One man’s proposal: Seed the 16 teams

A column I wrote, which will be online sometime Thursday and/or in Friday’s paper, goes deeper into my reasoning for this proposal. Bottom line: I do not care for the regional format, but I understand why the WIAA likely will not be returning to the old system. (Costs and other factors.)

But this blog entry will show, in detail, what the brackets could have looked like this year.

If we cannot return to the 16-team, double-elimination tournament at one site, let’s do away with “regional” sites altogether and just reward the better teams with home games or at least games close to home. Once the 16 teams qualify for state, use a computer system to seed the 16 teams.

Can’t use media polls. (Very few of us actually see any teams outside of our areas during the regular season.)

Don’t need a blue-ribbon panel. (Can you imagine the WIAA meeting at 2 a.m. Sunday after all the district playoff games on Saturday, trying to come up with the seeds? You think the coaches are mad now?)

Use a computer system. One that can be explained. One that coaches could (mostly) understand. And one that can be tweaked year to year when problems arise.

For sake of this exercise, I asked the popular Score Czar to send me his rankings for all the teams that reached the state regional round of 16. Here are the matchups for 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A boys and girls that would have happened this season under this plan, as well as some comments regarding these matchups vs. what really happened. (The Class 2A boys tourney and the Class 1A girls tourney are real head-scratchers.)

4A Boys
(16) Gig Harbor vs. (1) Federal Way
(9) Curtis vs. (8) Woodinville
(12) Kentridge vs. (5) Kentwood
(13) Cascade vs. (4) Richland
(14) Jackson vs. (3) Issaquah
(11) Davis vs. (6) Camas
(10) Moses Lake vs. (7) Central Valley
(15) Timberline vs. (2) Union

Two of these fictional matchups actually happened in the 4A regionals. Issaquah beat Jackson and Moses Lake topped Central Valley. … Curtis, which led No. 2 Union for most of its regional game, would have preferred playing Woodinville, don’t ya think? … Gig Harbor is at the bottom of the 4A rankings among the 16 teams but did make it to the elite eight. Gig Harbor beat Kentridge, the 11th-best team, according to the computer formula. The NCAA certainly would not give a 16-seed a first-round game against an 11-seed. … By this stage of the game, who cares if teams from the same district play each other? Kentridge vs. Kentwood would probably be a big game in Kent!

3A Boys
(16) Marysville-Pilchuck vs. (1) Rainier Beach
(9) Foss vs. (8) Columbia River
(12) Rogers of SpokaneĀ  vs. (5) Seattle Prep
(13) Kennedy Catholic vs. (4) Eastside Catholic
(14) Lincoln vs. (3) Garfield
(11) Stanwood vs. (6) Wilson
(10) Kennewick vs. (7) Lakeside of Seattle
(15) Glacier Peak vs. (2) Bellevue

The battle of the Catholic schools in the 13-4 game! … Columbia River ended up losing its last three games after qualifying for state. Still, River’s strong season would have been good enough for an 8-seed in this formula, avoiding No. 1 Rainier Beach for at least one game. Instead, the “regional” format sent River against Rainier Beach in the first round. … Just like in the 4As, the 16th-ranked team of these 16 teams made it to the quarterfinals. This time, by beating the 10th-ranked team. There also was a 13 vs. an 11 in the 3A boys tourney last week.

2A Boys
(16) Fife vs. (1) Mark Morris
(9) East Valley of Yakima vs. (8) Tumwater
(12) Centralia vs. (5) River Ridge
(13) Wapato vs. (4) Sammamish
(14) White River vs. (3) Lynden
(11) Squalicum vs. (6) Anacortes
(10) Sehome vs. (7) Washington
(15) Olympic vs. (2) Clarkson

This one just hurts. It crushes the soul of a sports fan. Above looks like a fine bracket. In reality, we got: Mark Morris vs. Lynden (1 vs. 3) and Clarkson vs. Sammamish (2 vs. 4). Sorry, but that’s D-U-M-M dumb. On the flip side, we also had a 16 vs. an 8, an 11 vs. 14, and a 15 vs. 9. Remember, all 16 teams that earned the right to this stage are good basketball teams. But if a team struggled for some of the year and turned into the 15th or 16th best team of this bunch, that team should not be rewarded by playing another team with a similar ranking. Why? Because that means the really strong teams are playing each other. Lynden and Sammamish are ranked 3 and 4 in this scenario. Both lost in the first round, not by being upset, but by losing to teams ranked higher than them. That’s just wrong. … By the way, this is not meant as a knock on Olympic (15) or Fife (16). Both teams made it to the elite eight. Under my plan, they both would have had an opportunity to still get to the elite eight. They just would not have had as easy of draws. And Lynden and Sammamish would have had easier draws.

