It’s March Madness in February for high school basketball players and teams, and the first grueling days of the tournament are history.
For the third season in a row, District 2 has gone to an open tournament format. Every school is eligible regardless of record to participate. In theory, it is a nice reward for the sacrifices of the players who have committed to the season. In execution, it seems to be an effort that needs closer examination.
This analysis is not meant to indict the teams participating. This is the format and they are just taking advantage of the system presented.
This year, the are only two real Cinderella teams left in the playoffs in Class AAA and Class AA — which is where the glaring discrepancy in competition can be seen. Ninth-seeded Tunkhannock will play No. 1 seed Scranton Prep in Class AAA; and No. 9 seed Riverside will play No. 1 seed Montrose in Class AA.
The rest of the tournament followed the chalk. … And for the most part in the last three years that has been the case. Higher seeded teams in Class AAA have won 20 games and lower seeded teams have won 4. In Class AA, 18 higher seeded teams have won with 5 lower seeded teams posting wins.
That should be expected in any tournament that is seeded. But what is of concern is the average margin of victory in these games. … So let’s take a look:
Upsets are highlighted
Data: Clearly the closest games were with teams seeded 8 or 9 in both classifications with two true upsets. But those games were close enough to warrant citing with both being within 4 points. Even the 7 vs. 10 matchup in Class AAA was a reasonably close game with the No. 7 seed winning by 10 points..
Upsets are highlighted
Data: Again, the teams seeded at 8 and 9 were the games where the lower-seeded team came away with a win. The only other upset came with an 11 beating a 6 and that came by 1 point. For the most part, this season the higher-seeded teams dominated,
Upsets are highlighted
Data: Again, the games where the higher seeded team lost came in the 8 vs. 9 games. After that, only one game was within 10 points.
So what does all of this mean? Well, nothing really, but it should be something that the district notes. Coaches argue with the consistency that the No. 9 seed seems to beat the No. 8 seed, that limiting the District 2 tournament to eight teams will constrict the lower-seeded team, which seems to be winning those games.
So, the argument can be made that the District 2 tournaments could be, realistically, cut to 10-team tournaments. That would create two play-in games between the No. 9 and No. 8 and the No. 7 and the No. 10 teams, which if you look the average margin of victory in those games is relatively close.
More evidence to support a 10-team bracket includes the league standings from each of the last three seasons:
Top 10 teams are highlighted
Analysis: As you can see only three teams (North Pocono in 2013 and again in 2015) and (Nanticoke in 2014) had a record of less than .500 during the league season. Twenty-four (24) of the teams that would not qualify for a 10-team tournament had at least 10 losses in the league season. Only two (2) of the teams that would not qualify for a 10-team tournament has even won a game in the District 2 playoffs (Hanover Area over Dunmore in 2013 in 2 OTs) and (Dallas over Holy Redeemer in 2014 by 1 point).
Conclusion: Sure the games are fun and the experience of making the playoffs is probably priceless for players and coaches. The truth is the District 2 committee should look more closely at the merits of a 10-team tournament in the Class AAA and Class AA brackets. There is too much evidence supporting teams qualifying for the playoffs based on merit rather than simply getting an automatic berth.
Yes, I understand that strength of schedule is a debatable issue each season, and obviously this is an analysis of raw win-loss data. There is no subjectivity, and there has to be some, I guess, when it comes to evaluating high school teams.
However, in my humble opinion, with all due respect to every team in the district, making the tournament should be a goal as something to work toward and to qualify for rather than a gift.
It would improve the relevance of winning during the league season.
DISTRICT 2-4 CLASS AAAA
Scranton vs. Abington Heights, CARBONDALE AREA HIGH SCHOOL, 4 p.m.
- Abington Heights won both meetings in the regular season; Winning, 57-42 and 46-33.
Williamsport vs. Hazleton Area, BERWICK HIGH SCHOOL, 2:30 p.m.
- Williamsport won the meeting in the regular season, 81-74
DISTRICT 2 CLASS AAA
Tunkhannock vs. Scranton Prep, SCRANTON HIGH SCHOOL, 7 p.m.
- Scranton Prep has won its last 34.4 points per game.
Nanticoke vs. Honesdale, LACKAWANNA COLLEGE, 7:30 p.m.
- Honesdale reached the District 2 Class AAA semifinals last season
West Scranton vs. GAR, KING’S COLLEGE, 7 p.m.
- GAR is 1-1 against Lackawanna League opponents the last two seasons in playoffs.
Valley View vs. Crestwood, KING’S COLLEGE, 8:30 p.m.
- Crestwood has reached the semifinals in two of the last three seasons.
DISTRICT 2 CLASS AA
Riverside vs. Montrose, CARBONDALE AREA HIGH SCHOOL, 1 p.m.
- Riverside won the season opener against Montrose, 70-49.
Mid Valley vs. Meyers, WYOMING AREA HIGH SCHOOL, 1 p.m.
- Meyers has beaten Mid Valley in each of last two seasons in D2 semifinals.
Hanover Area vs. Holy Cross, SCRANTON HIGH SCHOOL, 2:30 p.m.
- Holy Cross has reached the semifinals in all 7 years of its history.
Dunmore vs. Holy Redeemer, WYOMING AREA HIGH SCHOOL, 2:30 p.m.
- Dunmore has not advanced to the semifinals since 2010.
DISTRICT 2 CLASS A
Old Forge vs. Lackawanna Trail, NORTH POCONO HIGH SCHOOL, 6 p.m.
- Old Forge has advanced to the final each of the last eight seasons.
MMI Prep vs. Forest City, NORTH POCONO HIGH SCHOOL, 7:30 p.m.
- MMI Prep has reached the final three times since 2009.