We’ve got one more day of the Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament, and after that, another day for two other area holiday tournaments, in case you still didn’t get your fix.
At today’s Blue and Gold, we have finals matchups featuring the top seeds. So, after 44 games on the campus of Missouri State University, we pretty much are where we started in mid-December when the seeding committee decided on the top teams.
Is that a bad thing?
What about the fact that the first two days of the tournament featured mostly blowouts and we had to wait until Friday’s Hillcrest/Hartville nightcap for any serious drama and intrigue?
Does that mean the Blue and Gold is in need of an overhaul?
I’ve gone back and forth on this in my four seasons of holiday hoops in the Ozarks. But I think the Blue and Gold is just fine how it is.
There’s a slow buildup to the Blue and Gold, and many local high school basketball fans — probably wisely — don’t show up until the last two days.
The first day is always ugly, with teams shaking off the holiday rust. We rarely see many upsets because the committee has seeded the good teams (and some of the mediocre ones) to make sure the unseeded teams aren’t extremely dangerous.
But that allows your better teams to work out the kinks, get used to the college arena and even show off some highlight-reel plays like Willard’s Chris Kendrix did last year against Greenwood.
Another reason for the lack of early upsets is the extensive media coverage of high school sports in the Ozarks.
Years ago, when less outlets were giving serious coverage to high school basketball, a team like Hartville could’ve gone into the tournament unseeded, as a Class 3 team without a recent long state run under its belt.
However, because there are now so many more eyes (and smartphones) keeping an eye on the scene, there is no such luck of coach Brett Reed’s team falling through the cracks.
Their best player, Shade Piper, was already a known name to local followers even before he, Seth Hensley and Co. nearly topped third-seeded Hillcrest on Friday night.
The seeding committee, the coaching fraternity and the players — who play summer ball with teammates from schools from all over the Ozarks — were all very familiar with teams like Crane and Hartville, who gave good showings and lived up to their deserved seeds.
But that doesn’t help fulfill the small school vs. big school or shock-the-world narratives that have fueled the event for years.
In the end, too, you see the cream rise to the top, like tonight when Kendrix plays a loaded and feisty Kickapoo team. And then something will finally give as Republic and Nixa, the programs who have recently dominated the event, meet.
Then, we’ll have two champions, something that used to bother me as a new area resident.
In mid-December, the committee decides the two top teams and ensures they won’t play each other in front of all the local fans? How does that make sense?
Well, it fits the season-long narrative of area high school basketball.
It builds a little drama for when, say, Republic and Willard meet for a league game between the event’s champions. Or, when Nixa and Kickapoo meet in a rematch of last year’s district championship.
The tournament isn’t always pretty. And instead of a wholly satisfying ending to the event, it instead builds up a little drama as the high school basketball calendar turns to the new year.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Contact Matt Schoch at 417-836-1191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MattSchochNL.