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I’m hearing from a few folks outside the Atlantic community that a recent article I wrote about a girls’ basketball game wasn’t too popular.

The game was one-sided, and you could probably have named the score had Atlantic’s coaches not liberally subsituted the second half.

I don’t know that making a big deal about this letter is such a good idea, but here goes.

Here’s the thing: Atlantic was (and is) a team that wanted to prove it could sustain a certain level of play over a substantial period of time. The purpose was twofold, I’d guess: 1. They were perhaps capable of playing at that level, and 2. They knew that level and style of play will be needed if they were to be able to compete against a team like Cherokee, which is loaded and will be tough for anybody, perhaps in any class, to beat. At least three players can consistently score in double figures and anyone who can shoot the three-point shot.

As you read this, Atlantic will have already played Cherokee, and it will either be a huge upset win or the season will be over.

But I decided that – unlike what a few might suggest – rather than be someone to tell them to just get in line and take their beating, I decided to give Atlantic chance against the state’s top team. If they can keep up the pace, they might just at least give the Lady Braves something to think about, no matter the outcome.

Make no mistake, I did not see anyone running up the score on anyone. What I saw was a team trying to perfect strategy and plays in preparation for playing the state’s top team, the one standing in the way of a possible state tournament berth.

Then comes the question of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union changing its pairing decisions for the regional tournament.

Technically, the IGHSAU doesn’t “seed” teams per region, or that’s what we’re led to believe. But when you take the top eight teams and separate each of them and have them play a team with a poor record, and then have the team with the second-best record play what would effectively be a No. 7 seed and so on, it’s pretty clear what’s going on.

Of course the idea is to get the eight best teams in each class to the state tournament. That’s good in theory. Realistically, you’d have to jumble up the geographical lines so much that it is next to impossible. That, or have teams potentially travel hundreds of miles for a regional game, which I’m totally against. (Imagine, Central Lyon vs. Keokuk, teams from the far northwest and far southeast parts of Iowa, in a regional game at a home site.)

You can maybe split the top two or three teams, but in the very least you’ll have an upset along the way or two neighboring teams in the lower reaches of the top eight – e.g., maybe a five and a seven – that are just so close geographically that it makes no sense to split them up.

But when you group teams together and have your eight team regional, doesn’t it make sense, at least in my opinion, to have a coaches’ meeting and decide who should get what seeds, Nos. 1 through 8, and then draw pairings accordingly?

They do that in wrestling and it’s worked.

They’ve done it in boys’ basketball for the past several years and it appears to work.

Try it in girls’ basketball. And, for that matter, volleyball and softball too. It’ll work.

The coaches, after all, know best who the best teams are.

* * *

It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks from now, we’ll have March Madness and the all-important selection show.

It will be well worth celebrating, particularly since there was no men’s Division I – or any level – basketball tournament a year ago, due to the pandemic.

This year, there’ll likely be one, and it appears Iowa is an apparent lock for the final field of 64. I’ve heard rumblings they might be ranked in the top 4 in its region.

Besides the Hawkeyes, the USA Today analysts also considered Big Ten teams Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and possibly Rutgers for the tournament. Which makes seven. Teams that are on the bubble but still might get in are Indiana, Maryland and Minnesota.

Seven of the Big 12 teams appear likely for the tournament: Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

That’s a tough slate Iowa State has had to play if seven of the nine foes you play are potential March Madness teams. It’s clear the Cyclones are trying but this year I’m not sure I can put a finger on why things have been so rough.

The good thing is that sometimes these rough years come and go in cycles, even at the college level. The team isn’t that far removed from a Big 12 Conference tournament championship and next year will have seniors who played as freshmen on the 2019 team.

It all depends on how well the off-season, recruiting and other factors go.

* * *

And now, it’s off to follow state wrestling in Des Moines.

We’ve got 15 area wrestlers we’ll be following, all with the chance to reach the medal stand. Best wishes to all wrestlers as they vie for state glory this week. And thanks for your kind words all season long as we’ve followed them.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.

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