Tournament is a Clever trap

Friday, November 23, 2007

Whew! A weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The fall season is done and finally I have a break. But, wait . . . basketball season is already beginning.

This obviously isn't exactly how my last two weeks have gone, but it's pretty close. It seems like just yesterday that fall sports around the county came to a close. So it is impossible to think that basketball season is already upon us, but here it is.

This season, like all seasons, will start with tournaments played around the area. The Cassville Wildcats and Purdy Eagles are both playing in the Clever Tournament and that is the focus of this column.

The seedings for the tournament came out the other day and here is how the area teams stood. 1. Sparta, 2. Marionville, 3. Clever, 4. Purdy, 5. Cassville, 6. Galena.

I don't know about your reaction to the seedings, but I was mildly surprised to say the least.

Purdy was a very good team last year and that doesn't usually put you at fourth seed. Also, even though Cassville didn't have a great record last year, I still thought they should be higher as they are two classes above every other team.

However, after doing some research I discovered why our teams were seeded so low.

Sparta, which was a team I had not heard of, finished with a 20-9 record last year, getting ousted in their district championship game against Marionville. The reason the Spartans are not number two might have something to do with first team All-Stater, Jared McKnight, who is 6'6" and Sparta's main post player. The kid averaged 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals and four blocks per game last year. He is by far one of the best players in the area, and if you want to see a picture, you might check out the cover of the Ozarks Basketball Preview.

After discovering Sparta, I moved on to Marionville. The Comets went 22-6 last year and made a quarterfinal appearance in the state play-offs. Two years ago Marionville was the runner-up in Class 2. So basically another outstanding team.

From there came Clever. The Bluejays only went 15-9 last year but probably got a high seed because they are hosting.

Purdy was next and seemed to fit now in this order. For Cassville fans feeling gipped you might remember that Purdy finished higher than the Wildcats last year in the Southwest Tournament. In addition the Eagles are bringing back four starters while Cassville brings back only three.

The Wildcats largely got their ranking because of last year's less than desirable finish (8-18).

Now everything I have heard from that camp is good. Cassville is starting a veteran squad and a team that over their years has been dominant against their rivals, but I have some reservations about their first tournament.

To me the Clever Tournament is a clever trap for the Cassville Wildcats. The 'Cats are competing against what could be the best Class 2 teams in the state.

Cassville is at the disadvantage for being much larger than the schools against whom they are competing. It would be magnificent if the Wildcats won this tournament, but most would likely see it as a Class 4 team beating up on some Class 2 schools.

If the result goes the opposite way and Cassville doesn't win, then it will be looked at poorly because the Wildcats couldn't beat schools that are two classes lower than them.

For a current example one must turn only to this past fall. The Mountain Grove Panthers beat the Nixa Eagles in football. For those that don't know Mountain Grove is a Class 2 football team. Nixa is Class 4.

It is hard for me even to put my mind around that outcome despite the fact that I know Mountain Grove is a very good football team.

My point is, that even if the Wildcats do not take first in their upcoming contest I would not be discouraged. They are playing against some talent that have a chance this year of making the state play-offs.

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