We’ve had some people ask us why Bellevue, the No. 1 ranked team in 3A, has to go on the road this week in the state quarterfinals. If Bellevue wins, it would go on the road to play either Shadle Park or Kamiakin. Bellevue is undefeated and won its league. You can apply the same question to Camas in the 4A ranks, which travels to play Eastlake this week. Take a look at the 3A and 4A brackets for reference as you continue reading.
To answer the question, we talked to David Lutes, who is the Athletic Director for the Kent School District and the chairman for the committee that puts together the 3A and 4A brackets for the week 10 playoffs. Lutes did a tremendous job explaining the reasoning and we’ll attempt to do the same.
Essentially, what it boils down to are the separate districts. There are nine districts in the state of Washington. You can see the breakdown of districts on this helpful map.
“We don’t seed our 16-team bracket, WIAA gives the 16 seeds to the district level,” Lutes explained. “The seeds go to the districts. The districts are different sizes.”
In 4A, District 3 has 25 schools, while there are only five in District 8 and four in District 5. So 5 and 8 in the 4A combine their allocations to the state tournament.
“They compete with each other to try to steal from each other,” Lutes said. “Bottom line is that the WIAA guarantees every district a No. 1 placement on the first-round bracket. With there being eight No. 1 seeds (because of the combination of District 5 and 8), the No. 1 from each district always goes in a home slot. Then there’s two other [home] slots that are filled by a No. 2. Typically, from District 3 because it’s so much larger. Then it’s the matter of how you place those in an eight-[game] bracket, starting at the top of the eight first-round games.”
Here’s more from Lutes: “This year, as an example, Camas is a No. 1 out of District 4 and is the presumed state champion. District 3, we have the Narrows League champion, South Puget champion, North Puget champion. Three No. 1 coming out of a district, not one. The placement gets tough. Camas is game 7. Game 8 is District 3, No. 1 [against] District 2, No. 3.”
Game 8, by the way, is on the very bottom of the bracket. Whoever wins that game will be the home team throughout the playoffs. So what Lutes is saying is that the District 3, No. 1 had the prime bracket spot this year. But what happened in the week 10 playoff (the game before the brackets begin), is the District 2, No. 3 beat the District 3, No. 1. This year, that meant Eastlake knocked off Kentwood.
In essence, Eastlake stole the No. 1 seed, and home-field advantage, from District 3.
“It could have Bellarmine [Prep] or [Graham-Kapowsin] as the District 3, No. 1,” Lutes said. “The leagues decide how they rotate. They have three champions. It just happened this year that the north had the No. 1 seed.”
Bellevue’s case is similar. It is not the only 3A league champion in District 2. The WIAA doesn’t place value of one league champion over another; there is a rotation. For instance, while O’Dea (which had a home game in the round of 16) has to travel to Mountain View this week, it comes out of Game 7, which means it would be the home team in the semifinals were it to win. O’Dea also hosted a round of 16 game. A caveat to that is the semifinals would be played at the Tacoma Dome.
In another year and another rotation, Bellevue might be on the bottom of the bracket and have home games throughout the playoffs.
Confusing? Yes, slightly. But thanks to Lutes, the reasoning is now much more clear. If you are still not completely sure about something, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll try to sort out the confusion. You can also tweet me (@jlieb24) questions and I’ll try to respond as best possible.