1A Boys
(16) Kalama vs. (1) King’s
(9) La Center vs. (8) Seattle Academy
(12) Chelan vs. (5) Overlake
(13) Charles Wright vs. (4) Lynden Christian
(14) Naches Valley vs. (3) Vashon Island
(11) King’s Way Christian vs. (6) Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls
(10) Riverside vs. (7) La Salle
(15) Castle Rock vs. (2) Zillah

That would be one heckuva road trip for King’s Way Christian. That certainly is an incentive to win in the district tournament. … Castle Rock came in to this ranked 15th. Instead of playing a 2-seed, the Rockets got a 5-seed AND still won. So again, the rankings are just a place to seed the games. Teams can still prove themselves on the court. … In reality, there was a No. 14 seed vs. a No. 12 seed in the regionals. Why? Because those schools weren’t too far away from each other? That’s not a way to run a tournament.

4A Girls
(16) Timberline vs. (1) Todd Beamer
(9) Curtis vs. (8) Skyview
(12) Olympia vs. (5) Moses Lake
(13) Camas vs. (4) Gonzaga Prep
(14) Bothell vs. (3) Inglemoor
(11) Snohomish vs. (6) Kentlake
(10) Walla Walla vs. (7) Monroe
(15) Wenatchee vs. (2) Bellarmine Prep

A couple things stand out here: There was a 14 vs. an 11 in the real world, and a 10 vs. a 15. The 10-15 matchup appears to have been determined by travel restrictions. Again, if two double-digit seeds are playing one another, that means two better teams are facing each other in the first round.

3A Girls
(16) Shadle Park vs. (1) Lynnwood
(9) Arlington vs. (8) Glacier Peak
(12) Mercer Island vs. (5) Bellevue
(13) Central Kitsap vs. (4) Wilson
(14) Sumner vs. (3) Bishop Blanchet
(11) Juanita vs. (6) Cleveland
(10) Lincoln vs. (7) Prairie
(15) Kamiakin vs. (2) West Seattle

Interesting, very interesting. The top seven teams in the computer rankings made it to the elite eight. The No. 9 team also joined the elite eight. Arlington got to play the 16-seed in the round of 16. The No. 8 seed? Glacier Peak had to play a No. 6 in that round. Again, why?

2A Girls
(16) Sehome vs. (1) Mark Morris
(9) Burlington-Edison vs. (8) East Valley of Spokane
(12) Pullman vs. (5) Black Hills
(13) Blaine vs. (4) Ellensburg
(14) Olympic vs. (3) White River
(11) Sammamish vs. (6) Lynden
(10) River Ridge vs. (7) Liberty of Issaquah
(15) North Kitsap vs. (2) W.F. West

In reality, an 11-seed faced a 16-seed in this classification. And a 6 beat a 5. Pretty sure Black Hills would have preferred hosting Pullman. Not saying Black Hills would have won that game, but by this computer ranking, Black Hills earned a better draw than it received. There was also a 10 vs. 12 in this game. Oh, and in that game, a team from Lacey went to Cheney to play basketball. See? Teams can travel. And win, too.

1A Girls
(16) Colville vs. (1) Kalama
(9) Granger vs. (8) Cashmere
(12) Bellevue Christian vs. (5) Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls
(13) Naches Valley vs. (4) Lynden Christian
(14) Seattle Academy vs. (3) Montesano
(11) Zillah vs. (6) La Center
(10) Nooksack Valley vs. (7) Cascade Christian
(15) Kiona-Benton vs. (2) King’s

Similar to the 2A boys. This one is heart-breaking. The No. 1 team lost to the No. 2 team in the real world. No. 3 lost to No. 4. And No. 6 lost to No. 7. That’s ridiculous. On the flip side, No. 12 beat No. 14, No. 9 beat No. 10, and No. 11 beat No. 16. … This is also a good time to note that not everyone agreed on the No. 1 team in the state this season. The computer had Kalama. The media poll had King’s and Montesano fighting for the top spot. Here’s the point: none of these teams would have faced each other in the first round of state.

The computer is not perfect. It is a reflection of the strongest teams. And all we are trying to do here is see that the best teams do not face each other in the first round of state.

As an added bonus, if the WIAA ever does return to a 16-team bracket, we could still use the computer seeding formula. (If Rainier Beach and Bellevue are truly No. 1 and No. 2 in the 3A boys tourney, they should be on opposite sides of the bracket. Instead, they face each other in Thursday’s quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome. Doh!)

I think I’ll go slam my head against my computer now.

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