When you compare the power rankings of Louisiana’s select and non-select boys’ basketball teams, it makes you wonder what all the fuss was about having one common playoff for a true state championship.
Numbers don’t lie, and power rankings represent a yardstick to measure which teams belong in the post-season and which do not.
It appears that members of the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association have more common sense than the principals whom they serve.
These coaches were in unison when they voiced an opinion that basketball (boys’ and girls’) playoffs should be a common mixture of teams based on power ratings, as it had been until the public school (or non-select) principals chose to separate their schools from private, Catholic and charter schools.
Therefore, for the last few years, while the non-select schools have been able to fill 32-team brackets in their seven classes, the select schools cannot because there are far fewer select schools.
Yet, the select schools were placed in five divisions of, yes, 32-team brackets, meaning everyone qualified for the playoffs.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the brackets would look very different.
Based on the most recent power rankings (as of Jan. 30), a 32-team bracket combining Class 5A and Division I would eliminate just three teams with losing records from playoff contention. They are Sulphur, John Curtis and Archbishop Shaw.
Just six of the 13 Select Division I teams would have power ratings high enough to extend their seasons. They are No. 2 Scotlandville, No. 7 St. Paul’s, No. 10 McKinley, No.12 Jesuit, No. 14 Catholic High, No. 19 St. Augustine and No. 30 Byrd High.
That also means that Archbishop Rummel, Holy Cross, Brother Martin and Evangel also would have dropped below the 32-team limit.
What also bolsters the basketball coaches’ case is that non-select schools would still dominate the Class 5A playoff bracket. No. 1 Natchitoches Central, entering the week with a 26-2 record, is one of 25 non-select schools that would be in a common playoff.
When the ratio of non-select qualifiers to select qualifiers is 25 to 7, you have to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Select Division II includes a mixture of schools that normally are classified as 4A and 3A lumped together to field an 18-team playoff. On the other side of the playoff fiasco, non-select has 50 teams to fill a 32-team Class 4A bracket, and 51 Class 3A teams.
There aren’t enough select schools to make an impact on a common bracket in either class.
Most significantly, Riverside Academy, the top seed in Division III, would also be atop a true Class 3A bracket. But the next five seeds are non-select schools. The next highest select school seed is No. 7 Country Day. Eighteen
non-select teams would fill this Class 3A playoff bracket.
De La Salle catches a break
De La Salle would be seeded in the neighborhood of No. 23. The 2016-17 Division II champion does benefit from the playoff split. Instead of ranking in the lower half of a bracket, De La Salle is currently the No. 4 seed.
But 12 of the 18 select schools in this division would not qualify in a true playoffs. They’ll do it as low seeds.
Shot clock? You’re kidding!
I read two quotes in a recent New Orleans Advocate article that made me shake my head and wonder: Have these people lost touch with what high school basketball is all about?
Quote One, from Jason Bertrand of Sophie Wright High School: “I think adding a shot clock is a must. We are in the 21st century, and you have to change with the times. It’s like cell phones and computers. Now it’s time to go to the shot clock.”
Quote Two, from Mike Sommer, assignment secretary for the Baton Rouge Area Basketball Officials’ Association, citing the excitement a shot clock would bring to the game: “Teams would not be able to just hold the ball. The players would have to play harder because they would have to make a play within 30 seconds.”
What is forgotten is that high school athletics is an extension of the education process. Learning proper basketball skills is essential to developing the athlete. High school coaches are teachers. The blacktop court is not a venue for learning a team sport.
It’s bad enough that aspiring young athletes develop more bad habits by watching college and professional games on television. If a player is more conscious of a shot clock winding down than making that extra pass, you will see more players shoot their teams out of a win.
More importantly, the LHSAA operates within the National Federation of High Schools Association guidelines and rules, not the NCAA’s.
The federation understands that athletes learn the game by mastering its fundamentals, not by playing beat the clock.
Ron Brocato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.