Blake: Tweaking basketball tournaments while protecting what’s fun

03/13/2014 11:22 PM

02/15/2015 10:42 AM

A few weeks ago, the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference was faced with a tough decision on whether to have its conference basketball tournament. In the coming months, the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association will be asked to take a second look at the state’s regional tournament.

Their decisions are somewhat linked because of recent questioning of how our state does high school basketball’s postseason. (The N.C. High School Athletic Association considers conference tournaments part of the postseason.)

The SWAC only canceled its tournament because each team still had two make-up games. But some argue that’s the way to go – just do away with it, snow or not.

The NCBCA will consider a number of complaints; one includes getting rid of the regional and moving its fourth round to the higher seed.

Conference tourney stays

My stance on anything relating to the tournaments is based on what’s best for the kids playing.

They should be ensured of the best experiences possible. Shouldn’t every decision be based on that?

So no, I would never do away with a conference basketball tournament.

Have you ever seen a high school basketball team’s celebration at winning the regular season – particularly those who clinch with a game or two left – last longer than a minute?

But for a tournament title, it’s a party. It’s where the best memories are made.

Stripping away something that brings such joy to high school athletes, just because some find it trite to watch the same teams that just completed a 10-18 game round-robin schedule try to decide another champ in a week-long tournament, is wrong.

Help the regional’s fans

However, with the regional’s current one-site and week-long format, I believe that we’re coming up short in what’s best for the kids.

With teams in the “East” ranging anywhere from Greensboro to the Outer Banks, no central location is good enough to get all teams to drive in bulk to a game on a school night and pay the $9 ticket for a potential 8:30 p.m. game that’s really more like 9:15 p.m.

The neutral site is exciting for players, but their hometown support gets left behind. Schools are caught in a catch-22 – the game is too popular to host without turning people away, but moving it far away would draw far less than the expected crowd. What to do?

If the first-week games at the higher seed can be cut to just Tuesday and Friday (coaches will like the extra day to prep for an opponent should the brackets come out late Saturday) then the second week can become a Tuesday-Friday-Saturday schedule with Friday and Saturday on a neutral court for regionals.

The regionals should not be at the same site. Fayetteville isn’t an ideal site for 2A and 1A teams, but Greenville isn’t for 4A or 3A. Getting four venues to be designated as regional hosts for Friday-Saturday games makes more sense.

This alleviates two problems – the school nights and travel – that make teams lose crowd support before their biggest game of the year. Nobody gets turned away, and kids still get to play on a grand stage.

It’s not an easy plan. But in the last year, I’ve heard arguments against the regional format and against conference tournaments.

Both are worth protecting to keep this postseason a fun one.

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