Robledo: CIF tweaks playoffs, again

FRED ROBLEDO

It’s time to scratch your head again, because the CIF-Southern
Section tweaked the boys and girls basketball playoffs in the first
of another two-year trial run. For many years the Southern Section playoff divisions were
organized by enrollment, which brought its share of problems.
Remember a few years back when Keppel had one of its best boys teams
ever, only to run into the unfair challenge of having to face Mater
Dei early in the playoffs because their enrollment numbers were
similar? There were many other cases like that, too.

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For the past two years, however, it was changed so that all league
playoff teams competed in the same division, regardless of
enrollment. But that also drew problems because state regional
playoffs still were based on enrollment. You had some teams competing
in upper divisions for the CIF playoffs and then dropping a few
divisions because of enrollment to compete in the state playoffs.
What CIF is attempting this year and next is a combination of both:
merging enrollment with competitive value.
The Sierra League is a prime example of how this works.
The team with the seemingly best chance of advancing in the playoffs
could be struggling Damien (16-11), which finished fifth in the
Sierra league with a 3-7 record.
But the Spartans are in Division II-A, where they become a
first-round favorite over host Baldwin Park (16-8), the second-place
team from the Valle Vista.
Contrast that with Diamond Bar (16-12), which finished third in the
Sierra but competes in Division I-AA, where the Brahmas have the
difficult task of heading to No. 7 Colony (21-6) in a first-round
game.
Then there’s Glendora (21-7), second place in the Sierra but a No. 3
seed in Division II-AA. After opening with Ontario (12-9), the
Tartans could have a much easier road in the playoffs than past years.
The Sierra League is just one example. All leagues have been split up
for the playoffs for the aforementioned reasons, which makes you
wonder about the value of league races.
It’s always been silly that a fifth-place team from a certain league
might have a better playoff chance than a league champion.
But you can’t completely blame CIF, because as long as state playoffs
are based on enrollment, then enrollment has to factor into the
CIF-playoff equation. At least CIF is not going solely by enrollment
numbers and has added “competitive value,” which has given more area
teams a better chance of making long playoff runs.
“The basketball committee felt this was the best way to do it with
the limitations that we have,” explained Thom Simmons,
the CIF-SS director of communications Thom Simmons explained.
“This way we get the right teams winning the right championships.”
You may agree or disagree with the process, but here is where it
becomes cloudy.
CIF eliminated the 12-win minimum rule to be eligible for the
playoffs. Basically, anyone is eligible if they apply and will be
included in the playoffs as long as there is room for it.
For example, the Wilson boys team, which was 7-17 overall and 0-8 in
the Miramonte league, felt the need to be in the Division IV-AA
playoffs. The Wildcats get to go all the way to No. 6 San Luis Obispo (18-6), where they promptly will lose handily
and get sent home.
Or how about this:
The Beckman girls basketball team, with its impressive 3-20 overall
record and last-place finish in the Pacific Coast League, felt it
deserved a playoff appearance. So, Beckman will play at No. 12 Bonita
(17-9) in the first round Thursday.
That’s utterly ridiculous.
Is it the CIF’s fault? Partly, but you have to ask why these teams
with horrible records — and there are many of them– are petitioning
for playoff berths.
The playoffs should be about something you earn, not something you
sign up for.
But others have different opinions. Glendora boys basketball coach
Mike LeDuc not only favors the new playoff format but defends the
elimination of the 12-win rule.
“First, you have to understand that two divisions have been added,
and there all full draws (with the exception of Division IV-AA), so
you have eliminated bye’s in most cases,” LeDuc said. “You have 42
teams in a division qualifying for 32 spots, so there are going to be
teams with losing records.
“When you break it down this is high school sports, and (playoffs)
are something great for the kids to experience. It could be a thrill
of a lifetime. Nobody is saying you have to petition for a playoff
spot, but if a coach or program wants to experience the playoffs, I
can’t see how that’s a negative.”
That’s a fair way of looking at it, but I still don’t like the AYSO
mentality of “everyone plays” for competitive high school basketball.
LeDuc makes a great point for kids, but there’s nothing wrong with
telling kids you simply weren’t good enough, either.

fred.robledo@sgvn.com
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2161

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