conference tournament and those 16 games are vital,” Longo said. “The percentage of teams that make the postseason went down slightly which puts even more pressure on each game.”
With the addition of two new teams into the PSAC-West for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, the competitiveness of the conference will be at an all-time high. The added competition will help the teams become better and overall help the PSAC-West maintain a solid reputation among Division II conferences.