The Minnesota State High School League does everything in its power to keep the state boys basketball tournament as a minor attraction. People who wanted this event to draw in more of the public than those with a hometown interest in the teams involved would make sure the best teams would be given the greatest exposure.
Sadly, the MSHSL bureaucrats are more interested in cost-cutting than revenue-building.
That’s why you have the No. 1 seed in Class 4A, Apple Valley, with its top-rated national recruit, Tyus Jones, playing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, and the No. 2 seed Park Center, deep and dynamic, playing at 2 p.m., before the public has a real awareness that the tournament has started.
Why would they do this, rather than having the Class 4A quarterfinals on Thursday to provide the impetus for the weekend? Why would you possibly hide the teams most likely to provide star power early on the first day, and have the happy-to-be-there lads from Class 1A playing in Thursday time slots?
One reason: The bureaucrats are too cheap to pay for an extra night of cheap hotel rooms for the outstaters.
Another reason: The bureaucrats continue to cling to a distorted view of fairness – meaning, a team representing a school with a 9-through-12 enrollment of 214 should not be made to feel inferior to a team from a school of 3,000, even if everyone knows that’s the case.
There are some arena complications coming up, causing the schedule to bounce around, but in a sane world, the 1As and 2As would get the four early time slots in two arenas on Wednesday, and the 3As would have the night slots for their quarterfinals in both arenas.
And on Thursday, if you arrived at the main arena at 1 p.m., you would see the Class 4A quarterfinals. And they would be on television. And if you wanted to see the semifinals from 1A and 2A, you would have to turn to another station.
I’m not suggesting a return to one class. I’m not suggesting there’s any chance for a return to the good old days. There’s no chance for that, with the giant that the NCAA tournament has become.
That doesn’t change the fact the boys basketball tournament also has been a victim of the lousy stewardship and promotion given to it by the bureaucrats, and by the self-serving “educators’’ and coaches from Smalltown, Minnesota.
Hockey has survived its split into classes. Yes, there are only two, but it has remained an outstanding event because reality is embraced. The top class – AA – is treated for what it is … as a much-superior product to single-A.
The Class A quarterfinals are on Wednesday. They are basically the prelim.
The real tournament starts with the Class AA quarterfinals on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Class A games are daytime diversions, and Class AA games are the primetime events.
In basketball, the 4A quarters are hidden on Wednesday, the semis are held on Thursday night, and Friday’s TV belongs to the often unwatchable 1A and 2A semifinals -- all in the name of cheapness and fairness, not in promoting the tournament.
It’s absurd. The MSHSL, the Class A schools and the Class A coaches know their place in hockey. They are along for the ride on the backs of the big boys.
Too bad the league, the small schools and their coaches don’t have the same realization in basketball. Instead, those forces have combined to watch the tournament fade away as any kind of an attraction for the general sporting public.