Commentary

Backstory behind brackets revealed

By

Between March 4 and Saturday, March 9, a total of 27 boys basketball district tournament games and at least eight girls regional games involving Central District teams have been or will be played at sites ranging from Newark High School to Marysville to the Fairgrounds Coliseum to Otterbein University.

A quick look through the brackets tells how the teams got where they are, or were.

It doesn't necessarily tell, as late radio commentator Paul Harvey said for several decades, the rest of the story.

The games are fun, but the machinations of determining a bracket and manipulating it into one's favor rival the entertainment the best high school player or marching band can provide.

Reynoldsburg earned the top seed in the Division I girls district tournament, and coach Jack Purtell immediately put his team in bracket No. 1. Not only were his eyes on a fourth consecutive district championship, but he had long ago noticed the winner of that bracket would play the winner of the North Canton district -- which turned out to be North Canton Hoover -- in a regional semifinal March 5 at Otterbein.

"I get tired of playing Gahanna and Pickerington North all the time," Purtell said of his OCC-Ohio Division rivals after Reynoldsburg defeated Upper Arlington 62-19 in a district final March 2. "I played (third-seeded Olentangy) Orange this year (in the regular season). I'd rather play one of the teams from the Northeast (District)."

Travel also plays a factor. The Raiders had to travel about 20 minutes, maybe 30 if traffic was bad, to Otterbein. Hoover had a two-hour ride. Additionally, the winner could stick around and watch the second regional semifinal to scout their next opponent.

We're lucky in the Central District. Across the rest of the state, schools are assigned to smaller tournaments that have anywhere from four to 10 teams. There's not much mystery in possible matchups. Sometimes, they're rematches from league games or previous years' tournaments.

Because the Central District's brackets are wide open, the highest-seeded teams can plot themselves anywhere and, depending on how other teams think, matchups can be avoided for several rounds or altogether.

Of course, there are curveballs. Take the Division I boys tournament draw Feb. 10. Top-seeded Northland planted itself in bracket No. 3 and second-seeded Westerville North put itself in bracket No. 2. It might have stood to reason, then, that third-seeded Olentangy Liberty would take bracket No. 1.

That didn't happen. Correctly figuring many other good teams would avoid Northland, Liberty coach Greg Nossaman slotted his team in bracket No. 3, setting up a potential meeting with the Vikings in a district final.

It wasn't the first time Nossaman has followed that train of thought.

"We did that last year with (second-seeded) Walnut Ridge," said Nossaman, whose 2011-12 team advanced to a regional semifinal before losing to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 60-58. "You have to beat good teams anyway to win a district, but other than Northland, the highest seed in the bracket is an 11th seed (Westland, which Liberty played in a district semifinal March 6)."

Fourth-seeded New Albany jumped into bracket No. 1 and was joined by fifth-seeded Dublin Scioto, sixth-seeded Zanesville, seventh-seeded Dublin Coffman and 10th-seeded Pickerington Central. Scioto and Zanesville were upset in the second round, with the Irish falling to Central 59-57 in overtime Feb. 27.

"I'm not afraid to say we wanted to stay away from the guys in our conference (the OCC-Ohio) and, to do that, we weren't going to have the easiest time here," Central coach Jerry Francis said after the Tigers' win over Scioto.

New Albany coach Sam Davis provided an interesting insight into his thoughts and the possible motives of other coaches.

"Most coaches will fill out brackets just to get an idea of what they want to do," Davis said. "One scenario we had was for us to go into Northland's bracket. A lot of the seeds around us probably wouldn't want to play Northland. Most of the seeds after us came toward us -- (four of the next six) came into our bracket."

A good idea, certainly. After that, the challenge is to parlay those best-laid plans into success. That's fun to watch, too.

Comments