Swoff’s Blog: Playoffs Need To Drop 5th & 6th Seeds

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The playoffs are supposed to be the best part of the year. It’s supposed to put the best against the best from across the state of Arkansas.

But the current format has gotten away from that in the first round. It’s turned into a glorified practice game for too many teams.

In 2018, the two No. 6 seeds in the 7A playoffs were beaten by 42 and 28 points respectively. Over the past four seasons, the No. 6 seed has been beaten by an average of 30 points per contest.

That’s not making the teams, or more importantly, the kids better. The whole philosophy of letting everyone into the playoffs doesn’t make it better as teams are driving several hours to get mercy ruled (beaten by 35 points). That doesn’t teach them anything. Sometimes you aren’t good enough and shouldn’t be in the playoffs.

I understand it’s the system the teams and the Arkansas Activities Association has come up with but it needs to change. I also understand that’s the way it works at the little league level for most of the country. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be.

This is not a problem just for the big schools.

In classes 4A, 3A and 2A, five teams from each of the six conferences qualify for the postseason. That’s 18 teams that make the playoffs every year after finishing outside the top half of their conference. This season those teams went 0-18 and were outscored by a total of 634 points last Friday. That’s an average of 35.2 points per game. The closest margin was 31-20.

The occasional upset does happen. Since 2015, the No. 5 seeds have won four times in those three classifications. That record of 4-68 is a winning percentage of .05 percent. Don’t get me wrong. I love an upset and an underdog just as much as the next guy but most of these teams don’t belong in the playoffs. But losing 68 games by an average of 28.2 points per game is not a good look for a ‘playoff’ team.

No 4A team that was the No. 5 seed has won a playoff game in the past four seasons. They are 0-24. Two schools from both the 3A and 2A have pulled an upset as the No. 5 seed in the playoffs since 2014.

It’s time the playoffs get back to what they should be, a showcase for the best teams. Not a participation ribbon.

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