State Tournament time is underway and so is the annual complaining of how an imperfect system isn’t perfect even though the system is exactly what many were wanting only a few short years ago. The biggest complaint is that some teams are playing mostly or all of their league opponents at the state tournament.

While this is not ideal this is what everyone that complained about the old system wanted. They didn’t want geography and other “rules” come into play when deciding the final 16. It was supposed to be 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15 and so on regardless of who the teams were, where they were located and who was in their league or district because that was the fairest system. No consideration for anything else simply how whichever system whether it be a computer, a popular vote or a human committee list them 1-16 and that’s it.

Why was this the big move? Well under the old system there were many rules for the early rounds of tournaments such as teams cannot play teams from their own league or district. Travel was considered along with other criteria that was based on things “off” the field of play.

Then there was the “big incident”. In 2A boys basketball one year when 2 #1 seeds in their districts and were the AP top 2 teams both stunningly lost in their district tournament which forced them into facing each other in a winner to state, loser out Regional game. Mark Morris would beat Lynden and both were favored to meet in the Championship game not a loser out Regional.

The outcry was deafening and it was time for a change. By the way, Mark Morris lost their 1st 2 games at state and did not place that year. But that didn’t matter the outrage had picked up too much steam. It makes no sense to schedule opponents in state tournaments based on anything off the field or court. Had another system been in place Lynden and Mark Morris would have never met in a loser out round at least against each other.

Let’s be clear, this was the example that pushed the WIAA into looking at changes and we don’t want anyone to think that either Lynden or Mark Morris were out there pounding the table for change, if they were they were with a whole lot of people.

So changes began. The introduction to RPI, computer rankings and other measurements have come into play such as how to credit for playing out of state teams or in tournaments all the way to now, each team sport has a human selection committee. The committee’s task is to rank teams 1-16 or 1-12 or 1-20 depending on the size of the state tournament.

Things they consider are all those other tools such as RPI, computer rankings when necessary down to discussing if injuries had impacted a team and they were now healthy or other issues that may have been a reason for what seemed like an odd win or loss. Humans talking can now gather all the information and come up with their list.

This means that teams who have already played each other can very well see those teams again especially if you have 5 entries into a 16 team tournament before the semi-final round. No longer can things like you just played this team in the district tournament are considered as they were under the old system.

Now the question of how the selection committees are doing in this task is the question. We have been watching and written several stories and graded each selection committee. Last year was the first year the committees were used for all sports other than football. Football was the first and the selection committees have been very good if you measure how many times a top 4 team has won it all.

The football committee has been the most successful but that committee benefits the most from the amount of coverage the sport gets, exposure both in season and in the off season and to experience tools like RPI and computer rankings. The other committees are doing this only for the 2nd time. Of course there are mistakes but there are also teams that simply play at a different level than they had shown both good and bad. This leads to upsets and imperfect brackets.

The move was made to this system for many reasons and if you agreed with the change from the multiple criteria that limited which teams could face each other despite regular season records then you’re going to get some of these results or match-ups and they are going to be more in some years and less in others.

We believe the selection committee is the best and don’t have an issue with that change. But to be honest we don’t have a problem with the selection committees taking some of the old criteria into their final considerations either. We believe they are still learning their own process and they will all get better each time they go through this process.

But anyone expecting to perfect this exercise just wants to cry foul or complain. This is an impossible task but can they get better and more consistent? Yes I think they can and will get better…much better in fact. But man I hope they don’t get too good, I’d hate to see the day we never get to root for a 14 seed.



By paulb

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