The basketball playoffs in West Virginia need a makeover.
The most recent makeover was to try and get the eight best teams in the state to Charleston. Well, that's not happening and it's time to set things up so the top eight teams have the best chance of getting there.
The system currently in place is better than the old system.
Under the old system, if the two best teams in the state were across the street from one another, then one wouldn't make it to Charleston because it would have been knocked off by its neighbor in sectional play.
Now, once a team makes the sectional final, it can lose and win the regional game to make it to the state tournament.
This playoff "mulligan" needs to go away.
You lose in the playoffs, your season is over.
Simple as that.
Here is what I propose.
Use the Maxpreps rankings dated the Monday, some two weeks before the state championship get-together in Charleston, to seed the top 32 teams in the three classifications - AAA, AA and A.
Basketball, like football, would be the only sports where not every team in the state makes it to the playoffs.
Make the regular season count for something, other than 22-games of jockeying for position.
By using the Maxpreps ranking, coaches have washed their hands of any seedings and using a system already in place keeps from making one up that not everyone will like and some people will think is being tilted one way or another.
The top eight teams in each classification would host a four-team pod system.
The rankings for the eight pods would be:
Nos. 1-32 vs. Nos. 16-17; Nos. 8-25 vs. Nos. 9-24; Nos. 4-29 vs. Nos. 13-20; Nos. 5-28 vs. Nos. 28-12; Nos. 3-30 vs. Nos. 14-19; Nos. 6-27 vs. Nos. 11-22; Nos. 7-26 vs. Nos. 10-23; and Nos. 2-31 vs. Nos. 15-18.
Those games would be played at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on a Friday with the winners meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winners of the eight pods head to Charleston, to begin the state tournament 10 days later.
This would also allow the regular season schedule to be expanded to 24 games.
This also allows no games to be played on any school nights.
If you are a top-eight seed, it means two wins on your home court sends your squad to Charleston.
It eliminates a team already with one loss in the playoffs having the mulligan round to go in with no cares in the world and beat a team that just happens to play horrendously on the wrong night.
Under the system I am proposing, if that same team plays horrendously on that given night on its home court, at least it loses to a team that has yet to lose in the playoffs.
This is being brought up again because of Wheeling Central's mastery over Magnolia in the Class A quarterfinals last Wednesday.
The Blue Eagles had already defeated the Maroon Knights in the playoffs (for the third time this season) and they faced them again in Charleston.
Magnolia topped Wheeling Central by 24 in the sectional two weeks prior and by 16 in their previous meeting.
You lose in the basketball playoffs and you're done.
Turn in the uniforms.
But, Wheeling Central took great advantage of the system and earned its way to Charleston.
This is not about a No. 7 seed beating a No. 2 seed.
This is also not about a No. 6 seed beating a No. 3 seed.
This is about getting away from the mulligan game.
As much as many coaches may not want to admit it, here is my version of the mulligan game.
Home team is down by 18 late in the third quarter and through two minutes of the fourth quarter, momentum hasn't changed and the deficit is now 25.
Yep, it's one of those nights.
Yet, the home coach, who is watching his team go down to defeat, knows that the loss will sting, but also knows the loss means nothing because the next morning or afternoon, the sneakers will be laced up and another practice will ensue with a date on the road.
The loss hurts.
But, the loss doesn't matter.
Where in the world does a playoff loss not matter?
This same coach also knows a trip on the road might be exactly what his or her team needs - get away from the home crowd, go into a loud environment where the team is now the underdog and the coach can play the underdog card.
The road team is playing with house money and this ain't Las Vegas.
Yes, it has not gotten past me that this is the exact same path that Weirton Madonna took two years ago to win its only state championship in basketball.
I was in Charleston and watched the Blue Dons go nuts in a 44-42 victory over Morgantown Trinity, a team it was playing for the third time that season, after splitting the first two contests.
That year Madonna lost inside the Dube Dome to Wheeling Central in the sectional final.
Yet, a road trip to and a victory at Parkersburg Catholic a few days later gave the Blue Dons a ticket to Charleston, where they ran the tables.
Madonna took full advantage of the system and now enjoys a nice banner commemorating its state crown.
But, in all honesty, it shouldn't have happened.
The Blue Dons lost in the playoffs and should have been done.
Wheeling Central, which played defending champion Charleston Catholic this morning in the Class A semifinals, took full advantage of the system with, after the loss at Magnolia, went on the road and claimed a win at St. Marys.
We don't need to get used to the system, we need to change the system.
Everyone is in agreement that the system is better than the old one, but it should be improved upon.
Well, improve it.
I understand the thought that if you are to be the state champion, you have to win three games in Charleston.
I get that.
But, I believe it shouldn't be done by a team that has already lost in the playoffs.
(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)