Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball enjoyed a thrilling double-overtime two-point victory over Sierra in the first round of the 2013-14 4A state playoffs. The Sailors' win was the narrowest margin of victory of the tournament's first round. CHSAA announced Thursday it is dropping from a 48-team tournament field to 32 teams in order to create a more competitive balance.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball enjoyed a thrilling double-overtime two-point victory over Sierra in the first round of the 2013-14 4A state playoffs. The Sailors' win was the narrowest margin of victory of the tournament's first round. CHSAA announced Thursday it is dropping from a 48-team tournament field to 32 teams in order to create a more competitive balance.

CHSAA adjusts 4A state hoops tourneys for competitive balance

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— The Colorado High School Activities Association announced Thursday it again is downsizing the number of qualifiers for its 4A state basketball tournament — a move it hopes will make postseason play more competitive.

The state basketball committee first proposed the change from a 48-team tournament to a 32-team bracket to the CHSAA Legislative Council in February. Steamboat Springs Athletic Director and head boys basketball coach Luke DeWolfe said CHSAA has toyed with a similar 32-team format in the past.

“They did this a couple years ago,” DeWolfe said. “What I think they are trying to avoid is huge first-round blowouts. Also, the travel that went along with (those blowouts) was pretty absurd. They looked at it pretty indepth. It wasn’t just a whim decision.”

DeWolfe said CHSAA conducted a survey of 4A athletic directors across the state, and from his understanding, the vast majority of school officials and coaches were in favor of the smaller tournament.

The Steamboat athletic director also said 4A has the most schools represented than any of CHSAA’s five classifications. The 4A class also has an obvious disparity between its smallest and biggest schools, he said.

In the first round of this year’s 48-team state basketball tournament, the boys bracket saw an average margin of victory of 15 points per contest. The girls bracket produced an even wider gap between opponents with an average margin of more than 19 points per game. Both Steamboat teams played in the narrowest games of the first rounds, with the boys’ two-point win over Sierra and the girls’ two-point loss at Falcon.

“The committee did some hard work in looking at previous first-round games and looking at the margin of victory in those games,” CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann said in a press release. “They found there were quite a few blowouts in those games and wanted to eliminate that and get a more competitive bracket in going to 32.”

DeWolfe said CHSAA often walks a fine line when it comes to putting together competitive and respectable state championship playoffs for its respective sports across three seasons.

“Do you make high school athletics and playoffs more about getting teams from all over the state to compete and make it regionally diverse?” DeWolfe asked. “Or are you really trying to make it the best teams in the state?”

In the CHSAA press release, the Jeffco League was one of the few across Colorado that was openly against shaving 16 teams off the current 4A state basketball bracket. Jeffco went as far as to pose an amendment to keep the 48-team field, but the proposal was narrowly shot down, 38-32.

The Western Slope League had six guaranteed spots qualify in 4A boys and girls state hoops, and DeWolfe said with a 32-team bracket, he expects only four to get automatic bids.

But DeWolfe said Saturday he is much less concerned with the number of teams in the state tournament and the amount of automatic bids up for grabs in the Western Slope League. When the tournament tips off each February, he said the best team of the 32 will win.

“I’m one of those coaches, I guess, who thinks you deal with the hand you’re dealt,” he said. “In the end, only one team wins anyway.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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