As Sam Sees It

It’s tournament time for most Arizona high school basketball teams. Both the Winslow Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs have participated in one tournament and will be in another this week. Although neither Winslow teams won their respective tournaments, both make strides that will benefit them during the remainder of the season.

That is what tournament play is all about. For most teams, this is the time to find out what your players can do. It is a time for players to learn the coach’s system and how to play with each other. The team that wins the tournament isn’t necessarily the team that got the most out of the experience.

A few years ago, Winslow sent a team to the Pepsi Invitational (the tournament the Bulldogs will be participating this weekend) and did not win a game. They played three tough teams from larger schools and gave each of them a close game. Once they were back in the regular season regional play, the Bulldogs used the skills they had honed in Flagstaff and enjoyed a very successful season.

The Bulldogs finished the Winslow Shootout with a 2-2 record this year, but played much better than that. This team showed that it could play with anyone, giving tournament champion Globe a memorable contest in the semi-final game. The Globe Tigers were the best looking 3A team in the tournament and probably one of the best in the state. Playing teams of this quality is how you improve.

The Lady Bulldogs lost their first game at the Gallup Invitational Tournament, but came back to defeat two quality opponents. Cibola High School, which defeated Winslow, is among the best in New Mexico. This tournament usually produces about half of the defeats the almost always excellent Lady Bulldogs experience. They also come back to Arizona a better team and ready for the stiff competition they will face in the 3A North (Enchantment) Region.

The Bulldogs are entered again in the Pepsi Invitational Tournament at Flagstaff. There they will meet some of the best 5A teams from the Phoenix area and many 4A teams from Flagstaff and the north as well. This is not a tournament many 3A teams realistically dream of winning. Their real goal is to do well, learn and, above all, improve.

The Lady Bulldogs will host the Winslow Winter Classic. This is the local fan’s chance to see the best girls’ basketball that Arizona has to offer. The winner of the Winslow Winter Classic last year was the Corona del Sol Lady Aztecs, who also were the Arizona State 5A Champions. The runners-up were the Tuba City Lady Warriors; the Arizona State 3A Champions. Corona del Sol is not on the list of participants this year, but one of their most respected 5A challengers, the Gilbert Highlands Lady Hawks, is. So are Tuba City and the 3A runners-up Winslow Lady Bulldogs.

Hopefully, the Tennessee Volunteers took care of this worry on Saturday, but, it was disturbing to see that the Nebraska Cornhuskers were in line to go to the BCS Championship Game in the Rose Bowl if Tennessee were to have lost to LSU in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Nebraska did not lose in the Big 12 Conference Championship Game. They lost to Colorado by an embarrassing 62-34 score in their final regular season game. They did not even qualify for the conference championship game. How can they qualify for the national championship contest?

Nebraska was this writer’s pre-season choice to be the national champion. However, if they play for it and win, it will be a very tainted prize. The fact that such is even contemplated should be enough to revise the system.

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