Regional tournaments start all over the state today. Well, not around here specifically, but that’s another gripe.
How we got to this point of the basketball season was through district tournaments that qualified four teams from two different districts, for which tournaments were seeded after play in a blended conference.
The Arkansas Activities Association started the blended conference in sports other than football this year in hopes of cutting down on travel. Of course it is less than perfect – Magazine’s trips to Hackett and Johnson County Westside were non-district game but trips to Hector and Oark weren’t – but what isn’t.
We’ll use the Magazine’s 1A-2A District 6 which had only three teams which actually played in last week’s 2A-4 West district tournament in Magazine.
Anyone on the outside looking in might like to point out that the top four seeds in boys and girls made the regional and say the system worked perfectly. There was a lone upset when three-seed Magazine beat two-seed Eureka Springs.
Even that might be written off as home court advantage.
But dig a little deeper, as in considering junior and senior high both and you’ll see that Eureka Springs, other than the third place boys game in senior high, didn’t win a single game in the two tournaments.
That is despite the Highlanders being seeded twice in the senior boys and junior girls brackets and third in the junior boys bracket.
Really, I’m not picking on the Highlanders, but ES is the reason this blended thing doesn’t work. If a school doesn’t play the other teams in their district, or only plays some, the invitation to back door deals is simply too great.
There is another problem in that there is no consistency. The 1A-2A District 6 junior high tournament was set up like a senior high bracket with the one- and two-seeds in the semifinals. Why would you do that? Sure the lower seeded teams may actually get an extra game but if you haven’t all played each other, and one of the top seeds goes to a team nobody saw, how fair is that?
On the other end of the spectrum, Booneville’s senior high tournament was set up as a straight eight bracket, meaning the top seeds could be eliminated before qualifying for regional. That makes some since if everyone hasn’t played each other, but don’t you want to send at least the two you think are the best to the regional?
But don’t just take my word for it. I haven’t found a single person – coach, media, literally anyone – who thinks this is a good arrangement.
That said, if the AAA keeps with its mantra about not making policies, only honoring the wishes of its member schools, then this blended nonsense should be one failed experiment.
One coach I spoke to during last week’s district tournament in Magazine agreed, only he said it would be even better as a one-year experiment.