Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 :::

I wasted time researching this, so I feel I might as well share.

Apparently Tennessee girls' basketball has a playoff structure in which each district has a single elimination tournament; the four semifinalists advance to the next level.  They play the semifinals, and then the winners of those games play, and the losers play a "consolation" game, all of which affect seeding at the next level; the winners of the "championship" and "consolation" games are grouped with the losers of those games in another district, and vice versa, creating two four-team single-elimination tournaments per pair of districts, resulting in two teams in what is officially considered "the state tournament" for each pair of districts.

If by far the best team in your pair of districts is in your district, then, and that team wins its last for-seed game, your best chance of making "the state tournament" is in losing your last for-seed game.
The referee wrote that he finally called the coaches together for a meeting after "a Smyrna player was about to attempt a shot at the wrong basket (but there was a 10-second violation call before [she] attempted the shot) on purpose."
I'm sympathetic to the coaches and players here.  One might take a top player out of a game for a while, knowing that incurs a disadvantage for several minutes of the game, in order to increase the chances of winning (if the player might be more effective later for having rested); I think on a larger scale that "winning every game" is no more legitimate a demand than "winning every minute" is (though I do find it sad that so much emphasis is put by so many teams on winning the final tournament of the season).  There is no accusation of cheating here, and yet the teams were punished and fined; while there may be some place for enforcing rules ex post facto that are deemed to have violated "sportsmanship", sportsmanship in my mind is about not letting attempts to win outweigh the realization that there is life outside of the game.  Faking an injury is a violation of sportsmanship (it preys on norms that attending to the injury are more important than maintaining the ordinary flow of the game); throwing a basketball in a random direction because the rules have been structured to reward that is playing the game as it's been drawn up.

I should say that I'm a bit sympathetic to the people who drew up that bracket, too, though; I think too many very large tournaments are run as single-elimination affairs, and appreciate that there are probably political reasons to keep the structure agnostic as to inter-district seeding.  It's not too hard to make a sixteen-team tournament spit out a 4-0 team and a 5-1 team after six rounds, and it's not even all that hard to respect geography within the group for the first few rounds; I think something like that might satisfy most of their constraints (though of course I don't know intimately what those are) without giving teams incentives to lose individual games.

::: posted by dWj at 3:39 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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