Read the message boards, sports writers’ blogs or talk to coaches, players and fans, and not many people are happy with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s version of this year’s state basketball tournament.
There are still 16 teams going to state, just that they are spread out at four regional sites per classification for boys and girls.
Oh, and there isn’t much rhyme or reason as to where teams go. From Evergreen (Vancouver) playing in Richland, to Cleveland (Seattle) playing in Spokane, to Class 1A Puyallup’s Cascade Christian’s boys playing in Snohomish and its girls playing in Yakima, the WIAA has made a lot of folks unhappy with this switch.
According to the Seattle Times the reason for the switch from a four-day state tournament, to a two-weekend state tournament is to save operating costs and to try and boost attendance at state games held in regional locations.
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While I’m not as invested in the old tournament as most fans — it helps that I just moved here in September, and because when I was in high school at Lake Washington, well, we didn’t exactly make state very often — I do think the setup is ridiculous.
Not only is it causing fans and teams to travel on potentially dangerous winter roads, it is also the only sport in the state where a team can now lose its first round game and still win the state title.
For example, say the Chiawana girls defeat Lewis & Clark tonight. Chiawana would get a bye into the quarterfinals, while Lewis & Clark would play the Gonzaga Prep-Evergreen winner Saturday for a berth in the quarters.
If Lewis & Clark wins that game, it is onto Tacoma, where the Tigers would be three victories from a state title and two victories from a possible rematch with Chiawana.
While many folks are hoping the WIAA will see this season as a one-year folly and return to the old way of having a 16-team double elimination tournament, I have a different proposal.
How about having Class 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B go back to the old way and have Class 3A and 4A play a 16-team, single elimination tournament.
If the WIAA wants to create excitement, then do away with the double-elimination format for the big schools. I can’t imagine too many teams really care after they suffer a loss at state. What fans want to get up at 9 a.m. to watch a consolation game? I know I wouldn’t, even if I was getting paid to cover it.
The tournament would go back to being four days in Tacoma, but the state wouldn’t have to worry about providing workers for meaningless placing games. And teams could go back to playing for the only trophy that matters — a state title. Everyone isn’t a winner and awarding trophies for third-to-eighth place is rather meaningless anyway.
No matter what happens, the WIAA needs to rethink this year’s approach because it just doesn’t work.