District and Regional play are bearing down on high school basketball like the mega-blizzard that’s hitting the east coast right now. Girls began regionals on Thursday night, boys begin district play next week, and it’s going to be a fun time for everyone involved. For the teams who went 20-0… and the teams that went… 1-16?
The way our playoff system is set up for the state of Iowa, everyone gets a fair shot when it comes basketball tournament time. It doesn’t matter how your regular season went. The only part that matters is when the tournament starts and how you play then. Every coach, it seems like, has been telling their kids that what happened for the past 20 games doesn’t matter, it’s about how we play in the tournament.
The Alta-Aurelia boys’ win streak has earned them a bye in the first round of their district, but that’s it. It’s not even close to going past go or collecting $200. The big reward for having a great record is a few more days off?
That really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Not when you look at how football is handled. The top two teams in each district make it in along with some wildcards depending on the class size. That’s it.
Yeah, sure come on in! The water is warm and you have a chance to knock off a team that’s been draining themselves all regular season to get that first round bye.
We’ve seen it before in college basketball where a bubble team sneaks into the tournament, gets on a hot streak and the next thing you know they’re hoisting the trophy and cutting down the nets to end their season. Basketball is a weird sport of momentum where it can switch so quickly and harm the opposing team.
I’ve seen countless close game swung on a simple turnover and fast break bucket that opens the floodgates for a win or a loss. No other sport can really match this, I believe. All it takes is one lucky shot for a top 10 to go down in flames to an inferior opponent.
But that’s the beauty of basketball. Anyone can beat anyone on a given night. Streaks happen. Bad things happen to good teams, middle of the pack teams can get a boost on a hot shooting night, and bad teams, well, they hope and pray for the best.
The tournament is sometimes noted as the second season. Everything from the regular season, except of rankings and your position on the tournament bracket, have been forgotten. The records are pretty much meaningless as you’re more than likely to run into a team you might not have played in the regular season.
That 4-14 team might be a really good team compared to that 12-5 team in a different conference. This is why the regular season is pretty much meaningless. There’s no real accurate way to compare conferences and teams in those conferences to what we’ve seen in the Lakes and Twin Lakes Conferences to this year.
Narratives are written during the regular season about teams. Again, using the Warrior boys as an example, they’re riding a huge win streak. A win streak so large I’ve been joking that they should use the professional wrestler Goldberg’s phrase of “Who’s next?” in some manner.
But how quickly their season can end despite the great regular season against perhaps a team with a losing record?
We have some very talented teams in our area. Their records might not reflect it sometimes, but they have talent. Their seasons change come tournament time. It doesn’t matter about your winning streaks, your losing streaks, your struggles against certain teams or anything else. Tournament season is about creating a new narrative for your team.
And, after a long regular season, who cares about that narrative anymore? It’s rendered pointless. The only season that matters in basketball at any level is the second season.