Jan 24, 2013
Broughton wins the Cap 8 championship defeating Millbrook 52 to 34 Friday night February 17, 2012. (Photo by Jack Tarr)
We live in a region of the country where basketball is king.
In our neck of the woods people skip school and take sick days at work to watch the ACC Tournament each March. In college, the conference tournament is a build up to the NCAA Tournament. It's a chance for bubble teams to prove themselves a tournament-worthy teams, one last chance for them to show their stuff for the selection committee.
We have conference tournaments in high school basketball as well, but these tournaments don't mean nearly as much.
Playoff qualifiers in high school basketball in North Carolina are determined by a different criteria than in college. In high school, a fixed number of teams from each conference get automatic berths. To determine that number you take the total number of teams in a conference, divide that number by two, then add one. In some classifications there are a few wild card spots for at-large teams with the best overall winning percentage.
There is no selection committee in high school basketball (nor should there be), so the process is not subjective.
In high school, the conference tournament is a chance for teams who do not get automatic bids to steal one away from one of the teams that did.
The regular season conference champions from each conference get seeded as conference champions in the state playoffs. But if a team that doesn't qualify wins the conference tournament, they get the No. 2 seed out of the conference, dropping the other teams down a spot.
What does that mean?
For example, a conference with eight teams gets five automatic bids into the playoffs – the top five regular season finishers. But if the No. 6, 7 or 8 team wins the conference tournament, they get seeded in the state playoffs as the No. 2 team out of the conference. That means the No. 5 team loses their bid for the state playoffs, even though they earned it over the course of the entire regular season.
Conference tournaments should be dropped all together. Doing so will help high school basketball.
Right now our state championships are held the same weekend as the ACC Tournament. If we think that doesn't limit the interest, coverage from the media, and attendance, we're fooling ourselves.
By dropping the conference tournament, we move up the state playoffs by a week. That gets the state championships done before March Madness gets started, and it also means there is less overlap with the spring sports season.
I don't think the conference tournament is needed as a last ditch effort to get into the state playoffs either. Teams play home-and-home with each team in their conference during the regular season. If a team can't qualify for the state playoffs during that period, better luck next year.
Qualifying for the state playoffs in the regular season is much more impressive than qualifying by winning three games in a week. Under no circumstances should a team who qualified for the playoffs during the regular season lose their bid to the playoffs to a team who got hot during the conference tournament.
If we do away with the conference tournaments, the N.C. High School Athletic Association can add another couple games to the schedule for each team if they chose to play them. Right now teams can play 23 games and one endowment game for a total of 24 games. That could be bumped to 26 or 27 without the conference tournament.
Two or three more regular season games would be much more beneficial than a conference tournament.
The new playoff format that basketball is using this year is a test run for all the other sports (except football). So why not test out the elimination of the conference tournament?