The WIAA, in an effort to provide championship opportunities to smaller public schools in the state, has expanded its basketball tournament format from four to five divisions, a decision that is a little more than goofy.
To accommodate the extra, fifth division (made up of schools with enrollments under 200) games in Madison, only four Division 1 teams will advance to Madison, down from eight. Instead of having four quarterfinal games on Thursday in Madison, the top division has been split into eight sectionals with the champions playing for tournament berths the Tuesday prior at neutral sites across the state.
For example, Marquette's Al McGuire Center will host one of the "Super Tuesday" games, pitting the winners of the Racine Horlick and Kenosha Tremper Sectionals. Across the bracket, most of the top area teams, like Riverside, King, Marquette and Washington are competing in the West Allis Central Sections. The winner advances to a Super Tuesday match-up against a Madison-area team which will be played at UW-Whitewater.
For second-ranked Germantown, should it advance that far, play for a trip to state, it would do so against a team from the Appleton North sectional (likely, No 1 Appleton East) and that game would be played at UW-Oshkosh.
To review: teams from the Milwaukee area, traditionally (and arguably) the best programs in the state, are being sent away to play games in neutral sites to allow smaller schools a chance to win a championship.
Does this make any sense?
The WIAA already prevents the best match-ups from taking place in Madison by placing a greater emphasis on geographic representation than on seeding -- that's why so many times the best match-ups tend to take place during the sectional semifinals or finals.
It's one thing to make the state tournament more inclusive, on the high school level, it's the right thing to do. But one of the thrills of playing prep basketball is walking onto the court at a big-time venue, in front of thousands of fans and the television cameras. Though the new format increases opportunities for some, it takes away from a lot more.
If this format is going to continue for the long-term, a change is needed. If the "Super Sectional" games remain in place, at least move all of them to one location -- for example, right here in Milwaukee?
The area produces some of the best prep basketball action and talent in the state though interest, due to a number of factors, is far lower than it is in the Fox Valley, Madison or other parts of the state. Bringing the games to Milwaukee -- a one-day, two-session event -- would go a long way in generating some pre-tournament buzz (and might even help the WIAA make a few more bucks).
Doing so would require students to miss a day of classes -- no more than they would have missed had the tournament format remained the same -- but it would bring back some of the luster these young men and women are missing out on by the new format.
Change is good. In this case, it could be better.