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Basketball is about to get exciting as postseason tournaments begin

By Staff
Feb. 3, 2001
For area high school basketball fans, this week is like the calm before the storm.
The Mississippi public schools are about to head into their final week of the 2000-2001 regular season before division tournaments begin the following week.
And the division (district to us old-schoolers) tournaments are something else. Sometimes a team that's done little all year gets hot at the right time and lives to play a few more games.
Records are deceiving …
Sometimes that's because the team with the not-so-pretty record has been playing better competition outside its league to prepare for this week. Sometimes that pays off and sometimes it doesn't. We'll know the specifics pretty soon.
In some cases, having gaudy records and playing good competition isn't even enough. Take Division 5-3A. On the girls' side, you've got Choctaw Central (23-3), Southeast Lauderdale (22-7), West Lauderdale (20-8), Newton County (23-4), and Velma Jackson. All have great records, but only two will be playing after next week.
But the good thing is that nearly every game from division tournament time on will mean something. That's more than we can say for the past three months. Unlike football, baseball, and slow- and fast-pitch softball where you have to win to qualify for a playoff berth, the regular season in basketball means little. All you have to do is field a team and stay off probation to make it to postseason play.
Sure the regular season games seed the teams for the division tournament, but I've known of several cases where if a coach couldn't get his team in the right side of the bracket by winning, he or she would accomplish the same thing by losing the last few league games.
They'll kick you out of the NCAA or NBA for that, but in high school it's hunky dory.
It's a shame someone hasn't decided to let the regular season division winner advance along with the division tournament champion. And if we're really going to make the regular season mean something, allow only the top four schools to be eligible for each division tournament. Maybe that would help pick up attendance at the November-early February games. Lord knows, most places could use something to help spark attendance.
Most coaches I've talked to said they like the setup as it is for the most part, feeling that the tournament gives everyone a second chance if they were hampered by sickness, key injuries, or whatever during the regular season.
Yet what they're doing is putting all their eggs in one basket that the sickness or injury bug doesn't strike the week of the division tournament. Little Johnny who's averaging 30 points a game catches the flu and gives it to his teammates in two weeks and his 28-2 team is history.
Poor little Susie, her team's stellar point guard and the apple of 27 Division I schools' coaches' eye, sprains her ankle nine days from now. That 30-1 season just came to a quick end.
On the private school level, it gets pretty hard for a team not to advance to a second round of playoffs. In Academy 3-AAA, only four teams are competing. All four are assured of a berth in the AAA South State Tournament at Central Hinds Academy, Feb. 6-10. Just one win there will send a team to the AAA State Tournament the following week. So theoretically, a 1-36 team could play in that state tournament. Yikes.
Granted, most MPSA districts have more than four teams, but even in the 3-A Tournament, 67 percent of the participants will advance as four boys' teams and four girls' teams will head to the Central Region Tournament next week at University Christian. That's out of six participating schools in 3-A.
Those who follow junior college basketball can begin getting ready for the North and South Division Tournaments which will be held Feb. 19-22 at Senatobia and Summit.
Junior college wars …
On the juco level, the top two teams from each half-state tournament will advance to the state tournament, but the regular-season finishes play a role in who goes to the much more important Region 23 Tournament.
The top men's finishers in each division for the regular season automatically go to the regional even if they go one and out in the North/South Tournament. On the female side, the top two regular season finishers go to the regional.
Doesn't sound like a bad idea.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sports@themeridianstar.com.

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