It's the most wonderful time of the year - the high school basketball playoffs.
The regular season finishes tomorrow night. The WPIAL playoffs start Friday and the City League playoffs start Wednesday. You want predicted brackets? Well, I will put mine out tomorrow. But first, some things you might want to know about the playoffs, including dates, byes, etc.
Playoff pairings: The WPIAL will release brackets and pairings for both boys and girls Tuesday night at a 7 p.m. meeting in Green Tree.
The start: The playoffs will begin Friday. All games are played at neutral sites.
Number of teams: On the boys side, there are 80 teams in the field, while there are 77 on the girls side. For the boys, there are 12 in 6A, 13 in 5A, 12 in 4A, 16 in 3A, 13 in 2A and 14 in 1A. For the girls, there are 12 in 6A, 16 in 5A, 12 in 4A, 12 in 3A, 12 in 2A and 13 in 1A.
Who plays when: The WPIAL plans to pay all first-round games Friday through next Wednesday, Feb. 22. This will be unlike any other previous WPIAL tournament because when it starts, the only off days will be Sundays. The quarterfinals will be played on Thursday, Feb. 23 through Saturday, Feb. 25. The semifinals will be played Monday, Feb. 26 through Wednesday, Feb. 28.
Once the quarterfinals start, two classes for both boys and girls will play each day. So, two classes of boys and girls will play the quarterfinals Feb. 23, two on Feb. 24 and two on Feb. 25. Then, two classes in boys and girls will play the semifinals Feb. 27, two on Feb. 28 and two on March 1.
Championship dates: The 12 championship games will be played March 2-4 at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Center. The WPIAL has not decided the order of the games. But three games will be played Thursday, March 2 at 5 p.m., 7 and 9. Four will be played Friday, March 3 at 3 p.m., 5, 7 and 9. Five will be played on Saturday, March 4 at 11 a.m, 1 p.m, 3, 7 and 9.
Tickets for championships: For the first time, the WPIAL will use lower-level seating for the championship games at Petersen. In the past, those seats were not used. However, those tickets will be sold as reserved seats for each session. They will not be general admission. Those reserved tickets will be made available through the Pitt ticket office.
All other tickets for the finals will be general admission.
Byes: Because of six classifications and the number of playoff teams in each class, there will be byes this season for most of the classes, except one in boys and one in girls. Teams with byes will automatically advance to the quarterfinals. In boys, there will be four byes in 6A, three in 5A, four in 4A, none in 3A, three in 2A, two in 1A.
For the girls, there will be four byes in 6A, none in 5A, four in 4A, four in 3A, four in 2A and three in 1A.
PIAA qualifiers: The PIAA playoffs will start March 10. The WPIAL had play-back games for some PIAA playoff spots the past few years. In other words, if the WPIAL got six teams to the PIAA playoffs in a class, the quarterfinal losers would play off for two spots. But the WPIAL did away with play-back games this year because of six classes.
The WPIAL will go back to the "follow the leader" system. Let's say six teams qualify for the state playoffs in a class. All of the semifinalists would get four of the spots, plus the two teams who lost in the quarterfinals to the two teams that made it to the championship. Confused? Understandable. But that's basically the system.
OK, here are the number of WPIAL qualifiers for the PIAA playoffs in each class:
BOYS - Six in 6A, five in 5A, six in 4A, six in 3A, six in 2A and five in 1A.
GIRLS - Five in 6A, six in 5A, seven in 4A, six in 3A, seven in 2A and five in 1A.
CITY LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
The City League playoffs start Wednesday with the semifinals for both boys and girls.
The semifinal winners will play in a championship doubleheader Sunday, Feb. 17 at Petersen Center.