Bizarre new power rankings send Oregon schedules into bedlam

Across Oregon, high school basketball teams are fine-tuning their playing rotations in preparation for the playoffs. The difference is that while some teams are happy to sitting back and working through traditional practices, the state's top squads are trying to furiously add final games to affect the state's new power rankings.

According to the Portland Oregonian, the flurry to add games to already crowded schedules has hit most of the state's top teams, as teams which have already landed automatic Oregon Scholastic Athletic Association playoff berths have tried to reach their maximum number of allowed games while scheduling the best opponents possible, all in an effort to re-jigger a high school version of college basketball's RPI.

"On Friday, we called seven schools," West Linn girls basketball coach Glen Lee told the Oregonian. "Some of them didn't work out with the scheduling, some of them didn't want to do it, some of them, it didn't benefit them. It has to almost be a perfect situation. It's crazy."

The late-season scrambling was all necessitated by initial cutbacks in team's regular seasons, brought on by the state's new play-in rounds that kick off the postseason. Because play-in games counted toward teams' regular season totals, they were forced to hold back on at least two non-league matchups they would have played in previous seasons.

Those extra games are the ones that top teams -- like the Oregon City girls basketball team pictured above -- are now desperate to add, in a last-ditch attempt to improve their seeding for the impending state tournament. Because the state's power-rankings won't be finalized until after the play-in round, teams have to do everything they can now to improve their playoff futures.

The scenario is essentially the equivalent of a two NCAA teams with number five seeds scheduling a game against each other days before the NCAA's play-in round because they had avoided that initial playoff hurdle ... all while knowing that a win could vault them to a two or three seed.

While the different scenarios can be almost dizzying -- "You've got to be a math major to figure this whole thing out," Lee told the Oregonian -- the Portland newspaper used a pair of different impending matchups to explain why some ranked teams are facing a stretch of as many as three games in four days.

Each notch a team climbs can improve its position in the OSAA bracket. Teams are scrambling to finish in the top eight to guarantee home playoff games before the state tournament. Some Class 6A teams are gunning for the top 16 to ensure a first-round home playoff game.

St. Mary's Academy (19-3) and Westview (15-7) - ninth and 12th in Class 6A power rankings, respectively - have added a Friday game that should benefit both teams in their strength of schedule. Sherwood (17-4), ninth in Class 5A, will play at home Wednesday night against Tigard (20-4), third in Class 6A.

"You can only play certain particular people, because you aren't going to play people behind you," Sherwood athletic director Randy Ramp said. "We had two or three 6A schools contact us that wanted to play us, and we said, 'No, we can't. It doesn't make any sense for us to do it.'"

The extra games will make for a busy week for some teams. By adding games, St. Mary's Academy and Barlow (14th in Class 6A) will play three games in four days.

To say that the new procedures still have some kinks to work out is a serious understatement. In addition to exposing players to a greater injury risk by cramming in extra games in a short span, the computer rankings currently don't factor school sizes as heavily as other factors, leading some larger schools to try and schedule matchups with relative minnows as a last ditch attempt to gain valuable power points.

"We've got a couple options. We've got a strong possibility to play this week," Oregon City (Ore.) High girls basketball coach Kurt Guelsdorf told the Oregonian. "We're waiting to see what happens Tuesday night and try to get some ducks in a row to see if we can play a Friday game. We'd like to get ourselves as far up the ladder as we can.

"I don't know if I like the fact that all these teams, us included, have to play the ratings game at the end of the year."

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