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Sorry, there’s no VCU in Region C

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OPINION

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

A little winter housecleaning…

Having just watched VCU step over Kansas to reach the Final Four, two thoughts come to mind:

First, I imagine those Shaka Smart Basketball Camp slots are starting to fill up rather quickly.

Second, though there may be a place for a team that has no place in the NCAA tournament, there should be no place for a team that has no place in the Region C or Region IV tournaments.

Having been in use for four years now, the divisional playoff format in Group A and Group AA basketball in Virginia is still fairly new, but when first-round games include 40- and 50-point margins of victory, as was the case this year, it may be time to do a little tweaking.

It’s certainly better now than it was the first year of the divisional system (2008), when three winless teams and a one-win team made the 12-team girls’ Region C Division 1 field.

The bracket was trimmed to eight teams the following year and has remained as such. Eight is a nice, symmetrical number for a bracket, but Region C may want to follow the lead of Region IV and at least have some criteria for teams to make the regionals. Only five teams were awarded spots in the Region IV Division 3 boys’ field this year (none from the River Ridge District) and the region still sent two teams with losing records – including 9-17 Graham – to the state tournament. Somehow 9-17 doesn’t strike me as being one of the eight best teams in the state.

True, somebody has be a region champ, even if a region stinks and even if it’s the Richlands girls, who won Region IV Division 3 and then lost by 40 in the state quarters.

What should the criteria be for advancing to the regionals? Perhaps it should be winning at least one district or tournament game. Narrows’ boys were 0-8 in the MED (0-9 including the tournament) and scored 20 points in a region quarterfinal loss.

Maybe finishing in the top two-thirds of the district should be the measuring stick. Bland was fourth in the five-team MED and lost by 43 in the first round.

Perhaps a team should win at least one-fourth of its total number of games. Holston finished 5-17 (.227) and lost by 50 to Galax in the first round.

These aren’t exactly strict standards to meet, certainly not like five years ago, when each region had a single tournament and only two teams from each district advanced. But a little exclusivity would be nice.

Region tournaments used to serve two purposes: (1) rewarding a team for either a very good season or a strong finish and (2) taking a select few good teams to begin the process of determining a state champion. I doubt Narrows or Holston felt rewarded on the bus ride home from their regional losses. And while Cinderella stories are great, none of these teams was going to pull a George Mason and go anywhere.

There’s nothing wrong with a first-round bye. Just because there are eight spots in a particular region basketball tournament doesn’t mean all eight should be filled.

Bad timing

I don’t know Jack. Jack Turner, that is. But you’ve got to feel bad for the guy.

Turner resigned his position as head football coach at Pulaski County last spring after he was reported to the VHSL for violating its out-of-season practice rule. A one-year postseason ban and a fine was levied against PCHS for breaking the rule…a rule that will no longer exist as of Aug. 1.

The VHSL in February approved significant changes to its out-of-season practice rule, allowing teams to conduct full workouts at any time other than the first 10 days of another sports season and other than a one-week period in the summer. For example, fall sports teams may not practice during the first 10 days of winter or spring sports.

So if you see kids popping pads on the football field of a rival high school next April, don’t rush home for the ol’ camcorder.

Though leaving it wide-open and allowing separate districts and regions to modify or restrict the rule, the VHSL doesn’t envision the rise of spring football. Which only fortifies the notion that the VHSL doesn’t know anything about the coalfields.

ACC tour

Three weeks ago the state basketball championship came to Galax. In two weeks, national champions will be coming to town.

The ACC Barnstorming Tour will play an exhibition at GHS on April 13 where some of the nation’s best players will lay a shelling on some local high school players and former players.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, this may be the only chance you’ll ever get to watch members of a UNC team or national championship Duke team in action without having to leave town.

The Blue Devils’ Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are scheduled to play, as are Justin Knox of North Carolina, Tracy Smith of N.C. State, Malcolm Delaney of Va. Tech and other select seniors from ACC teams.

Tickets are on sale now at GHS for $10 (general admission) and $50 (VIP). The high-end tickets bring with them a post-game reception with the players.