High School basketball: 64-team tournament on the horizon?Will Minnesota high school basketball fans get their own version of March Madness?
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
Will Minnesota high school basketball fans get their own version of March Madness?
The idea of an NCAA tournament-type, 64-team playoff for Class AAAA boys and girls basketball was brought in front of the Minnesota State High School League at its most recent board meeting.
The concept would replace the current eight-team, eight-section playoffs for boys and girls basketball, and instead seed all the Class AAAA (big schools) teams 1 to 64 in one 64-team tournament for the rights to reach the eight-team Class AAAA state tournament.
East Ridge head basketball coach Paul Virgin is all for it.
“I just think it’d be good for our sport. It’s a good opportunity to promote our tournament and get the state of Minnesota fired up about it,” Virgin said. “I voted for it, so obviously I’m in favor of it, not because it’ll help East Ridge, necessarily, but because it will help our sport.”
It is believed by most coaches the change would provide a greater opportunity for the eight truly best teams in the state to play in the state tournament instead of a lesser team reaching state out of a weaker section.
For example, in Section 3AAAA currently – the postseason section for East Ridge and Park – three teams are ranked in the top 10 – Eastview (No. 2), Cretin-Derham Hall (No. 4) and Apple Valley (No. 5). However, Section 8AAAA has no teams ranked in the top 10 and Section 1AAAA, 2AAAA, 4AAAA, 5AAAA and 7AAAA each have only one team ranked in the top 10.
“Those are all great teams (in Section 3AAAA),” Virgin said. “The downside of that is that only one school is going to go the state tournament from there, whereas you might have another section that doesn’t have a top-10 team in there and could come down and get beat by 40 points in their first state tournament game.”
One example of a recent imbalance of team quality could be ascertained by looking at the 2009 state tournament, when a 15-14 Blaine team fell 68-26 to top-seeded Hopkins in the opening round.
Geography will likely still play a role in the tournament, however, as a school’s location would be kept in mind when doing pairings – like the NCAA tournament regions.
“You can put some of those schools that are a little better in some of those other regions,” Virgin said. “But, in the process they’re making sure that the southern-most school, like Rochester John Marshall, wouldn’t have to play a Duluth East. The goal is to get the best eight teams in the state tournament.”
Virgin said the idea was voted on and passed by the Minnesota basketball coaches association, and has been approved by a high school league advisory committee.
With the current section format locked in for the 2011-12 season, the earliest the 64-team tournament could be implemented would be the 2012-13 school year.
The MSHSL board of directors meets again on Feb. 2, and the concept could be high on their itinerary.
“I’m encouraged that they’ve changed some things with football,” Virgin said, adding his two cents to televise the first-round pairings like the NCAA does. “Now that they’ve done some things with football, maybe they’ll continue with basketball. I think it’d be great for our sport.”