Prep Basketball

Most Iowa boys' basketball coaches seem to like having seeding control in postseason

Districts in Class 1A and 2A begin Monday night

Cascade head coach Jacob Brindle. (The Gazette)
Cascade head coach Jacob Brindle. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — There have been no reports of punches being thrown, which is a good thing. The best thing.

That’s said in jest, of course, but you never know what could happen when a bunch of competitive basketball guys meet, debate and try to agree on anything.

This is the fourth year every single postseason Class 1A and 2A district and 3A and 4A substate in boys’ basketball has been seeded by coaches instead of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. The state tournament in March will go through the same process.

The IHSAA picks schools for each district/substate in late January, then passes things off to the coaches involved to rank the teams. The IHSAA draws brackets according to what they decide.

Class 1A and 2A district play begins Monday night across the state.

“I have liked the process,” said Monticello’s Tim Lambert. “It gives the coaches some voice in how the teams are ranked and then placed into games in each district, and the coaches we’ve had in our districts have done a great job of making it a fair process. It has been very positive in every way that I’ve been involved.”

» 1A, 2A boys' basketball district brackets, seeds, schedules

» 3A, 4A boys' basketball substate brackets, seeds, schedules

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Cascade Coach Jacob Brindle agrees with Lambert. Their schools are in the same district (Class 2A-8), with Monti the top seed.

“I’m a big fan of it,” Brindle said. “I think the IHSAA really listened to coaches. I serve on the IBCA-IHSAA basketball advisory board, and (former assistant executive director) Brett Nanninga was an amazing proponent for arriving to this system and doing everything he could to improve the game and respond to what coaches brought to the table.

“The past several years we have evolved to this process we have now, which I think is as equitable as we can get. The state allows enough of the season to play out to get a good feel for where teams are, and then separates (power) out as much as possible.”

The IHSAA still is married somewhat to geography when it comes to grouping teams, unlike the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, which, within reason, goes out of its way to draw postseason brackets trying to get what it perceives to be the best eight teams in each class to the girls’ state basketball tournament. Brindle thinks that’s OK.

“We have so many excellent 2A teams here in Eastern Iowa that our substates turn into mini-state tournaments, relative to some other substates in other parts of the state,” he said. “But the separation and focus on balancing districts is much better than what it used to be 10-15 years ago.”

This all isn’t meant to say the new (or relatively new) seeding system is easy. In many cases, schools from different conferences are grouped into districts or substates.

Take, for instance, Substate 4 in Class 3A. The eight teams represent three conferences: Mount Vernon, DeWitt Central, Maquoketa, Benton Community and West Delaware of the Wamac, Anamosa of the River Valley and Cedar Rapids Xavier and Dubuque Wahlert of the Mississippi Valley.

The River Valley consists of mainly 2A schools, the MVC all 4A schools, minus Xavier and Wahlert. How do you equate that, especially when there aren’t common opponents?

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Is Xavier’s 8-11 record that much worse than MV’s 18-2 or DeWitt Central’s 14-5? The coaches in the substate made Mount Vernon its top seed, Central is second and Xavier its third.

“I think it puts coaches in an awful spot,” said Mount Vernon’s Ed Timm. “I really do. Here, you’ve got two things. OK, one, what do I believe in my heart about the best rankings of these teams? Then, you fight for your kids. If it’s close, you’re going to do what’s best for your team. So I just think it puts coaches in kind of an untenable situation.”

Timm said first-year Xavier Coach Mike Freeman called him to get somewhat of an idea on the Wamac teams in their substate. Freeman used to coach Timm’s son, Jake, at Coe College, so they have known each other for years.

There was zero chicanery here, by the way. It just goes to show the difficulties sometimes when you don’t know a thing about the other teams in your district or substate.

“You’re stuck as a moral person,” Timm said. “Should I just vote it the way I think it is, or do I fudge a little bit because it’s what’s best for me and my team? You’re supposed to do what’s best for your team. Certainly not anything out of the ordinary, but if it’s close. Stuff like that puts coaches in a tough spot.”

Cedar Rapids Prairie Coach Jeremy Rickertsen said the coaches in his Class 4A substate didn’t even physically have to meet to hash out its six seeds. Prairie Activities Director Rocky Bennett moderated over emails from the six coaches involved, with that process beginning at 10 a.m. and being concluded by 3 p.m.

Prairie got Substate 2’s number two seed, behind top-seeded Dubuque Senior. There are three MVC teams in Substate 2 and three teams from the Mississippi Athletic Conference.

“I think we’ve found a groove, a way to do it,” Rickertsen said. “The first two years, we had to physically go and meet as a group. I’d say a little over half (of the substates), that made sense because there had to be discussion. Then there were those where it was pretty cut and dried.

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“It was like ‘Why am I driving an hour and a half for a 15-minute meeting?’ So the last couple of years, we have had the option of doing it through email or Google Docs or a conference call.”

He said he likes the current system all the way around.

“I think I would prefer that the coaches do it instead of the association,” he said. “But then, in saying that, I’d be lying if I said you don’t have allegiances.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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