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Right now, there's no payoff with playoffs

February 28, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

This time of year brings about the usual inadequacies in prep basketball playoff systems.

Friday night, Boonsboro and Smithsburg played one another in a first round Maryland Class 1A West contest - a game that never would have been an early matchup if the Maryland playoff system was correct.

For some background, the top four teams in a region are seeded and the remaining schools - in this case nine other schools - are drawn out of a hat and placed onto the bracket.

Boonsboro received the No. 2 seed in the East section (Catoctin was No. 1). In the West section, Southern Garrett and Fort Hill were No. 1 and No. 2. In the overall bracket, those four schools were considered the top seeds.

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Smithsburg wasn't drawn until No. 7 and was placed on that slot on the bracket, which locked the Leopards into the road game at Boonsboro.

These were two teams with mighty records - Boonsboro 17-3 and Smithsburg 13-5 at the draw. Keep in mind, the records used to determine seeds don't include holiday tournament games, another ridiculous rule.

At the same time, Clear Spring received a home game against Hancock in the open draw. The Blazers received the No. 4 position by the draw that rewarded its 2-16 record; Hancock carried a 6-12 record into the draw and got the No. 5 slot. Both were higher positions than Smithsburg.

"It's discouraging under this system to have to play on the road, no less against the highest seed in the section," said Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes. "You've got one of the best records and you get the worst seed."

To the MPSSAA, here's the remedy as has been stated before:

First, put Catoctin and Brunswick into the South Region. There are only seven schools playing in that region, so there are NO first-round games and one school - Southside - gets two byes, straight to the semifinals.

By moving those two schools, the Class 1A West region is reduced to 11 schools, while the South Region increases to nine. At the same time, it eliminates the need to split the West region into two sections.

"Basketball is the only sport you don't have to travel early in the tournament," said Fowkes.

When it comes to the draw, the MPSSAA has to do one of two things.

It can stick with the top four seeds, that's fine. But, when the other names are drawn, the school should have an option of where it's placed in the bracket.

Or, all teams should be seeded by record and directly placed on the predetermined lines.

"They don't count all the games played, so what do we play a regular season for?" said Fowkes. "And we don't even get a home game."

That's another problem. Tournament games should be played at neutral sites.

And don't think Fowkes is the only coach smoldering. Others join him in the Tri-State area.

Even in Pennsylvania, Chambersburg girls coach Brad Rideout had nothing to do but clean out lockers when the Trojans finished the regular season at 12-12. The PIAA requires a school to finish .500 in order to participate in the district tournaments, but the Trojans' record excluded games against anyone from outside of the Keystone state. Therefore, their victory over Martinsburg was not counted, knocking the Trojans out of the state pairings.

After the win over Martinsburg, Rideout said, "It's ridiculous, with the competition we play, that you lose by this rule."

Don't think Boonsboro coach Max Shaffer cared one way or the other about facing Smithsburg on Friday.

"It's just too bad this game has to happen right away," he said.

At least in Maryland and West Virginia, all schools get an opportunity to play one tournament game. Everyone starts 0-0. Not in Pennsylvania.

And where else but in Pennsylvania can you lose a game in the district tournament, get through the consolation rounds and still get to the state tournament in Hershey. Far too much basketball in a short postseason time frame there.

Greencastle played West York on Monday night, but don't fret. If the Blue Devils lose, they've still got another game Thursday for the right to advance to a March 10 date in Hershey.

The PIAA needs to eliminate the consolation round and allow all of its schools to participate in the state tournament. Common sense is simple. You win, you go on; You lose, you're done.

After all, the organization doesn't necessarily heed its .500-or-better record to participate. Because it doesn't have enough Class A schools in District 3, several schools, such as Scotland, were able to participate.

Shouldn't there be a level playing field everywhere?




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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