Sectionals Week Thoughts

As someone recently pointed out to me, does anyone really care about winning the section anymore? Ever since USAU expanded the number of regions from 8 to 10, split D3/Dev from D1, and created new conferences, sectionals/conferences has been boring. Sure, it was cool that Bama continued their winning streak, and then it was cool that Auburn broke that streak to win their first title since Rob White’s heyday with the Hare Jordans. But did it actually matter?

Making regionals used to mean something significant because it really was the best of the best. The last year of the 8 region setup, 462 men’s teams competed for 128 spots at regionals. The South region alone had 54 teams, meaning 29.7% advanced. Compare that to this year’s SE region- 32 teams fighting for the same 16 spots, so 50% of teams advance. Considering 7 of those teams are fighting for 1 spot, we have 25 teams fighting over 15 spots, or a 60% advancement rate. The top teams no longer have to worry about making regionals anymore and this is a great thing for competition.

Non-elite teams used to have to peak at sectionals just in order to have a chance at advancing. What they did after sectionals was never given much thought because no one was really sure they were going to make it. Since the expansion from 8->10 regions, a team from the GC has at least made a game to go to a game to go every year except one. The last time that happened prior to 2011 was probably LSU sometime around 2000 (didn’t look it up because time), but we have now done it 4 out of 5 years and that streak will likely continue in 2016.

Teams now view regular season events with more importance than sectionals. A coach told me he doesn’t care if his star players win POTY or the section title, he only cares if they dominate games that determine nationals’ bids during the season and Sunday games at regionals. When USAU got rid of size/region strength bids and went to auto/team strength bids only, it became obvious that elite teams should put more energy into the regular season since it could make their postseason paths much easier. Teams quit playing lots of local tournaments and started to figure out how to maximize the return on their game-play.

Gone are the days where Ttown Throwdown was essentially Sectionals Part 1, Mardi Gras Part 2, and Music City Tuneup Part 3. Instead of playing essentially everyone in your section at least once (and sometimes 2-3 times) before the end of the regular season, teams are going to California, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and everywhere in between to find the best path for themselves. That means you may see 2 or 3 teams from your conference in the regular season total.

Sectionals used to matter not only because it was so much harder to qualify for regionals, but because we all played each other so often in the regular season. Teams knew everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and they knew how to exploit them. Games were so intense because you were playing the known enemy, the ones you had shared the field with so often. People cared because you knew you could beat each other, and there were real consequences to losing games. A 3rd backdoor safety net didn’t exist.

The same issues exist with All-Section voting these days. Because teams hardly see each other anymore, they really don’t know who the best players are. A guy like Stephen Rhea at Samford got tons of respect from his fellow players back his era because every team from the section that played them knew how good he was as an individual even if Samford wasn’t that great as a whole. It is almost impossible to separate the skill of the individual from the skill of the team unless you’ve had to mark someone for 30 points across the season.

Of course, if someone other than Auburn/Tulane (and I suppose LSU) wins this year, then it WILL matter. It would not only be a huge upset to see UAB/MSU win their first title or Bama/Vandy reclaim their former glory, but it would also throw a wrench in the regionals seeding. That is what makes sectionals matter in the end.

End rambling thoughts. Predictions to come when weather forecast is clearer. Feel free to use this post as the sectionals hype/trash talk thread.

11 thoughts on “Sectionals Week Thoughts”

  1. man, this article has so much good ole days vibe to it, i might choke if my middle and last name werent Dz Nutz. Also, might I add, the hottest team in the section is still Auburn women’s team and LSU Men’s team. If those two could just get together and have a meet and greet, that would be GREATTTTTTT. I promise there won’t be any awkward silence as someone says hello while getting water.

    ANOTHER THING. Mr. bamasecs Travis Vermaelen

    All section:
    that guy from auburn with the no knees
    that guy from tulane that plays pro
    that guy from lsu who can swing me the other direction
    Tom. cause tom.

    and you are right. I dont know ANYONE in the section. and let me tell you. i know everyone. I am that kind of guy who just knows everyone, but i just don’t know what to say, just don’t know these teams anymore.

    FOTY:

    when are we going to start having Freshman lines versus freshman lines? I would pay good money to watch that.

    POTY:
    Yeti. I heard he did phenomenal at TTOWN this year against auburn and Purdue. Only reason why they won actually.

    and congratz to that alabama who went on that date with that tulane chick. bravery. admirable. heard she was a cutie!

    AND never going back to huck finn. that tournament sucked.

  2. What was the old tag-line of this site again? Something like “if we don’t pretend to care about the Bama Section, nobody will”?

    Maybe you’ve stopped caring, but I watched the finals between Tulane and Auburn last year, though, and it sure looked like those guys cared. I won’t try to tell somebody how they are or aren’t feeling right now, but I do know a few things.

    I know UAB has played 82 games over the last 3 years, and not one of those guys has ever advanced to regionals. I know Alabama has juniors and seniors who were part of the streak, but now need an upset just to keep their season from ending Sunday. I know Auburn had a dream nationals run last year and won Tally Classic in March, but they limped out of Huck Finn and can’t afford to continue losing steam. I know LSU has quietly put together an impressive resume, and that ‘new’ generation is ready to prove it wasn’t the beginning of the end of Purple Haze’s best days.

    So maybe some teams have stopped caring, or some people have stopped paying attention to sectionals storylines. Across the country, teams (and with them, their seniors) will start the knockout rounds of the series this weekend and potentially end their seasons. I’m willing to bet they still care, even if you’ve stopped.

    1. I don’t believe the post is saying no one cares. Everyone who plays, coaches, reads their alum tweets cares, but I think the post argues that it no longer matters to the same degree especially for the top teams.

      There is a lot of truth that Sectionals is no longer the crown jewel of Bama Secs.

      In the Bama Section, making it to Regionals is no longer as difficult.
      In the Bama Section, the top teams are looking towards National bids, not Regional placement.

      This is not to downplay the guys at UAB or Alabama who are fighting to get to Regionals, but there will always be teams on the fringe of any tiered cutoff/playoff tournament. For the Bama Section, that cutoff used to be getting to Regionals, but now the top teams still have their eyes on goals deeper than this weekend.

      If the teams currently at the top to not continue to develop, then you may see a return to Sectionals as this section’s showcase, but as long as you see Auburn and Tulane in the game-to-go, those programs will not place the same value on Conference Championship weekend.

      Lastly, I think where this article could expand is commentary on how Sectionals has lost steam due to dwindling inter-section rivalry. When Bama Secs teams play each other so infrequently, there is far less familiarity. The familiarity that teams do have with other Bama Secs players many times comes from playing together at the club level. Without Team X and Team Y juking it out year after year, and with the best players playing together in the summer, it feels like players and teams in the Bama Section have lost that rivalry fire.

      What I miss is hating teams because of their ________ identity.

      What is currently the best Bama Secs rivalry?
      Is it Auburn v. Tulane because of their success the past two years combined with their Soho connections?
      Is it always the top two teams?

      Write another article on it Francis!

  3. Auburn’s win in 2008 was 2 years after Rob White, but it’s understandable to think he was still there. LSU had a down year due to a lot of people graduating and Bankhead just not playing and Ole Miss (2 seed…not joking) lost to Tulane Saturday morning and Alabama won that pool. Auburn beat Alabama pretty easily in the finals on Sunday but most of Alabama’s best players were young.

  4. Damn Francis did you have to walk uphill, in the snow to and from Sectionals too?

    Is it a bad thing that there’s so much more ultimate to be played that the teams in the Conference actually travel outside of the conference’s footprint to play?

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