PAUL VALENCIA: Up-and-down season for basketball rankings

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

God bless the Seattle Times. And the Tacoma News Tribune. And any other organization that puts together state rankings for high school basketball.

Our friends up north do a fantastic job of trying to make sure all regions are represented. They take the time to call other media outlets and coaches throughout the state to gain more insight.

In other words, they are not just looking at records and throwing up a list. They aren’t just giving more weight to Seattle- or Tacoma-area teams.

So you will have to forgive those newspapers if they are a bit confused by what is going on in Southwest Washington.

The Union boys basketball team started high in the Seattle Times’ rankings. Then the Titans had a couple of early losses.

Evergreen began the season at No. 9, had a hot start and jumped to the No. 2 spot, and since then has been struggling. The Plainsmen are no longer in the top 10, yet remain a team to “keep an eye on.”

Mountain View, meanwhile, began the season as a team to watch in the 3A ranks. In fact, the Thunder were there before Columbia River was a team to watch.

So what has been going on? How about a little chaos?

It is a bit difficult to follow, but all these good teams are beating up each other.

Evergreen started 7-0, including wins over Mountain View and Columbia River. But then the Plainsmen lost by a bunch to Union.

Union had earlier lost by 24 points to Mountain View. Then they crushed Evergreen by 22 points. After Christmas vacation, the Titans came back to league play with a 31-point victory over Battle Ground, another team that started the season as a team to watch.

Mountain View lost in double-overtime to Battle Ground and by two points to Evergreen back in December. (Close games? Imagine that.) Then again, the Thunder also dominated Union.

Which leads us to Columbia River. The Chieftains now are a team to keep an eye on, but they were the last of this bunch to be put in that category. And all they did last week was beat Mountain View by 20.

What does it mean? Not sure, other than this is as good as witnessing a double-rainbow.

It’s one thing to have a bunch of really good teams that have the potential to go on long playoff runs. But what makes this a strange season is all the blowouts these good teams have had against each other.

Remember football season when we had a bunch of games end with the running clock? Well, most of those were great teams against struggling teams. Yet here in basketball, we’ve had 20-point-plus blowout wins from Union over top-notch 4A GSHL competition, Mountain View over that 4A GSHL leader, and now Columbia River over Mountain View. These are the games that are supposed to be close.

This makes the rest of the season difficult to forecast. Is Columbia River really 20 points better than Mountain View?

Nope. Not even Columbia River coach David Long thinks that. He said last week’s large margin of victory was a combination of the Chieftains playing really well while catching the Thunder on an off night. He does not expect another blowout victory the second time the two teams play each other.

So as of this week, the Seattle Times has Union at No. 9 — the only 4A GSHL team in the top 10. Evergreen is in the for-your-consideration group. In the 3A ranks, Columbia River and Mountain View are in that next group, as well.

The Associated Press will release its first state rankings on Wednesday.

We will all find out how it plays out. The rankings are for fun, anyway. They are not used for any seeding purposes in the postseason. Just bragging rights.

By the end of the season, the only bragging rights that matter are the teams with the league and/or district, and state championships. When Union won the state title in 2010, it went into the tournament unranked.

Yet, on the way to state this season, it sure would be cool to see some close games between the best of Southwest Washington.

Here’s hoping the second half of the season brings us buzzer beaters and drama, thrills and heartbreak.

You know, basketball.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com.