In the fall of 2009 when the OSAA and schools around the state decide to adopt a play-in model before the state playoffs, I was lukewarm in my support of the plan.
I didn't like the fact that it allowed all teams to qualify for the playoffs, but liked the fact that it would at least allow teams to enjoy the playoffs before being shipped off to the other end of the state to be hammered by the top team in the state.
Sadly, it just has not worked out that way.
Springfield did not even make it through its second-round play-in game, forfeiting the contest to Summit after poor weather postponed the game.
Parkrose nearly did the same before making a last-minute trip to Pendleton.
Albeit those were results of weather; but what's to stop cash-strapped districts from simply putting the kibosh on a first-round play-in game when the money simply doesn't add up and they don't have much of a chance of winning?
In all honesty, the first-round play-in games are not much fun anyway. With a few exceptions they are made up of teams that simply don't belong in the playoffs. St. Helens beat Hood River Valley in their boys 5A play-in to earn the right to play No. 1-ranked Benson. The Techmen then beat the Lions by 42 points. I'm sure that was fun for everyone involved.
After watching the wrestling district tournament and how much it increased the competition at the state tournament, I think the same combined district tournaments for basketball would not be a bad idea.
At the 5A level you combine the Intermountain, Midwestern and Southern Oregon Leagues. Then you combine the CRC, Northwest Oregon, PIL and Mid-Willamette into two districts.
Each district has its own tournament and the top however many teams each advance to the state tournament site.
You eliminate the last-place teams from each league from the tournament beforehand, so teams that are bad a) don't have to travel and b) don't have to get walloped in the first round.
The tournament can rotate between various schools, providing nice financial reward for the host community and putting everyone but the host school in the same boat travel-wise.
Even better, hold the girls and boys tournaments in the same place, turning each host site into the place to be for the sport that weekend.
Imagine a full two or three days crammed with soccer, baseball, volleyball or basketball.
It works for the individual sports and the smaller schools, and I think the format would be fantastic for team sports at the larger classifications as well.
Plus we can avoid all the silly nonsense of counting play-in games in the state seeding and just seed on tournament standings.
Instead of going through all manner of permutations, such as whether to punish a team for playing an out of state school or for having to play a particularly weak opponent in a play-in game, the match becomes simple. Win your tournament and get a top seed.
It would make an event weekend out of the sport and help to make the state tournament more competitive.
It seems like a win-win for schools, players and fans.
Which, unfortunately, means its unlikely to actually happen.