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Md. draw is matter of how ball bounces

February 22, 2011

The tournament seeding process in Maryland just can’t avoid being a hassle, a nuisance, a thorn or a pain in the whatever.

It has become an annual affair that the method for setting opening matchups leaves everything to be desired.

“At least now a top seed gets to play at home,” said North Hagerstown boys coach Kevin Hartman. “It never was that way in the past. I can remember you got a bye with your record and still didn’t get a home game.”

In the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association open playoff structure, only the top four seeds in each region are set. The rest of the bracket is filled by a  draw of ping pong balls, starting with the fifth seed.

The Class 1A West region is split into East and West, so there are two seeds in each section.

After those first four seeds, a team’s regular-season record has no bearing on where it is placed in the bracket.

“The process negates everything you have worked for in the last 2 1/2 months,” said Hartman.

Another negative in the MPSSAA’s process is not allowing schools to count any games that are considered “tournament, or holiday” contests as part of their season record.

“I think all games played, tournaments included, should be counted,” said Williamsport coach Scott Mowbray.

For example, let’s take Smithsburg and Brunswick in the 1A West East.

Both teams ended the regular season 11-11. However, Smithsburg went 1-2 in the North Classic. Brunswick went 0-2 in the same event. Eliminate those games and Brunswick is 11-9 and Smithsburg is 10-9 — advantage Brunswick  with a second seed in the West East while Smithsburg gets dropped into the ping pong lottery.

In Sunday’s draw, Catoctin, with a 3-17 record, got the third line and Smithsburg didn’t “pill out” until line 6. Even with a superior record, Smithsburg hits the road for Thurmont, Md., on Friday to meet the Cougars.

“It is what it is, we’ll happily go to Thurmont,” said Gerber. “I’m not exactly sure why tournament games are not counted. We play where we want and they should all count.”

Maybe teams should have uniforms for two types of games within the season.

“Maybe we’ll wear practice uniforms in the tournament games,” mused Hartman. “They should be counted. Otherwise, why bother?”

There are too many problems with the ping-pong draw and coaches would like to see every team in a region seeded, from first to last.

In addition, schools should not schedule games after the cutoff date of the draw. North Hagerstown had games scheduled against Frederick and South Hagerstown this week, and those results had no bearing on the seeding.

“The season should be completed before the draw,” said Gerber. “It makes no sense to me. I really don’t understand why all teams are not seeded. There is no reward.”

At least at the cutoff, teams would have a few days before the beginning of the tournament to heal and recharge. If necessary, a late postponement can be made up in that period.

Tim Koelble is a Herald-Mail sports writer. He can be reached at 301-791-7376 or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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