Seeding of the tournaments is coming

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — As soon as the brackets for the girls state basketball tournament came out, a friend of mine sent me a simple but pointed message.

It read: “Still don’t want to seed the tournaments, Rog?”

He and I have gone round and round about the concept of taking the top two teams in each sectional and positioning them in opposite brackets. The concept is that, while you can never guarantee anything in high school sports, you give the two ‘best’ teams the ‘best’ chance of playing in the championship on Saturday night.

With that, then, would be the thought that you have the best chance of having a competitive game in the championship.

My friend sent me that message because I have been against seeding the top teams (or any number of teams) in the past, and the fact that Warsaw plays Northridge in the first game of the first round of the tournament next Tuesday on the Lady Raiders’ home court doesn’t change that at all.

I prefer the blind draw.

My friend would seed the top two teams and then fill the rest of the brackets with the ping pong-ball style draw that they use now.

The philosophy behind my stance is simple: the fewer human hands involved, the better the integrity of the tournament is maintained.

If you seed the top two schools in each sectional, what’s the first part in that process? Someone has to sit down and figure out who deserves to be the top seed and who deserves the number-2 seed.

You might think that it shouldn’t be that difficult, but it would not be easy at all.

In the 4A sectional at Northridge, it’s four NLC teams and two NIC teams. They pretty much all play each other in the regular season, but this year Warsaw and Elkhart don’t play. So, how would we match them up? We couldn’t.

In other sectionals in other classes, teams are so spread out geographically that they play completely different schedules. A 3A team, for example, might have a 11-11 record at the end of the regular season but played a very tough schedule made up of 3A and 4A schools. Another 3A team in the same sectional might be 18-4 but play a lot of smaller and weaker schools mixed in with schools their own size. How do you sort that out?

Do the coaches vote?

Do coaches from other sectionals vote on your sectional seedings and you vote on theirs?

Do we use the Sagarin Ratings computer matrix to decide who the top two are?

This all leaves open the possibility of politics and manipulation being part of the equation. We can’t have that.

We must protect against that.

But, enough coaches and the right coaches will get an unfavorable draw and bring the matter to the IHSAA. I think the association would go with that and seed the top two teams to improve attendance at Saturday’s games because of people outside the two schools’ fanbases wanting to see a good game. It may not be in place for next year, but I think some version of a seeded tournament for all of the sports could become the law of the land
within five years.

For me, a bigger issue is the significant advantage that host schools have in these tournaments.

I have said before and I say here again, I believe that the IHSAA should have one team in each sectional written on the bracket in pen before the rest of the ping balls get sucked up the shoot—the host school.

The host school doesn’t have to get on a bus and drive to their most important games of the season. Because of the distance between some schools in some sectionals and the host school, kids are on buses for more than two hours round-trip for one game. If you follow that out, that’s six hours on the bus just for that week.

The solution would be that the host school has to play three games (or matches or whatever) to advance out of their own sectional.

In this model, the host school would never get a bye. For basketball, for example, the host school would have to play a game on Tuesday.

I also think that it’s only fair that the host school play the last game of each night.
Getting kids home at a decent hour when they have class the next day should be a concern for the governing body of Indiana high school sports. It is “education-based athletics” after all.

And, for sports like baseball and softball that give very clear rules advantages to the home teams on the scoreboard, I would make it so that any game the host school plays in, they would automatically be the visiting team and their opponent would bat last.
But, back to where we started, seeding the tournament is not worth the trouble and controversy that would be stirred up.

But some day, I am sure it will happen.