Tim Martinez: Different formula needed for regionals

Tim Martinez: High School Sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant sports editor

Published:

 

The winter sports season in Clark County is down to two high school basketball teams.

The Skyview girls will head to the Tacoma Dome for the Class 4A state tournament, where the Storm will face Gonzaga Prep of Spokane at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The Hockinson boys will head to the Yakima SunDome for the Class 2A state tournament, where the Hawks will face Lynden at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Ugh! 9 p.m. Thursday.

Not friendly for newspapers with 11 p.m. press deadlines.

Four other area teams had their seasons end last weekend in the regional phase.

And there were 92 other teams that were eliminated last weekend, which left the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association in a foul mood.

This is the fourth year since the WIAA went to the regional format for its state basketball tournaments, as the WIAA looked for ways to make the tournaments more cost-effective.

But the WIBCA says the savings came at too high a price.

I will agree that the regional format is less desirable than the first-round games of state at the Tacoma Dome, Yakima SunDome or Spokane Arena. But I'm not in a position to question how the WIAA manages its bottom line.

And I also believe the WIBCA's assertion that the WIAA places "profits ahead of people" was a bit harsh. It makes it sound like the folks at the WIAA stay warm by burning rolls of $100 bills in their Renton offices.

But adding to the coaches' frustration about the state basketball tournament is how the regional matchups were set.

Not even the WIAA can say certainly that the eight teams still alive in the various state tournaments are the eight best teams in their classifications.

Let's get one thing straight. If the goal of the WIAA seeding process is simply to determine a state champion, it works.

I don't think we've seen a team that lucked its way into a state championship.

But the problem comes when the WIAA gives out trophies for second place, third place, fourth place, fifth place, etc.

When the state tournament was a 16-team, double-elimination format, it was easier to ensure fair first-round matchups. But the regional format brings geography into play when setting matchups, and that can cause problems.

Also, with the 16-team bracket, even if a team had a rough first-round draw and lost, that team could still rally in the consolation bracket and play for a trophy. In the regional format, that possibility is gone.

So if the WIAA is going to decide that the regional format is a financial necessity, then it needs to make sure the eight teams that reach this phase of the state tournament are the eight most deserving.

And to do that, the WIAA needs to find a seeding system based more on merit than on random selection.

Now, there may not be a perfect system out there, whether you're talking about polls or computer rankings or recent history.

But just because there isn't a perfect solution does not mean the WIAA shouldn't be searching for a better solution.