It’s the final week of the basketball regular season and we’re about to blastoff into basketball’s busiest time of the year.
No, not the playoffs.
I’m talking about the Region Tournaments that will commence next week to determine the seeding for the playoffs.
The scale of what is about to take place statewide is so massively-complex that it’s nearly (and probably) impossible to follow it all, but here’s how it works.
Starting next week, Region Tournaments will determine the seeding for the playoffs, not only in Class AAAA, but statewide and in each of the seven classifications. There are eight regions per classification, so by a simple calculation that would make 56 separate region tournaments in our seven classifications. This math is for perspective only because a split Class A and the handful of sub-regions just puts it somewhere in the ballpark of 56.
But let's multiply that 56 by two anyways. We need to account for the fact that both the boys and girls will be simultaneously playing their region tournaments next week.
So here is a claim we can make without having to split hairs. More than 100 separate region tournaments will be taking place next week to determine the seeding for the state playoffs that follow.
REGION TOURNAMENT STRUCTURES
Each region tournament is shaped by its own configuration and that differs region to region. The amount of teams contained in a region varies with the bracket structure. A 5-team region is obviously going to have a different bracket than an eight or 10-team region. Additionally, some regions may use single elimination, while others offer a path to a consolation bracket to solidify the seeding. Once again, it all depends on the individual region.
The seeding for the region tournaments is based on region records from the regular season. In some cases, regions will reward the team or teams that finished with the best region record during the regular season with a bye. This is interesting because if a competitive region does not offer a bye to its top finisher, a team that went 10-0 in region play (for example) could lose in the first round of its region tournament and get eliminated from the playoffs before they start. Their season would abruptly end no matter how many times they beat the same region opponents during the season or how highly they were ranked throughout the year.
South Cobb High School’s incredible Region Tournament run in 2014 is the best example I can remember seeing that explains not only what is at stake this time of year, but what is possible due to region tournaments.
South Cobb was in the basement of its nine-team region with a 3-13 record when the regular season ended. The bracket gave its top teams a bye and during this time South Cobb's incredible run began. First, the Eagles survived a proverbial play-in game 59-58 against Kennesaw Mountain. This set up a matchup with McEachern who was second in the region standings at (13-4) behind Pebblebrook (14-3). This was also the same McEachern team that demolished South Cobb 68-29 just days ago in their regular season finale.
But in one of the biggest upsets of the season, South Cobb triumphed 57-51. McEachern's season ended and the Eagles carried on. Now, they would take on Hillgrove (12-5) in the region tournament semifinals, who were another team that swept both regular season meetings with the Eagles.
South Cobb did it again and upset Hillgrove 55-53 to advance to the Region Championship.
Pebblebrook (14-3), who was the region's top seed entering the tournament got a bye until the semifinals. All it took was a 63-49 win over Campbell to set up their championship showdown with the Eagles.
Pebblebrook ended up beating South Cobb 72-58 to earn the top seed, but South Cobb still got to enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of Region 4-AAAAAA. Hillgrove took the No. 3 seed all the way to the state quarterfinals and Campbell got the No. 4 seed.
The only universally consistent aspect of the tournaments is that each region will send four seeds into the playoffs (and I suppose that anything is possible).