Format changes should be considered for the high school basketball prelims

The Eastern Maine Tournament will be underway Tuesday and Wednesday with girls and boys basketball prelims set to tip off.

Prelim games are considered part of the tournament.

Because two-thirds of the teams in each class make the tournament, there will be 32 EM prelim games to determine the final eight teams in each class with one prelim each for boys and girls in Class A, five each in Class B, three each in Class C and seven each for Class D. The higher-seeded teams host the prelim games, with the winners moving on to either the Class A tourney at the Augusta Civic Center of the Classes B-C-D tourney at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Here are some things that could improve the prelim games.

One of the biggest problems for prelim games is when players have to leave school early to travel long distances on a school night and then go to school the next day. It is possible that a team will have to travel well over 400 miles round trip.

Instead, the teams could meet at a neutral site halfway between each school.

The prelims should also be held on Friday and Saturday on the first weekend in February. This could occur by starting the preseason a half week or a week earlier and then having the last countable games be played on Tuesday instead of Thursday. This stops teams from traveling long distances on a school night.

It would also be better to play the games on college courts that would give the teams an opportunity to play on the same size floor, 50 by 94 feet,  as the tourney sites in Bangor and Augusta. There are at least 13 college floors in Eastern Maine. Games could be played at 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at each site.

This would certainly be fairer than having to travel to the home floor of the higher-seeded teams and would also give each school a real tournament setting and atmosphere.

If college gyms aren’t available, then play at a bigger high school gym halfway between the two schools involved.

Even though there is some flexibility in the prelim schedule, girls games are usually held on Tuesdays and boys games on Wednesdays. Why not switch the boys and girls prelim games every year?

Or better still why not rotate the three classes so that every three years different teams have just one or two days before the quarterfinals if they win their prelim game. It also doesn’t seem fair that some Class B teams have to play on Fridays with just one day of practice for the boys and two for the girls.

The higher-seeded tourney teams which receive prelim byes certainly have an advantage, which they deserve under the Heal point system. They get to scout their opponent and have a week to of practice before the quarterfinal round.

The prelims always provide the possibility for some big upsets. Last year, 12 of the 34 Eastern Maine games saw the lower-seeded team upset the higher seed. The best example was the 16th-seeded Jonesport-Beals boys traveling to play at No. 1 Washburn and knocking off the Beavers.

These suggestions might be better for the student-athletes and could also be considered for all high school sports that hold prelim rounds.

Trivia Question: What team did Bangor play in the first high school basketball game played at the Bangor Auditorium in December of 1955?