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Column: My first Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament seeding meetingPosted Wednesday, December 12, 2012, at 12:48 AM
My heart sank with every word Andrew Halford spoke.
"We've got a good hard-working group," the Advance boys basketball coach said. "Can't ask for much more than that."
Oh, can't I?
"Starting out the season well," Halford continued. "These kids are really getting with it early. Have good size, have good guard play so far this season. We're excited for our group and have high expectations for them."
Really getting with it? Tell me more.
Little did I know Halford had just delivered one of the more in-depth speeches at the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament media day and seeding meeting Sunday evening at the Show Me Center.
"Anybody have any questions for Advance?" assistant tournament director Bruce Qualls asked.
No one had any questions. Just like no one had any questions for the other 15 coaches who followed Halford to the stage in school-name alphabetical order.
It was at this point I realized I had set my expectations too high for my first trip to the seeding meeting -- way, way too high.
I had hoped for a war room-type environment where each coach made a case for why his team deserved to be seeded first or fifth or fourteenth or wherever else.
You know those interviews given by NCAA coaches whose teams are on the tournament bubble each March? The ones where they rattle off all kinds of facts on why their team should be included in the tournament and mention how much of a shame it would be if they were left out.
That's the kind of thing I expected, but the coaches mostly just told everybody their record, who they'd lost to, who'd they'd beaten and then threw in whichever cliché best described their team this season.
Central assistant Seth McDowell chose "most athletic group" for his cliché.
Chaffee coach Josh Govreau said, "We're kind of young as far as experience goes, but we're finding ways to win some games right now but not where we need to be potentially" in the course of his speech.
Danny Farmer, the coach of unanimous top seed and defending champion Charleston, spoke for a total of 18 seconds.
I wasn't the least bit annoyed by any of this. It's the coaches' meeting, and they can say or not say whatever they like. Plus, I believe all of them were giving an honest assessment of their team, even if they weren't particularly exciting.
But I couldn't help but be amused to find that the coaches all talked to each other in mostly the same way they talk to me during interviews. And I was, of course, also disappointed that my hopes for passionate speeches and maybe even some spirited debate were way off base.
There was still plenty of entertainment and interesting discoveries. Notre Dame coach Kevin Roberts kept his time at the podium amusingly short, following a rundown of his team's record by saying "We're pretty young. We start four sophomores, but we're not bad," and then returning to his seat.
Scott City coach Mark Dannenmueller displayed his complete inability to sugarcoat anything.
"We're 2-3. We beat Meadow Heights and Oak Ridge. We got killed by Bernie, by Leopold and by Oran on Friday," Dannenmueller said before explaining that starter Ryan Fortner would be back before the tournament begins and discussing his young guards.
"We're not very good right now," he said. "I think we'll be pretty good, though, by the end of the year. We've just got three players pretty much, and we've got some guys that just really don't know what they're doing. I don't know what we'll be, but right now we're not very good. But we're 2-3."
First-year Woodland coach Ryan Garnett told the group that a senior starter recently quit and noted that his team is "working on new traditions and new attitudes."
"They do not have a winning tradition established," Garnett told me later, "and we're tying to develop that winning tradition, that winning edge, that willingness to compete every game, no matter who it is.
"We'll give up some wins if we can develop our character. No doubt. And that'll pay off in the long term. I'm looking long term. Hopefully they keep me long term, but I'm looking long term -- not right away."
Dannenmueller told me he comes to the meeting with a general idea of how he will cast his ballot but that he does need information on a few teams.
"I think [coaches are] genuinely being honest about their teams," Dannemueller said. "It's a little bit different now than preseason. Preseason ones are horrible because preseason you've got people trying to pump their team up like they're the best thing in the world, and you might know that they're not going to be very good. But now you've got some games. You've got four or five games under your belt. People are usually pretty honest then, I think."
I understood Dannenmueller's point, but I couldn't help but think that I need to score myself an invite to a preseason tournament seeding meeting.
Those sound like some speeches I'd like to hear.
Rachel Crader is editor of semoball.com.
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Rachel Crader is the editor of semoball.com. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2009 before spending the summer covering the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Highlights from Rachel's days in college include having a class down the hall from Chase Daniel and having NCAA wrestling champion Ben Askren hold the door open for her at Brady Commons, Mizzou's student center. She spent time covering Mizzou basketball, softball and baseball while working for the Columbia Missourian and is excited to return home to Southeast Missouri to cover local sports for semoball.com.
Rachel has covered three Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournaments for the Southeast Missourian and semoball.com, and she'll see you courtside again this year.
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