Prep basketball drives me mad in March

March 29, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

Well, a good portion of March Madness is over and done with.

The high school basketball season has officially become part of the notebook that gets filed away until the next school year.

Congratulations are in order to the boys from Jefferson, Walkersville, Berkeley Springs and Chambersburg and to the girls from Hedgesville, Catoctin and Thomas Johnson for reaching state tournaments.

However, I can't let the year sink into total oblivion without making a comment, or two, or three, on the playoff systems.


One year ago, we gave you a three-part series on the Maryland playoffs, focusing on the lack of credibility that came with the tournament format and the changes that needed to be made based on comments from area coaches.

Some changes resulted. The West Region was split into two sections to allow for a supposedly improved seeding and home-game process; and the top four teams in all regions were each to receive a seed with homecourt advantage through to the states. These changes, however, were not enough.

School officials throughout Maryland need to think outside the box and react accordingly. The state MUST seed all teams in its regions to eliminate the absurd reality that set in again this year - teams with horrid won-lost records being able to host tournament games.

To further eliminate any problems with a home game, let's get all tournament games played at neutral sites. Wake up Maryland, it is done in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. That means there has to be an honest, determined effort from the athletic association (MPSSAA) and its member schools to communicate and work toward achieving this needed postseason practice.

That, in itself, could be a problem.

If that's not enough, there are two other complaints that will fade into the spring breeze:

· The first regards a won-lost record in which the state has criteria that tournament games within the regular season are not counted. It's a ludicrous rule and one that must be abandoned with the current seeding process.

· The second is the scheduling of the state tournament. Wonder why there aren't any fannies in the stands? Try having the boys and girls games on different dates. Is there a problem starting the boys season one week later in order to have defined tournament weekends?

At least Maryland, along with West Virginia, has a state tournament open to each of its members. That's where my comment about Pennsylvania comes in.

The PIAA crunches its regular season so conferences and leagues can either conduct a postseason tournament, such as the Mid-Penn did this year, or simply sit and rust until the playoffs begin. Then, it allows only those teams that have produced a better-than-.500 record to participate in its state tournament, which starts on the district level.

I'm not taking anything away from the Chambersburg boys and their efforts this year whatsoever, but I will use them as an example.

Chambersburg participated in the District 3 Class AAAA tournament, won two games and then lost two games. Because they reached the semifinals, the Trojans were guaranteed a position in the state gathering of 32 teams, despite losing two games. Their season should have been finished after the first loss.

Conversely, Harrisburg reaches the state's final 32 in Class AAAA, loses one game and is done. Central Dauphin won the District 3 Class AAAA title, loses one game in the state tournament and is done. Double standards? Another fiasco of a setup and screwball rule.

Open the tournament to all of your members, There is no need for a conference tournament. Don't say it can't be done because the state is too spread out and there are too many schools.

There are even some coaches in West Virginia whom I have talked to about the playoff setup who would like to see some adjustments made in the structure of the WVSSAC's Region-Section alignment. I say it is far too easy for a school in West Virginia to reach Charleston.

All we need are some school officials, in conjunction with state association officials, to make things happen. Hmmm ....

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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