Manley's Blog

Playoff Scenario

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 22, 2009

Picture this: You’re a coach/player at Princeton High School (easy for me, it’s my alma mater. But go ahead, you can do it too). You are 10-0-3 and have an inside track at the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group III. In past years, you would most certainly have a bye into the quarterfinals, because the section usually has anywhere between 10 to 13 teams qualify. This year, however, the state will fill out the remaining empty spots in a 16 team bracket with the sub-.500 teams with the best records. No big deal. As the top seed, you’ll get to play a team with five wins, maybe even four, and if you can’t take care of business against that team, you probably don’t deserve to win, right?

The brackets come out next Thursday and you check to see who your opponent is. You draw a team with a 4-12-1 record that hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs in the last three years. You figure it’s easy pickins to the quarterfinals, but you decide to do a little research, because you don’t have a chance to scout. You can never be too careful, right? Your opponent has two wins over lower level Group IV teams and two more against even lower Group III teams. But, as it turns out, they also play in a division against seven other Group IV schools, playing some of the toughest large schools in the state two times each and sometimes three times a week. And what’s this? They tied CBA? The same CBA that was in most people’s Top 5 in the state to open the season? Let’s look at their other scores. A 1-0 loss to Marlboro, a top two seed in Group IV, in the last six minutes just a week ago? And one of those wins over “weak” Group IV’s was a win over Manalapan, who just two years ago won a state title and even this year, defeated an East Brunswick team that might be the best in Middlesex County? How is this team 4-12?

If you’re Princeton,  a likely No. 1 seed in you section in the state tournament in a couple of weeks, there is an outside chance you could be playing Middletown South in the first round. Ask Marlboro or CBA if they’d want to play a team like that in a round in which they would have had a bye in years past. The state playoffs has always been a tournament in which you can throw the seeds out the window, and by letting a few more teams through the door, there are going to be a lot more seeds – perhaps even some top seeds – flying through open windows. This is life in the new state tournament, like it or not. There are teams out there who would have never had the chance to get hot at the end of the season because they were so cold to start it. Then you have the Middletown South’s of the world who get pounded by bigger teams all year and no have a chance to come out the other end against schools its own size. It’s nice to see a program like that get a break, but you have feel for Princeton or Freehold or whoever earns the top seed. Instead of a day off to relax and gather themselves, they could be in for a battle.

**

SCT picks are up if you haven’t seen them. I look like a bit of coward by not calling for anything extraordinary to happen, but there is bound to be a big upset or two today and of course in the next round. Anyone care to call it in the next few hours?

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