Intramural basketball season - a preview
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 19:02
There are 274 high schools in Oregon with a varsity boys' and a varsity girls' basketball team.
Assuming each team has a minimum of 10 players on it, at least 5,480 Oregon high schoolers play varsity basketball each year.
For the vast majority, their days of playing competitive, organized hoops end as soon as the buzzer sounds at their final high school game.
After that, they're left to reminisce their glory days - dreaming of an opportunity to relive them.
Enter: Intramural basketball, the most popular and most participated-in intramural sport at Oregon State University.
"There are a lot of people who played sports in high school who didn't get the opportunity to play in college, but intramurals still give them a chance to get those moments of glory," said Mitch Wiltbank, sports and special programs coordinator for the department of recreational sports.
The intramural basketball season officially tipped off on Sunday.
For men's and co-rec teams in the "B" league, the season is made up of five games and runs through week eight of the term.
For men's, women's and co-rec teams in the "A" league, the regular season is four games long and runs through week seven. Teams with a .500 record or better then compete in a single-elimination tournament that begins week eight.
This year, a record 280 teams signed up to play intramural basketball, surpassing last year's total of 272.
Last school year there were 2,396 total participants in intramural basketball, a 5.36 percent increase over the year before. Soccer (2,005 total participants) had the second most, while softball (1,986) had slightly more than flag football (1,945).
Basketball has been the most participated-in intramural sport every year since the 2009-10 school year. In 2008-09, softball edged out basketball for the top spot.
Wiltbank spoke of several factors that contribute to intramural basketball's rising popularity.
"It's a global sport, and as we get more and more international students, we're able to hit diverse populations," Wiltbank said. "It's also easier to get a team together. You only need five or six people to make it happen. And it's indoors, so you don't have to deal with the elements outside. I think that helps in Oregon."
Wiltbank has worked in the department of recreational sports for eight years, and has paid close attention to the intramural basketball talent that's been on display.
For the men's "A" division, which is made up of 78 teams, Wiltbank said the field is wide open this year.
"I think this year we have some turnover," Wiltbank said. "Some of the teams that were really good, those guys graduated. It'll be interesting to see who comes up and takes that void."
Last year, Lambda Chi Alpha won the All-University championship. Michael Smith, a senior in Lambda Chi Alpha, is the only returner on the team, making a repeat unlikely.
"It's pretty much me and all the guys who were on our second team the other years," Smith said.
When asked who has the best chance to dethrone Lambda Chi Alpha, Smith said: "[Sigma Phi Epsilon], because they're big."
The team Lambda Chi defeated in last year's title game, the "Super Soakers," are not back this year.
Lambda Chi's title marked the fifth time in six years that the All-University championship was won by a team from the fraternity/co-op division. Sigma Phi Epsilon won in 2007 and 2009, Kappa Sigma won in 2008 and Varsity House won in 2010.
"Some of it is their familiarity with one another, practicing and doing things as a group help," Wiltbank said of the trend. "For the [non-fraternity/co-op] division, we don't have all-star teams form. A lot of guys just play with their friends. The best guys don't come together to run the table."
Another potential reason why fraternity/co-op teams have dominated recent All-U championships: they have an easier road to the game.
When the playoff brackets are made, all the fraternity/co-op teams are placed on one side of the bracket, while the rest of the teams are placed on the other side. This results in the fraternity/co-op teams only having to win three games to reach the All-U championship, whereas the rest of the teams have to win five or six games to reach the All-U championship.
"Some of [the reason] is historical, in that they've played that way in the past," Wiltbank said. "I think it adds a little element to our thing by giving the houses an opportunity to play against one another in their own bracket."
On the women's "A" side, there are 18 teams - including each of the last two champions: "Soccer Junies," made up of current and former Oregon State women's soccer players, and "High Fives and Smiles."
The group of soccer players won the women's "A" championship two years ago, but was defeated in the championship game by "High Fives and Smiles" last year.
"We mess around but are competitive at the same time," said Marissa Kovac, who was a sophomore defender on OSU's soccer team this last fall. "We laugh when we suck, but get pissed when we lose."
What happened last year?
"[High Fives and Smiles] had really good shooters," Kovac said.
Grady Garrett, managing editor
On Twitter @gradygarrett