Last week, I wrote about the struggles road teams have had in the first round of the playoffs.
You won’t find such comments here this week. Instead, what I’ve found is that road success in the semifinals is more common — and in many ways more consistent — than road success in the first round.
In fact, the statewide semifinal consistency is almost scary.
Every year since 2003, in the 10 semifinal games per year, road teams have won either two or three games every single postseason.
The last time that the number of road teams winning in the semifinal round was neither two nor three was 2002, when only one road team won in the semifinals. (I just happened to be at that game in 2002, a cold day in Casper when Gillette beat Kelly Walsh 14-7. I remember nothing except the final score, sitting with my friends and having numb feet.)
The last time more than three road teams won in the semis was 2001, when four won. Six road teams won in 1999, the last year the majority of semifinal victors were road teams.
And while home teams have usually had the upper hand, they’ve never had the 10-game semifinal sweep.
Since moving to the five-class system in 1990, the state has never had a semifinal playoff round in which every home team has won. In fact, the last year in which every semifinal home team won was 1984; that year, Class 4A and 3A schools didn’t have semifinals (those classes only a championship game) and 2A and 1A playoff brackets only had four teams apiece. So it’s really not saying much that the home teams won four games that year….
Which brings me to my picks, and a pattern I noticed only after my choices were made: Despite everything I’ve written above, I’m calling for the home-team sweep in 2012.
Even though you may call me boring for choosing all the home teams, considering the history in Wyoming, I think it’s downright brave to pick every home team to win this week.
I feel like I’ve already given it away, but here are my picks. The home teams are the one in bold because they’re the ones I’m picking to win:
Cheyenne East at Natrona: R-E-V-E-N-G-E. Find out what it means to NC. Last year’s semifinal loss to East is all the motivation the Mustangs need this year.
Sheridan at Gillette: Speaking of revenge, last year’s “other” semifinal was just as rough on the Camels. They’ll be looking for a little payback, too.
Green River at Powell: Detecting a trend here? Last year, Green River was the favorite at home and Powell eked out the victory in the final moments. I’m sure the Panthers remember that and don’t want it to happen TO them this year.
Cody at Star Valley: 39-0. That’s how bad Star Valley beat Cody the first time around this year. And although Cody’s first-round upset of Riverton is praiseworthy, and although I think it’ll be closer than 39-0, the Braves still get the nod. First playoff meeting since the 1991 3A title game, Cody’s last championship year.
Lovell at Big Horn: Nope. Don’t want to pick this one. Game of the year potential right here. Flipped a coin… landed heads for home team. First meeting ever between these two programs.
Newcastle at Lyman: Last week, a Bridger Valley program made the trip to Newcastle. Didn’t go so well. This week, Newcastle makes the trip to the Bridger Valley. Closer, but the edge is still to the home team. This semi is also the first meeting ever between these two programs.
Class 1A 11-man
Southeast at Cokeville: The Cyclones have been solid all season, but I can’t go against an undefeated defending state champion at home in the playoffs. That, and Cokeville has ended Southeast’s season the past two years in a row.
Burlington at Lusk: This may be your game of the week right here if Lovell-Big Horn somehow doesn’t pan out. Burlington has been one of the scarier teams out of the West and has what it takes to give Lusk fits. Second meeting ever between these schools; Lusk won the first in the ’10 quarterfinals.
Class 1A six-man
Midwest at Dubois: Since moving to six-man last year, Dubois is 3-0 against Midwest, including a semifinal playoff victory at home last year.
Meeteetse at Snake River: The Longhorns’ turnaround this season has been fun to watch. And even though Snake won the first game between these two this year (56-44), Meeteetse could pull the upset if enough little things go their way. First playoff meeting.
Last week: 19-1 (95 percent). This season: 244-42 (85 percent).
Thoughts? You should post them below. Because by now, less than a third of the teams that started the season are left, and chances are your team is out, which means you’re more likely to be objective…. Or your team’s still in it and you’re more subjective than ever. Whatever. It’s fun either way!