Washington bracketology is about staying close to home
Bracketology is always interesting.
Doesn’t matter if it’s trying to figure out why the NCAA basketball selection committee made one team a 12 seed and another a 5 seed, when the 12’s record and schedule was better than the 5’s. Or why they sent Duquesne University (don’t ask why I picked them, I just did) from Pennsylvania to the West Region, and University of California-Davis to the Southeast Region.
Figuring out how playoff-bracketing works is always interesting, at all levels. Take the upcoming Washington 2A boys soccer bracket — please. Little Henny Youngman there for those who know who he is — was.
According to the May 20 Seattle Times 4A, 3A, 2A poll, Cheney is the top ranked team in the state, with Squalicum High School in Bellingham second and Capital (moving up to 3A next year) from Olympia third. Pullman is 10th while the Blackhawks’ first-round opponent May 21, Othello from the Central Washington Athletic Conference, is unranked.
If you were doing a 16-team bracket that sought a championship match up between the top-two ranked teams, Cheney would be on the bottom line of the 16-team bracket, making them the home team as long as they kept winning, and Squalicum would be on the top line. That’s not the case.
Cheney is on the bottom line all right, but in the top eight portion of the bracket, with Squalicum facing unranked Sumner in the upper four slots of the top bracket. If both teams win through the first two rounds, No. 1 and No. 2 would square off in the early 2A semifinal game May 30 in Sumner.
That’s if you were using state rankings, which officials at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association do not.
“It’s strictly seeds coming out of districts,” WIAA sports and activities information director Connor Laffey said.
It’s partly that. The main reason, or one of them, is to limit traveling distances and times as much as possible, Laffey said. That keeps Westside and Eastside teams from meeting until the semifinals and finals.
Just for grins, I took a look at the Times rankings to determine who the final 11-16 teams might be. Based upon record in the poll’s “On the Bubble” listing, they are Othello (11), Ridgefield (12), Hockinson (13), Orting (14), Toppenish (15) and Sumner, (16).
Granted, it would be a long trip for the Spartans to make the journey to Cheney. I know, I’ve made the reverse trip, but it’s not as long as from Ridgefield, near Battle Ground, to Cheney — a trip the Spudders took in the first round of the 2009 state tournament.
As did the Bellingham Red Raiders in the quarterfinals the following week, losing to the Blackhawks 2-1 as Cheney advanced to its second-straight 2A title game. And whom did they lose too?
Yep, Squalicum, 4-2.
There are state athletic associations that use state rankings to determine playoff seeding and match ups. For one, Oregon, and having traveled that state extensively, there are some remote areas and long distances.
“If that means team “A” makes a five-hour trip to Umatilla, so be it,” Laffey said.
So as much as sportswriters and fans would like to see a potential title game match up of one versus two, the aspect of limiting travel is smart, not only economically but also physically for the athletes, and logistically. The less time on the road in a school bus, the safer they likely will be.
Not that school buses are unsafe, far from it.
In a way it might work out for Cheney, should they advance to the second round. Not that rankings are a true measure of how good a team is – at this stage, as Blackhawks head coach Mark Kiver said Sunday night, “they’re all good” — but Cheney’s portion of the bracket contains just four of the top 10 teams.
But it all could be moot as you read this. There are many other reasons a team makes the final state 16, and none of them carry a 1, 2, 10 or unranked listing.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.