So it's Tournament Week in “Da Region.” There is an extra thrill in the air as two small-school conferences host a basketball party.
And you never know for sure who will be popping out of the round, orange cake.
The Porter County Conference has one of Indiana's longest running in-season hoops festivals. The Greater South Shore Conference has done a great job mirroring what the PCC has done forever.
These two events are special as area basketball is concerned and when the champions are crowned tonight, it will mean a lot to the players involved.
And their communities, too.
But there is something else that should come along, and soon, that would pump our tradition-rich patch on the map right up there with the other greats in the state.
It is time for Lake County to have a basketball tourney.
“When you look at the (John) Harrell site, it seems like every other county in the state has one,” Munster boys basketball coach Mike Hackett said Tuesday. “Why not us? I think it would be great for the programs up here.”
There are 26 basketball-playing schools in Lake County in the IHSAA. There are 10 Class 4A schools, 10 3A schools, four 2As and two A programs.
There is a reason Indianapolis has been so strong in the state basketball tournaments for so long. It goes beyond the population and talent.
The schools there have an in-season showdown that allows their teams to be ready when March dribbles in. There are two of these roster sharpners.
The Marion County Tournament has 16 teams. The Indianapolis City Tournament has 16 teams. Four games in one week to win it all. It's a great event and a fantastic preview for the postseason.
When I worked down there, you expected to see several Big Ten coaches watching the players compete for a championship.
The same could, and should, happen here.
We have three gymnasiums that could easily host the finals. West Side and E.C. Central are the first choices to host a crowd that would need the room afforded there.
But the Hammond Civic Center would be my choice, a great, upgraded facility that would be great and neutral for such a final round.
My thoughts would be to break the Lake County Shootout into two separate tourneys. The top 16 teams would play in the Big School division. The next 10 would compete in the Small School tourney.
How would this work?
I would use Jeff Sagarin's power rankings to split the field. On Jan. 1 of the year, the top 16 are slotted in one tournament and the next 10 get to fight for their own trophy.
Then, on championship night, fans get two championship games.
“Sounds great, when do we start?” Bowman Academy coach Marvin Rea said. “The fans would love it. The players would love it. And it would help our teams get ready for the postseason.
“I don't know why Indy has had this for years and we never have.”
Imagine the possible match-ups. Crown Point vs. Bishop Noll. Merrillville vs. E.C. Central. Or Bowman. Lew Wallace vs. Lowell. Or 21st Century vs. Lake Central.
Pop the popcorn, tune the pep band's tubas and start printing the tickets.
To make this work, each team would need to get three games out of it. So a loser's bracket would need to be used.
“We used to do something like that in the old Lake Athletic Conference tourney,” Hackett remembered. “It was great. We loved that. But I think this would be even better.”
It's time for coaches to discuss this idea and get the ball rolling. I don't know how to make a million dollars or stay warm this winter, but there is something I do know – Region basketball.
This would work and this would work well. Splitting the pot evenly would make more money than playing South Bend Clay.
Blind draw. First two rounds played at host schools followed by final fours in the bigger gyms.
What do you all think?