Another year of sub-state inequity

By Steve Sell
March 05, 2014

I talked with Moundridge basketball coaches Vance Unrau and Vicky Kessler Tuesday night while covering the Wildcats’ Class 2A sub-state boys’ game with Canton-Galva.

It was evident that they’re exasperated with their sub-state, which on Thursday moves to Elbing for the girls and then continues on Friday with the boys, culminating with sub-state championship games on Saturday.

This sub-state should serve as the poster child for KSHSAA sub-state reform. It’s simply not fair that so many deserving teams will be staying home next week while less-deserving teams take advantage of softer sub-states to advance.

Both Unrau and Kessler admit their Final Fours would make great Final Fours next week at Manhattan.

Let’s start with the girls. The four teams — Moundridge vs. Remington and Hillsboro vs. Sterling — are showstoppers. They have combined for a 72-12 record, with Hillsboro the “worst” team record-wise at 16-5 — a Hillsboro team that spent the first half of the season ranked No. 1 in Class 2A before losing two games in its own tournament after entering it undefeated.

You can’t tell me that the three casualties of this sub-state don’t deserve to be at Bramlage Coliseum next week.

The boys’ records are just a shade behind the girls’, but not the quality of the teams. Moundridge and Hillsboro renew their longtime rivalry Friday, while top-seed Berean plays an Inman team that made state last year and once again has shook off a midseason slump to catch fire at the right time.

Unrau, in fact, just looks at it like the state tournament has already begun. Instead of needing three wins to capture a state title, he says you have to win six — the three sub-state games and three state tournament games.

The inequities of sub-state basketball have long been cussed and discussed. It’s without question the No. 1 hot-button issue with KSHSAA, but I really can’t see the state’s governing body ever doing anything to change it.

KSHSAA did this year split up Class 4A into two divisions. What that has produced is a Class 4A Division II that is terribly watered down on the boys’ side as just 10 of the 32 teams have a winning record and four of those have at least eight losses. It’s almost a certainty there’s going to be some teams that qualify for state only because they’re the best of the worst.

Just look at the Concordia sub-state for example. The host Panthers are a sparkling 16-4, then the other three teams are a combined 6-54! Clay Center is the No. 2 seed with a 3-17 record. I suppose the most improbable of all improbable upsets could occur, but I like my odds with Concordia.

Of course there have been many suggestions to KSHSAA about what to do, such as putting the top 48 schools in Class 6A, the next 48 in 5A and so on. Right now, we have way too many state champions, especially with 4A and 1A being split. And I’ve even heard whispers that 3A might be broken up into two divisions, though I believe that notion will be shot down.

There’s always the ever-popular seeding theory where the top eight teams host openers, then it goes to a regular bracket, but the No. 1 reason that’s nixed is because of travel and time missed from school if a team would have to travel more than 200 miles, just as Ulysses is. And McPherson fans, if things stay the way they are, don’t be surprised if you’re making the trip to Ulysses next year for the sub-state. 

Sub-state basketball is a lot like college football in terms of raising the blood pressure. We’re finally going to have a playoff system in college football, so it has found a solution. Why can’t KSHAA find a solution as well?