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Hoop teams get break for CIF playoffs

JEFF TULLY

In an effort to keep the local high school basketball fans

enlightened and informed, here is a little quiz:

Question: Is it possible for a team go winless in league and still

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qualify for the playoffs?

Answer: Yes, when it’s a girls’ or boys’ basketball team that

plays in the CIF Southern Section.

When it comes to quirky playoff qualifications, basketball has its

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own separate rule in determining which teams make it to the

postseason. And the Southern Section has instituted the rule for a

specific reason -- to make money.

It used to be if a team was among the top three finishers in

league -- or top four in larger leagues -- it would receive an

automatic berth into the playoffs. If a squad didn’t do well in

league -- playing in a league with a lot of talented teams -- or had

a good overall record, it could petition the Southern Section for an

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at-large entry.

However, at-large berths were never set in stone, and there was no

guarantee a team would be invited to take part in the postseason if

it didn’t place among the top three in league.

But all that has changed.

Now, to make the playoffs, all a team has to do is accumulate 11

wins. No matter how a team does in league, if it gets the 11

victories, its in -- no questions asked. Even if a squad has a losing

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record, it is welcomed with open arms into the postseason.

Unfortunately, all the rule does is water down the playoffs.

“Basketball is kind of a different animal compared to other sports

when it comes to the playoffs,” said Sharon Hodge, Southern Section

secretary. “A team with 11 wins is in the playoffs.”

The only problem with this peculiar rule is it is exclusive to

basketball. No other Southern Section sport is afforded such a

special “helping hand” into the playoffs.

It’s not fair that sports other than basketball don’t have

specific win plateaus to qualify teams for the playoffs.

A good example of this happed last season with the Burroughs High

baseball team. Despite finishing with a 15-10-1 record -- and fourth

in a tough Foothill League -- the Indians’ wild-card bid was turned

down.

The reason why basketball is treated differently comes down to one

thing -- money.

It’s a simple scenario: Scheduling more playoff basketball games

means more admission tickets will be sold and more money will go into

Southern Section.

Along with football, basketball is the Southern Section’s big

money sport when it comes to playoff revenue. The organization just

doesn’t make money on water polo, tennis, soccer or golf playoff

events.

*

Because of the special rule, several local basketball teams will

benefit this season and make the playoffs, despite not finishing

among the top teams in league.

* The Burbank girls’ team -- which has one win in the Foothill

League -- won its 11 games before league even started. Although the

Bulldogs (12-12) will probably finish last in league, making it to

the postseason will be a nice going-away present for senior Christine

Kepenekian.

* The Burroughs girls’ team -- with two league victories -- also

put itself in the playoffs prior to league play. Last season, the

Indians (13-12) finished third in league and made it to the Division

IIA quarterfinals. This season, they will probably finish fourth or

fifth.

* The Burroughs boys’ team went into the final week of league play

fifth in the Foothill League with one win. However, a victory

Thursday against cross-town rival Burbank will propel the Indians

(10-13) into the playoffs.

* The Bellarmine-Jefferson boys’ team entered the last week of

Santa Fe League play needing one win to make the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Guards (10-12, 2-7 in league), they lost Monday

night to L.A. Salesian, 58-56.

For Bell-Jeff to sneak into the playoffs, it would have to defeat

L.A. Daniel Murphy -- ranked No. 4 in Division IVAA -- at 7 p.m.

today in a game on the road.

As long as the special basketball rule is in place, coaches should

take advantage of it. If a coach wants to ensure his team makes the

playoffs every season, he can just schedule a bunch of nonleague

games against weak teams. That way, no matter how the team does in

league, it will always be in the postseason.

As bad as the scenario sounds, the Southern Section is encouraging

this type of mentality with its 11-win rule.

But there is a better solution. In order for a team to qualify for

the playoffs -- without finishing among the top squads in its league

-- it would need to have 11 or 12 victories and a .500 or better

record. This way, at least all the nonautomatic berths will go to

schools with decent records.

I’ve got an even better idea: Why not just open the playoffs to

every team in the Southern Section, regardless of how they finish?

With that many teams in the postseason, the Southern Section could

make some really big bucks.

Maybe that’s a dumb idea. But so is the rule allowing every

basketball team with 11 wins into the playoffs.

* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be

reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at jeff.tully@latimes.com.


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