With the NCAA tournament hitting full speed this week, there's something obvious about its appeal: Tournaments are a great thing in sports, and there's no better team sport for a tournament than basketball.
So why not a national high school tournament? It could be done. But would it be worth it?
‘'I think it would be good for high school basketball,'' said Sharman White, head coach of Miller Grove in Georgia, a team that is ranked in the top 10 in every national poll. ''I would support it.''
Miller Grove is like many teams these days that play national schedules of two to four out-of-state tournaments a year. Playing another wouldn't be difficult, at least not for the team and players. They're used to it.
Here are some of the issues to be addressed:
- Most states don't allow teams to play games after their state championships are done, although if the national federation endorsed a national tourney, that probably would persuade a change in thinking.
- A tournament with as few as 16 teams would entail at least four straight days of games, and that's not only tiring, but it's time out of class, which school principals and superintendents aren't going to like.
- The appeal of a national tournament might encourage top players in a state to congregate and form super teams that could win the title. Not that this doesn't already happen just for the sake of winning state titles.
- When would you play it? Some states are done with their state tournaments in late February, others in late March.
- How would you pick the teams? White says there would be no way to be perfectly fair and accurate, but he also thinks most of the best teams have been identified by this time of year.
"I think [the national rankings] are pretty accurate,'' White said. "It might be a team here or there that might not have the recognition. You'll never know. But if you look at [the rankings], it's pretty much the same teams there.''
This season, St. Anthony will claim the honor of a national title for the fifth time in its history under coach Bob Hurley when all the state championships are done. Most state tournaments will be over this weekend.
There's not much doubt that St. Anthony deserves it. That's not to say it wouldn't be fun to see St. Anthony defend its ranking one more time.