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Lyman junior Ashley Mortenson goes up for a layup against Hanson in the first round of the Class B girls’ basketball tournament this year in Huron. Lyman placed seventh at the tournament, after beating Gayville-Volin 46-44. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Coaches offer positive feedback on first-year seeding system

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This year’s state basketball tournaments weren’t without a few surprises.

Whether it was No. 7 Platte-Geddes knocking off No. 2 Langford Area at the Class B boys’ basketball state tournament, or No. 1 Huron falling to No. 8 Sioux Falls Lincoln at the Class AA boys’ tournament, this year’s state basketball tournaments brought many upsets.

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Prior to Friday, throughout the six basketball state tournaments this year, a lower-seeded team has knocked off a higher-seeded team 17 times in the winner’s bracket. The Class AA girls’ basketball tournament was the only state tournament where seeds held up through the winner’s bracket, including the championship game, which saw No. 1 Sioux Falls Washington beat No 2. Mitchell.

So is the seeding system flawed? Lyman girls’ basketball coach Cooper Garnos doesn’t think so.

“Overall, I like it,” said Garnos, whose team was the seventh seed at the Class B tournament, with 41.60 seed points. “I think it made each game weighted most appropriately. I think it was true and it is something I would like to see continued more in South Dakota.” This is the first year South Dakota has used the “Nebraska Plan” seeding system, where seed points are awarded based upon opponents’ win percentage and strength of schedule. South Dakota High School Activities Association member schools receive points for games played against each team on their regular season schedules.

Last year, the seeding system that the SDHSAA used did not take into account strength of schedule. In last year’s system, a Class AA school earned 50 points for a win against another Class AA opponent. Class AA earned zero points for any loss, and bonus points were not awarded for wins or losses based on team records.

“The winning and losing became less significant than the games you played last year,” SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand said. “The range of points changed significantly. On any given night, you could have a team earn as many as 80 points or end up with zero points. We had some games where teams who won the game actually came out with less points than the team who lost.”

Krogstrand said there have been positive reviews about the current system. He said there would be discussions of minor tweaks that could be made to the system at the upcoming activities director’s conference, such as stiffening the penalty for Class AA schools that play Class A or B schools.

“I don’t mind the seed points at all,” Cheyenne-Eagle Butte basketball coach Rob Mendoza said after his No. 4 Braves lost to No. 5 St. Thomas More in the first round of the Class A boys’ basketball state tournament. “There are upsets at region tournaments. That is just how the ball bounces, and people get hot, but when you get to the state tournament, every team is a good team.”

The strength of schedule is another major part of seeding points. No matter the outcome, teams that play against an opponent of a higher level earn bonus points, while no point deductions are given for playing schools that are at a lower classification.

Sanborn Central/Woonsocket girls’ basketball co-head coach Tim McCain said playing a tough schedule during the regular season pays off in the postseason.

“If you come into the state tournament with six or seven losses, it won’t affect you as much if you have played a quality schedule,” McCain said. “Playing good competition night in and night out does wonders for your program.”

McCain’s Blackhawks finished runner-up at the Class B girls’ basketball tournament after falling to No. 4 Warner.

“We play in two conferences, so the majority of our schedule is already set up,” he said. “We only play five non-conference games, and one of those is at the Hanson Classic, so you have to hope that who you play each year are good teams.”

The Blackhawks’ regular season schedule paid off, as they were the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The district and region tournament games do not count toward seed points for the state tournament.

The Gayville-Volin girls’ basketball team, which is coached by Parkston native Matt Malloy, upset three teams with records over .500 through the District 10B tournament, but were not able to count those victories for seeding points.

The Raiders, who finished the regular season 11-7, ended up making the Class B state tournament for the first time in school history and were the eighth seed because of their regular season schedule.

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