By Cody Leist
After attending another boys basketball tournament draw as a head coach, Portsmouth’s Gene Collins wants changes to how the brackets are set up in the Southeast District.
“The whole process about how we go about seeding is a flawed process,” Collins said Monday in an exclusive interview with The Daily Times. “I think the process needs to be changed. I’ve had some conversations with coach (Mark) LaFon from Ironton, who’s on the (Southeast) District board and we talked about different scenarios of how to rectify what I consider a flawed process.”
Collins would like to see a variety of new systems implemented to create a better tournament format. One system would be to reward the top teams for their record and strength of schedule by allowing them to seed themselves and the rest to be drawn at random, similar to the Central District. A second involves computer rankings, much like the football playoffs are determined, but he doesn’t believe a scenario will ever take place where teams may not make the tournament.
Other determining factors could be the letting members of the media determine the match-ups or creating a super sectional that allows teams to determine where they would want to play instead of being locked to a geographical sectional site.
If the concerns of traveling and economics are a deterrent, Collins has one simple response.
“I went to Warren on a Tuesday night,” Collins said. “I don’t buy it.”
He also brings up the fact that some district semifinals will be played March 2. Although Ohio University determines the dates as the host site, the Sunday games do have conflicts with some religious beliefs.
At this time, the Southeast District has teams vote on where teams are seeded based on record and strength of schedule. But for Collins, who coaches the only SEOAL team in Division III, he feels collusion takes place with seeding among other teams in the district.
“If you’ve got enough political clout, you can manipulate the system and put teams that you want to get eliminated out because you pit them against each other early on,” Collins said. “I’ve seen it happen.”
The example Collins brought up came in 2009 when the Trojans were scheduled to play Minford in the sectional semifinal with the winner playing No. 1 and 20-0 North Adams. Portsmouth won the semifinal 74-60 and took the Green Devils to overtime before North Adams won 77-75 and went on to play in the regional finals.
“There’s no way that should’ve been (a tough game),” Collins said. “But because you’ve got enough league alliances that get together and say hey, we’d like to see North Adams get knocked (out) so I’m going to go in and agree with this group, join an alliance with this group and we’re going to go vote to make sure that we put the team that we think could beat them in the 8-9 game and they’re No. 1.”
He also questions why LaFon’s Fighting Tiger squad, which had one win at the draw, was placed as an 11-seed this year in the Jackson sectional above Crooksville (6-12), River Valley (5-15), Rock Hill (3-16) and Wellston (4-13). Collins jokingly predicted with LaFon before the brackets were set they would not be given the lowest seed in the sectional.
“If we put (Ironton) in the 15 seed, the 15 might come out,” Collins said.
This year, the Trojans were placed as the No. 3 seed in the Waverly sectional behind Valley and Zane Trace. He admits that his seeding is fair for his team but when it comes to the overall picture, Collins wants a complete overhaul.
Of the 29 teams in this year’s Division III Southeast District, the Ohio Valley Conference, Scioto Valley Conference and Southern Ohio Conference each have six member schools. All six SVC schools will play their sectional games at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium while all six OVC schools play at Jackson High School. Meanwhile, the SOC will have four of its six teams traveling to Pike County.
Collins did give credit to the top-seeded Indians for their success and strength of schedule. Their two losses were 64-51 to Warren and 77-71 in overtime to Athens. Both teams are Division II squads with similar 15-3 records, the games were at neutral sites and both losses for Valley were on the second night of back-to-backs.
“I think Valley has had a phenomenal year, I’m tickled to death for them,” Collins said. “(Coach Scott Rolfe) is a great coach, he’s done a great job with his crew. Can he argue that he should be No. 1? Absolutely.”
“Can Zane Trace argue that they should be No. 1? Absolutely. Zane Trace is 17-2 and (fifth) in the state, to argue that they shouldn’t be No. 1 , again, I don’t think that’s right.”
If Portsmouth wants to play both teams, the Trojans could see the Indians in the district finals and the Pioneers in the regionals, should all teams continue to advance.
All three teams have one common opponent in Piketon. Portsmouth (76-49) and Valley (80-52) each beat the Redstreaks in their only encounters while Piketon, a No. 8 seed in the Waverly sectional, split its two match-ups with Zane Trace.
The Trojans, who entered the draw at 14-3, are 3-0 against teams from Division I and 5-2 against Division II schools. Meanwhile, the Indians and Pioneers did not play a Division I school but Valley is 4-2 against Division II schools and Zane Trace is 4-1 against schools of similar size.
Meanwhile, Oak Hill is a No. 1 seed in the Jackson sectional despite having a 12-6 record. Collins also said the same thing is taking place in the Division II and Division IV brackets.
“There’s no fairness in that at all,” Collins said.
The loss Collins admits everyone looks at against his team is the 76-58 defeat in mid December at South Point but he points out the Pointers are the No. 2 seed in the Jackson sectional and won the OVC.
“I just think you’ve got all kinds of scenarios that gets thrown out there and it just muddies up the process even more than what it is right now,” Collins said. “At the end of the day, we’re all going to eventually have to play each other and it’s all going to play itself out but the process that we’ve got right now is bogus.”
Portsmouth opens sectional play Feb. 19 against No. 14 Westfall. The Indians and Pioneers have byes to the sectional finals.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.