Pickens' Perspective: High school tournaments should re-seed after every round
It's bracket time again.
Across Connecticut, hundreds of thousands of people study and gamble by filling them out, obsess over whether or not "Bracketologists" have UConn or another favorite in the NCAA Tournament. It's become pop culture to follow the madness of March.
But, what's most maddening in Connecticut is how brackets are broken down at the high school level in basketball and hockey.
The CIAC invites any team with a .400 winning percentage to the state tournament in both hockey and basketball. I'm OK with inviting teams that finish 8-12 to the tournament and even can tolerate an eight-win team making the conference tournament as the SCC allows.
But those eight-win teams should have the toughest roads through the state and conference tournaments as possible, and the only way that is possible is by re-seeding after every round so the highest remaining seed plays the lowest every round.
Upsets always happen in the state tournament. On Monday in the 31-team Class L bracket, the Nos. 20, 23 and 25 seeds all advanced. On Tuesday in the 32-team Class LL tournament, No. 25 Simsbury and No. 26. Trumbull reached the second round.
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Class L top-seed Northwest Catholic, instead of playing 25th-seeded Stratford, had to beat No. 17 Daniel Hand on Wednesday. Stratford played, and beat, No. 9 Avon in the second round.
Class LL No. 1 St. Joseph, had to battle No. 16 Cheshire last night, instead of the 26th-slotted, Trumbull,. Instead of penalizing Trumbull for its 10-10 season by making it play its biggest rival, it got to play No. 10 Manchester.
It's the same way Fairfield Prep got a home game in the second round of states in 2008, despite a 12-10 record and the No. 22 seed; or how Prep benefited when No. 17 Xavier beat top-seeded Windsor in the second round last year and got to host Xavier in the LL quarters.
If the tournament had re-seeded, Xavier and Windsor wouldn't have even played each other. No. 18 Stamford would have trekked to Windsor for the second round and St. Joseph would have had to play Xavier. Maybe Windsor beats Stamford and Xavier beats St. Joe and someone else wins the state championship?
We'll never know.
What, you ask, is the state's response when pressed why the tournaments don't re-seed?
"I have not heard any discussion of it in any sport in the 10 years I've been here," CIAC Director of Information Matt Fischer said.
There are reasons why the state would be opposed, but it's never come up? Really?
If logistics are the biggest concern for re-seeding in the state tournament, then certainly the leagues-- many of whom have second round games at neutral sites-- should consider it. Why should No. 8 Central not play second-seed Trinity in the FCIAC boys semis and get fourth-seeded Bassick instead?
"Because that's what makes a tournament so good," FCIAC tournament director Dave Schulz argues. "You should not be penalized for upsetting a team."
In the SCC, top-seeded Hillhouse had to play No. 8 Wilbur Cross-- when 13th-seeded Lyman Hall got to play No. 5 Amity and No. 2 Prep played No. 10 Xavier. But SCC commissioner Al Carbone says the idea of re-seeding his conference tournaments has never come up.
"We feel the way we seed our tournaments, we get a fair indication where teams deserve to be seeded," Carbone said.
I can't disagree, but how about rewarding the top-seed for being the top seed. How about penalizing the last team for a sub-par season by making it's road as hard as possible?
But imagine a situation where a No. 16 seed can host three state tournament games-- a first round game against No. 17, second round against No. 32 and quarterfinals against either the 24- or 25-seed-- and you'll see what I mean.
Fortunately for the state, it hasn't happened in the last 12 years of basketball tournaments, but if it did, it would be pretty absurd.
Maybe it would be difficult for the public to digest such a change, or maybe it would deter Cinderellas from making deep tournament runs. But what it also would give us is higher quality state and conference championships, and perhaps a more meaningful regular season.
If the NHL and NFL can both re-seed their tournaments, Connecticut high schools certainly can, and I'm sure I'm not alone with this sentiment.
I'm just one of the first, apparently, to bring it up.