Is there a chance we could ever see a true Final Four at the high school level? Probably not and that's OK. The state championships are rich and filled with great and meaningful tradition.
But this time of year, when all corners of the country come together for a national title game like tonight's Kansas versus Kentucky game, it's fun to imagine a possible national title prep tilt.
What would it take to make it happen?
The obstacles are many, such as the varying length of each state's seasons, travel arrangements and the length of the tournament which would largely cut into the spring season.
But then again, wouldn't it be nice to have a national prep champion crowned on the court instead of on paper? Here is a breakdown of how we think a national tournament would work. Teams that make it in
If high school followed the same type of procedure as the NCAA, the national championships would need automatic berths into the bracket. Those automatic berths would be the state champions in the highest classification of each state. That would lock down 50 teams that would automatically earn their right to get in. Imagine the added passion to those state title games if a national tournament berth was also on the line.
The other 14 teams would need to be at-large bids selected by a committee of judges. Those 14 teams would have to be state champions from lower classifications. There are 31 conference champions at the NCAA level, but there are hundreds of champions
across high school basketball, so a team would need to be a champion in order to get in.The selection committee
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) would need to head up the committee, to select an expert panel of reporters who cover high school basketball on a yearly basis. That panel might include national writers and editors from national websites such as MaxPreps and ESPNHS to local and regional newspaper writers.
The individual state associations would nominate teams from their respective states and the pairings would all be announced on national TV, just like the Selection Sunday show on CBS. State associations and participating schools
The state governing body and the teams selected to get in would need an incentive to play outside of bringing home a national crown. The state and school would get rewarded with some type of cash prize for the school's sports program and to help better the state association.
This means a major sponsor would have to be involved with the tournament.
Academy and prep schools
Another very tricky part of this equation is whether academy schools should be allowed in the national championship tournament. We would have to say no. MaxPreps decided this season that we would separate rankings
between NFHS-affiliated schools and academy programs.
So, to be clear, this is a competition only between schools that can win a state title.
The academy schools largely already have their own national championship series, the National High School Invitational
For those of us who cover high school sports at a national level or have an interest beyond state competition, this would be a dream situation. There would be no more speculation. No fragmented national champions. That team would have to earn it on the floor and by doing so, earn
the distinction "national champion."
Right now the real desire and grand prize for all non-academy schools is to win a state title. That is the way it’s going to be for the near future. The thought of a high school bracket and a Final Four is now just a topic of discussion, a pipe dream. Until it somehow turns into a reality, it's just fun to think about.
Steve Montoya is the Executive Editor at MaxPreps.com.