Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Figuring playoff foes can be a little confusing

It used to be a lot simpler


Sometimes I think my head is going to spin around trying to figure out what high school teams are playing in the play-ins and playoffs.

Just when I think I have it figured out, I find out I’m not even close. On occasion I have figured it out just right, but I can’t seem to get it right every time.

At the root of my dilemma is two things: 1) The 5A and 4A classifications use a different method to figure out which teams make the playoffs, and the preliminary round (the play-ins); 2) The ranking system is almost incomprehensible without a computer program.by: SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington

The system wreaks havoc with coaches as well.

Sometimes I feel like an old codger yelling at kids to get off my lawn when I refer back to the way things used to be. There were just three classes and only the league champions made the playoffs. (Actually, before that there were just two classes—St. Helens won the first A2 basketball championship, and Scappoose won the second.)

Then they added the second-place teams, paring them against number ones seeded by a draw. And then they added third-place teams, pairing them against the second-place teams with the winners playing the first-place teams.

Even with the changes, it was pretty easy to figure out. The brackets were pre-set with spaces for each of the teams—No. 1 Cowapa hosts the winner of No. 2 Far West vs. No. 3 ValCo, etc. You could check the standings and start plugging in teams right from the start of the season. Some teams would change as the year wore on, but it was interesting to follow the bracket. Towards the end of the season you might be able to say, for instance, that Scappoose would host the winner of the Douglas-Gold Beach game. Or even which teams were fighting it out for spots.

Now, the 4A ranks have gone to a seeding method based on league finish, and then rankings. Since the rankings can change right up to the cutoff, there’s no certain way to figure out who you might play. You can speculate, but it’s pretty uninformed.

The 5A teams just use rankings. Leagues mean almost nothing. The top eight-ranked teams get a bye, while the next 16 playoff to see which team will advance to play the first eight.

That’s also a dilemma for some teams. If their league has weak teams and they are scheduled late you can drop in the rankings even when you win. The losing team can move up if your team is ranked highly.

That’s why St. Helens softball coach Jeff Edwards was trying to get a game with a highly-ranked team late this week. Win or lose, he could probably maintain his No. 8 ranking. If he drops after his last league game on Thursday (Parkrose requested the change), the team would have to host a play-in game and then hit the road if they won. If they don’t drop, then they skip the play-ins and host a playoff game.

Being on the wrong side of that bubble is a big deal.

The rankings are derived by taking a teams winning percentage, their opponent’s winning percentage, and the winning percentage of your opponent’s opponents. There is some talk of dropping the latter percentage and that seems like a good idea to me.

Teams are penalized because of weak teams in their league. It’s not something a team can do anything about, and it’s frustrating to coaches.

Scappoose is finding that out in both baseball and softball. The league’s baseball teams haven’t had the best record and teams are ranked lowly. Even Astoria, which has a decent record is only 17th. Tillamook is 19th and Scappoose 20th. Banks is in second in the league, but ranked 29th. What it means is that Astoria will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs, and Banks will travel for the play-in round. Scappoose might not even make the play-ins. While Banks and YC are ranked high in softball, the Lady Indians will make the play-ins by virtue of their third-place finish. They were ranked just 18th after a loss Tuesday.

The OSAA committee is examining the system, but it’s uncertain if any changes will be made. The system has some good points, but it still needs some tweaking.