HILLARY SMITH: Keep the tournament, avoid the triple tango

2013-01-13T20:15:00Z HILLARY SMITH: Keep the tournament, avoid the triple tangoHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 13, 2013 8:15 pm  • 

This week's prep hoops tournaments, starting with today's Porter County Conference schedule of games, have prompted columns in the past about how every other conference should follow suit.

The Greater South Shore did as soon as it was formed, producing a tournament that, at first, was exactly the audience attraction it should have been.

Of the five area conferences — Duneland Athletic, Northwest Crossroads, Northwestern, Greater South Shore and Porter County — two have distinct tournament weeks (GSSC, PCC) and the Northwestern Conference is represented in the Gary Holiday Tournament.

After last season's GSSC regular season, tournament games and sectional, we can see why the other two, those holding the Class 4A teams, have legitimate reasons for keeping their teams on the regular-season path.

The first hiccup the conferences contend is how many teams are fed into respective sectionals: the DAC sends seven of its eight teams into Sectional 2, while the NCC puts three of its teams into Sectional 1.

"So if you play in the regular season, then if you play in a conference tournament, now you turn around and see each other again in the sectional tournament, you're playing the same teams three times," said Lowell athletic director and former girls basketball coach Patti McCormack. "That's what we're trying to avoid not playing a double-round robin."

With five of the eight conference teams in the same six-team sectional, the GSSC has the same problem. Last season, Whiting won the girls basketball regular-season title, Wheeler won the tournament trophy and Bowman Academy, the only team in the sectional not in the conference, won in the postseason. In boys basketball, Bishop Noll won both the regular-season and tournament honors, then lost to Bowman in the sectional championship.

So as great as a girls basketball regular-season win feels to Bishop Noll this morning, the Warriors will likely see Whiting twice again, with a win in February becoming the most important.

It is a more perfect model in the PCC than any other conference in the region.

No sectional with any Porter County Conference school has more than half of the conference in its tournament. Because the PCC, until next fall's shakeup, has teams from three different classes and four different sectionals.

There are two options to keeping the conference tournament, while avoiding the probability of meeting a sectional foe three times in a given season. The first is to change the IHSAA's postseason to three classes and four teams per sectional while adding additional rounds to the later portion of the tournament (ie. a semistate semifinal). The section option is what the DAC has elected: two conference tournaments of four teams each.

Next season, when the Duneland drops the double-round robin, it will add instead the East and West Tournaments with four teams in each bracket. There's no plan in place to have the winners meet for a singular trophy.

"If there's a possibility of seeing teams a third time, why should we have dropped the round robin?" Chesterton AD Garry Nallenweg said. "If there are two or three more schools you see a second time, there's still the possibility of playing them a third time, then we should just keep the old schedule."

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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