Gatmo’s Grille

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I’ve always told everyone that basketball season for me actually starts in late February and early March.

My rationale has always been that is when everyone starts to play for keeps, in other words the games that really count.

Yeah, there is an argument that every regular season game is important, but personally I’m not buying it. Think about it, if you’re playing for championships all you have to do is just play well enough during the regular season to make it to post season.

Remember in the past when teams were required to win their conference’s regular season title or league tournament to keep their season alive? Now on every level multiple teams reach their so called “Big Dance,” so basically all you have to do is to play well enough to get selected.

Where the regular season comes in play especially for high schools is the opportunity to play at home in the State Playoffs or does it? The Hertford County boys won the Northeastern Coastal Conference regular season and conference tournament, yet got only one game at home during the 3-A State Playoffs as a top seed.

On the collegiate level, sure you play all year long for a higher seed, then again other than maybe the first two games of the NCAA Tournament when you possibly could play closer to home, is the higher seed that big of a deal? We’ve seen higher seeded teams get to the Sweet Sixteen and face a lower seed playing in their local region creating a very hostile environment for the higher seed.

Nothing will ever change on the NCAA Division I level with the exception of enlarging the tournament which would make the regular season even more irrelevant; money and television drive that bus.

On the high school level, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to work the Virginia High School League State Playoffs over the past few years and I love their playoff qualifications. The VHSL, which is equivalent to our North Carolina High School Athletic Association, uses a points system to help teams qualify for post season. This puts a little more bite into the regular season.

Not only does your regular season record come into to play, your strength of schedule does as well. Those two factors helps seed the Regional portion of the State Playoffs (similar to the NCHSAA Sectionals). Each Region has eight teams and the higher seeds play at home throughout Region play, so unlike the NCHSAA their home games are not pre-determined by a conference rotation.

Another extra perk for the VHSL teams, is that the final two teams in each Region advance to the State Quarterfinals. Several “Super” sites are set up for the Quarterfinals and no team plays on their home floor, example Brunswick High School in Lawrenceville won the Region 1 title last week and their Super site location was the Siegel Center, the home of Va. Commonwealth University basketball.

This perk also allows for higher seeds that possibly get upset in the Region final to get a second chance and continue in the playoffs. Plus, by going to “Super” sites it allows kids the opportunity play at venues such as the Convocation Center at JMU, the Salem Civic Center and William & Mary’s Kaplan Arena.

As for the NCISAA Playoffs, that’s story for another day and believe me there are a lot of opinions here in the Roanoke-Chowan on that one!

March always brings warmer weather and exciting tournament basketball, which thank goodness replaces cold weather and meaningless regular season hoops. Enjoy your March Madness, I sure plan to.

Thoughts or comments are welcomed at gattis@embarqmail, on Twitter at Gatmo or on my Facebook Talkin Sports page.