As the Halloween sugar rush subsides, it’s time to get serious about high school basketball. Some schools have been practicing for a month or more, and have played in several scrimmages, while others are still waiting for the first whistle to blow.
Here are some items to mull until the first real game is played.
1. Big changes, little changes. Louisiana, not generally known for elite high school programs, has made a change in their playoffs. Bucking a national trend, Louisiana will now split public and private schools into separate brackets. There will be five divisions, public and private in each one, meaning there will be 10 girls’ state champions, and 10 boys’ state champions. One issue, though, is that there aren’t that many private schools in some divisions, so it’s conceivable a school will only have to beat out nine other opponents to become a state champion.
Most states have moved in the other direction in recent years, as though public school coaches will complain on a regular basis that the private schools have a major advantage, it also cheapens state titles when the two types of schools are split. That public school coach who finally has what he feels is the best team in his division in the state will find that his school doesn’t get full credit if it doesn’t beat the private school champ. And in the end, the best public schools recruit as well, so there’s really not as big a difference as public school coaches suggest.
In California, a minor change was made that may help the seeding process in postseason. In the past the commissioners of the 10 California sections would make decisions on a) which teams were bumped up into the Open Dvision, and B) creating the brackets for each of the other five divisions. The commissioners, not surprisingly, were not experts in girls’ basketball, and also had to deal with bracketing the boys’ side at the same time. The result was a very, very long day, with strange decisions becoming more common as the afternoon wore on. Now, however, a committee devoted only to girls’ basketball will do all of the work in the girls’ basketball brackets, which should make for a better postseason.
And the California Interscholastic Federation also now reserves the right to shift teams from the Southern California region to the Northern California region should the brackets be imbalanced. The CIF does it in football now, and expect some movement in basketball this year.
2. A message board worth reading. Message boards have declined in popularity over the past few years, but they still serve as a great forum for discussions and insights that, especially in girls’ and women’s basketball, you can’t find anywhere else. (For example, try to find a national magazine that has an in-depth look at women’s basketball at the collegiate level – you’ll be looking for a long time.)
RebKell, which has boards for both the NCAA and the WNBA, offers a national perspective on women’s basketball, and also discusses high school recruits on the college board. For the most part, discussions are rational – though an Internet without flame wars and personal attacks is all but impossible – and the depth of knowledge is impressive.
I’ve been on both boards for a long time, and it certainly added to not only my knowledge but also my enjoyment of the NCAA season and the WNBA. (And it also appears that fewer members down a couple shots of Patron before logging on, which also helps keep the rhetoric level under control.)
3. The balls are bouncing – almost everywhere. Basketball practice has begun in most states, and in fact, some states allow practice to begin even before school starts in the fall. Other states, like New Jersey, delay the start of practice until much later, which puts teams from those states at a disadvantage in the critical early tournaments that have a lot to do with national rankings.
National rankings, of course, are a secondary goal for most programs, as winning a state title is first and foremost. But still, thet’re sort of fun, but it does seem unfair that a team that has been practicing for three months will play against a team that’s been practicing for three weeks and the outcome of that game will have a long-term impact on the rankings.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all the high schools in the country started practice on the same day, played the same number of games, and had the same travel and transfer rules? Sadly, that’s about as likely as Donald Trump appointing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State should he be elected next Tuesday.