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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The state high school basketball tournaments are a work in progress and might stay that way for a while

Northwest Christian reacts after defeating Mossy Rock in a WIAA 2B state basketball game on Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Northwest Christian reacts after defeating Mossy Rock in a WIAA 2B state basketball game on Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • No matter what happens with the Washington State high school basketball tournaments, it seems as if someone, or some group, is always unhappy. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to keep trying to fix them. Read on.

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• Not all that long ago, the state’s high school basketball tournaments featured 16 teams in a double-elimination, long-weekend format. They started on a Wednesday and finished on Saturday night. The long-time set-up made the players and coaches happy. But the empty stands – especially in the loser-out games – and declining revenues sadden the WIAA, the state’s governing body that relies on the income to keep its operations going. So changes were made. The regional concept, with eight teams advancing to the last weekend – now a Thursday-through-Saturday tournament – seemed to be a good compromise, but the basketball coaches in the state, and lots of fans, haven’t been happy with the arrangement. The money issue means the old 16-team, one-weekend format is never coming back, so the past few years have been filled with proposals and counter-proposals attempting to “fix” the problem. Now the WIAA has engaged everyone, it seems, with a stake in the matter and has come up with a new plan. Greg Lee describes it in this story today. Basically, it involves splitting the state tournament into two weekends, with 16 teams starting the first weekend in single-elimination regional games. The Friday/Saturday games would winnow down the field to four, which would meet the next weekend in a double-elimination weekend, determining the top four places. It’s a plan, all right, but would it work? And would it be an improvement on the current setup, which includes regional play and a three-day state tournament? Part of the fun of the old 16-team state tournament was the week-long feel. Yes, it was just four days but teams in the tournament left school on Tuesday, traveled to the site and played Wednesday and Thursday (and Friday and Saturday if they kept winning). It was special. The current format kept some of that, even though the round of 16 is the weekend before at not-so-special sites, basically high schools where the rent is less. The Thursday-through-Saturday tournament allowed the state competition to retain a little of its special nature, something that will be lost if its just a weekend affair. But talking about “special nature” and the like is a bit nebulous. There are some concrete issues to work out. Part of the dissatisfaction with the current format revolves around the regional games and the feeling they are just another game in another high school gym. The new plan would seemingly change that – but add other problems. For example, the State B tournaments are in the Arena. One weekend is locked down for the event, and the building’s main tenant, the Chiefs, yield it with an eye on being good citizens. But they aren’t about to give up back-to-back weekends. And they shouldn’t be asked to. Their season is important too. So where do you hold the regional games the weekend before in this town? The only facilities you can really count on are the high schools. The colleges, from Gonzaga to Eastern to Whitworth to CCS, have their own schedules to worry about. Committing a year in advance is tough. The same thing would happen all over the state, ensuring the regional round would probably be at a neutral site, sure, but not one of the special places the state coaches have wanted for years. Just as it is now. And four less teams will make it to that special, final weekend. Yes, I know the devil – and the angel – is in the details, but, as I look at it today, I’m not sure the idea being floated is really an improvement. But there is one element of change that is easy to support. The state is investigating the idea of seeding the tournament via a computer program. Hello 21st Century. It’s nice to have you join us. Many states have done this a while. Instead of having a blind draw with archaic rules, oftentimes ensuring the true state title game is held in the first round, the 16-team tournament would be seeded in an attempt to have the best matchups possible in the final games. No matter what happens to the rest of the format, this is a change that needs to happen. It won’t be perfect but it will be markedly better than the outdated way it is done now.

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• WSU: The Cougar baseball team has figured out a new use for an old technology. Jacob Thorpe has the story. ... The defensive line lost a lot to graduation. So what’s new? WSU will be more than functional at that position next year if the past is any indication. ... Dom Williams spent a day hoping to get drafted. It didn’t happen. Stefanie Loh tells us how it how went.

• Gonzaga: A guard is leaving the Zags women’s basketball team. But another is on the way. Jim Allen has the story of Kacie Bosch transferring home and a commitment GU received yesterday. ... For the second consecutive day, the Bulldogs won a game against Oregon in Eugene. That puts a damper on the Ducks’ postseason chances. ... Speaking of chances, what are the chances BYU leaves the WCC for the Big 12?

• EWU: Montana State thought it had its new athletic director. Then the fellow the Bobcats hired changed his mind.

• Whitworth: Not only did the Pirates earn an NCAA at-large softball berth, they also earned the opportunity to host. Tom Clouse has the story. ... The golf team is off to a slow start in the NCAA tournament.

• Chiefs: The WHL finals look to be going Brandon’s way. It won its third consecutive 3-2 overtime game. ... Portland seems to be keeping its coach.

• Empire: The two best teams in the IFL meet Saturday in Sioux Falls. The Empire has a receiver who knows all about the place. Jim Meehan has this piece on Carl Sims.

• Preps: Besides the state basketball tournament plans, we can also offer coverage of a key North Idaho softball game from Greg and a roundup of playoff action in a couple Washington sports.

• Mariners: Even though the M’s are winning (seemingly) every day, we can’t write about them (seemingly) every day, can we? Nope. The clinched another series last night with a 6-4 win over Tampa Bay in a game that featured home runs. Lots of home runs. Safeco is such a bandbox. ... The M’s seem to have something special going on. ... Felix Hernandez and the Mariners is a special match.... We always liked Brad Miller when he was a Mariner.

• Seahawks: Did the Hawks answer their offseason questions? Yesterday’s roster moves probably didn’t have any effect on them.

• Sounders: Seattle is scoring more, mainly because everyone is doing their job. ... Erik Friberg might just be the missing piece of the puzzle. ... The MLS has some haves and some have-nots.

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• Back into the 70s today. I’ve missed them. Not the decade, but the temperature. Though I guess I could say I miss the years too. Until later ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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