SHOOTER: It is way past time to seed sectionals
The call for seeded sectionals. It is not new; not during basketball or football season.
This frog has always agreed. But after this year’s IHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament draw took place this past Sunday, I am no longer just agreeable to the idea. Instead, I think maybe we gather our pitchforks and torches and pay a visit to see IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox and Assistant Commissioner Sandra Walter. Well, verbal pitchforks anyway.
Shooter loves postseason basketball and is quite excited to head out to the first set of games next Tuesday. But, under no circumstance should Shooter be taking a Tuesday evening trip in sectional week to see what should be the championship game.
But I will. I will be at South Side High School as the (currently) 18-4 Archers face defending state champion Homestead (18-2).
Five teams make up the Class 4A sectional to be played at South Side. It would be, in Shooter’s opinion, one of the easiest sectionals in this state to seed. Homestead No. 1, South Side No. 2, Huntington North No. 3, Muncie Central No. 4, Wayne No. 5. By record, by eye test, by any measurable matter, that is how these five teams should stack up.
Yet, only one of the top three teams in the bracket will play for a title, we know that before the first tip-off is…well, tipped off. We also know that either Wayne or Muncie Central, teams with a combined 5-34 record, will play for a sectional title on Saturday night. Good luck collecting a lot of admission cash there. And no disrespect meant to Wayne or Muncie Central, but it is just common sense that you want to see the two best teams compete for the title in any tournament — it is kind of the point of tournaments.
But we all know this, right? Especially in Fort Wayne. We all know how nonsensical it is for Homestead and South Side to be on the same side of any bracket — five teams, eight teams, 64 teams — let alone playing on opening night.
So how can this change? Does it take a travesty like this in Indianapolis to get the IHSAA to take notice?
Late last fall, the idea of seeding for football was brought up with Cox, with the commish all but officially shooting it down. A proposal of such was supposed to be officially submitted this month. But that is just busy paperwork so Cox go ahead and actually officially shoot it down and we all know it. But even in football, where you want to avoid first-round matchups of two top teams, a lack of seeding can be forgivable because of the one game a week schedule. Instead, Homestead or South Side will have to win more games to win their sectional than anyone else, aside from having to go through each other to do it.
In most cases, the teams who will advance in the state tournament, be it by winning a sectional or making a state title game, would likely be the same if the field was seeded or not. Whoever wins the Homestead/South Side game on Tuesday will likely be the same team who would win it on Saturday night. But a lack of seeding disrespects what teams accomplish during the regular season. Yes, South Side earned itself Summit Athletic Conference Holiday Tournament medals in December.
But what does that mean starting Tuesday? The IHSAA is implying that it changes absolutely nothing.
Teams should be rewarded for the effort and play they put in during the regular season. Hey Homestead, you beat Northridge? Big deal. Oh South Side, you toppled Oak Hill on the road? It doesn’t matter. Rewarding these teams is simple in a seeded tournament. Rewarded with a Tuesday off in some situations, rewarded with a less physical and exhausting road to the finals in others.
Shooter is going to assume that one of the two teams I continue to reference is going to win this Class 4A sectional. They will have to get through the physical rigors of playing each other and then facing off against a tough, aggressive Huntington North team in the span of four days to reach a final against a team more than 10 games below .500. Sure, not every bracket is so egregiously mishandled, but that doesn’t change the big question with unseeded sectionals: do the first three months of the season mean anything or is it all just practice?
Outside of that, it hurts your fan base. We can debate for days on whether Fort Wayne is still a basketball city or not, but denying fans the opportunity for a true championship game doesn’t exactly endear your fan base to these sports or tournaments. Cox has to know that, doesn’t he? While Shooter will be at South Side on Tuesday, Shooter will certainly not be at South Side on Saturday for the title game, for no reason, under any circumstances. And that is a shame. None of us should know a week out whether we will or will not attend a specific title game.
It is time, whether the IHSAA likes it or not, to stop useless talking and engage in higher consideration to make changes.
To read Shooter’s girls Sectional predictions, come back to news-sentinel.com on Monday, January 29.