Over the years there have been several different methods for selecting and determining the final top eight teams in each class for the high school basketball tournament week, but the fairest remains the open tourney format.
This conclusion was reiterated for me while researching the history of tourney selections with a little help from my friends.
When I played at Bangor High School from 1952-55 there were three classes based on enrollment, L for large schools, M for medium and S for small.
The Class M and S teams had regional playoffs. There were four sections and two teams from each section qualified for the tourney.
The Heal point system was first used in 1949 to determine the Eastern and Western Maine Class L tournament seedings. The Heal point system is designed to select teams for tournament play on the basis of athletic strength as demonstrated through the regular-season schedule.
From 1950-60, Classes M and S had regional playoffs.
In 1961, the State Principals’ Association — now called the Maine Principals’ Association — reclassified to four divisions for basketball, adding Class LL for extra large. Classes LL and L used Heal points to determine tournament teams while Classes M and S still used regional playoffs and then reseeded by Heal points.
In the early 1960s, Classes M and S went directly to Heal points for selecting and seeding teams for the tournaments. This meant that all classes were using Heal points to determine tournament teams and seedings.
In 1971, the MPA changed the classification letters to Classes A (formerly LL), B (L), C (M) and D (S).
Until 1979, only eight teams made each class tournament, as the MPA went to a 50 percent format where half of the teams in each class made the tournament, using prelim playoffs to get to the final eight. These games were played at the school of the higher-seed team, except in 1999 and 2000, when the East prelims were held at the Bangor Auditorium.
In 2001 and 2002, the open tournament format was used. All teams made the tournament by playing prelim games unless higher seeds got byes because of a high number of teams in a class.
This open tourney concept is the fairest of all methods for qualifying for the final eight teams of tourney week.
Heal points are not fair unless teams play identical schedules and opponents. If teams do not play the same opponents then such things as location of the school, scheduling games, a school’s success on a yearly basis, not being in a league, and an opponent’s classification are not the same for each team.
Some teams lose out by 1.00 or less for the final playoff spot. Wins and losses are not the major factors, the point worth of an opponent’s wins is a major factor — the quality of the wins.
This makes Heal points unfair unless an open tournament is held. An open tourney also allows teams that peak later or have players return from injuries to make the prelim round.
In 2003, the MPA went to a two-thirds format to select the teams in each class for prelims and tournament games, then returned to 50 percent in 2010 before going back to two-thirds in 2012.
I prefer the open tourney because it is the fairest method, even though my teams didn’t need this format to make the tourney as my teams made the tournament 26 out of 29 years I coached and finished ninth once and 10th twice in the three years we did not make the final eight.
Note: Thanks to Bob Beatham of Bangor, Bob Butler of York and Piscataquis Community boys basketball coach Jamie Russell for their research assistance.