The OSAA Class 5A basketball tournaments start Tuesday at Gill Coliseum. The eight best boys and girls team will compete for state titles.
It’s a fun tournament, and I usually try to find time to see a game or two each year.
But I find myself scratching my head at the process that elevates those eight boys and girls teams to Gill.
Class 5A contains 33 teams, the smallest among the OSAA’s six classes. And 24 of them, 73 percent, make the playoffs. Eight boys and girls teams received byes, while 16 more boys and girls teams participated in play-in games to advance to the round of 16.
Some of these teams came into the games with pretty lackluster records: The girls play-in round featured 9-15 St. Helens, 6-18 Putnam, 6-18 Thurston 8-16 North Eugene and 9-15 South Albany. The boys play-in sked include 5-19 Putnam, 8-16 Hood River Valley, 7-17 Ashland, 9-15 Corvallis and 8-16 Woodburn.
Predictably, none of these teams won and many of them lost by sizable margins. The four girls teams noted above lost by an average of 20 points. The five boys teams lost by an average of 18 points. But it should be noted that there were competitive games in the mix.
Why not just use a 16-team bracket, which is the model Class 5A features for football? What practical purpose does it serve to take two Putnam teams, with a combined record of 11-37, and send them out to get pummeled?
I’m focusing on Class 5A because it hits closer to home. But check out the 6A scene if you want to see real playoff bracket padding. A total of 36 of 6A’s 50 teams get in, with the lowest-ranked eight in each bracket participating in the play-in round, with the four winners taking on the final slots in a 32-team bracket. And the results were predictable: West Albany’s boys won a play-in game and then lost 92-36 to Southridge. David Douglas’ girls advanced out of the play-in pool and lost 84-23 to Southridge.
Yes, Southridge is a bit of a power, ranked No. 1 in the girls and No. 3 in the boys. But it’s hard to see how even Southridge fans could have enjoyed games which were decided by 56 and 61 points.
There has to be a better way.