Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools should stop conference tournaments, replace them with this

Friday night, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will host six conference championship games for boys’ and girls’ high school basketball teams in three Mecklenburg County gyms.

This should be the last year the school system does it.

Conference tournaments have become predictable, somewhat boring and until the championship rounds, in many cases, sparsely attended.

In the first three days of conference tournament play so far, the average margin of victory in girls’ games has been 23 points. For the boys’ games, it’s 23.1.

The boys’ semifinals games were scheduled to be played Thursday night as well as the Southwestern 4A conference girls’ semifinals.

But for the other two girls’ leagues — the Queen City and the SoMECK — the top two seeds are playing for tournament championships Friday, meeting for the third time season. This happens the majority of the time.

Also, next week, when the state playoffs start, those same teams could meet for a fourth time.

There’s rarely any suspense.

So, here’s an idea: Instead of hosting conference tournaments every year, where the lower seeded teams rarely have a shot at anything except being on the business end of a lopsided score, let’s start a Mecklenburg County championship. Let’s give local fans something to look forward to every year.

Apparently I’m not the only thinking this way.

“We have our (coaches’) symposium at the beginning of the year and that was one idea thrown out among the coaches that were there,” Independence boys’ coach Preston Davis said on The Observer’s streaming high school show, Talking Preps. “A couple of coaches expressed interest (in a county championship). I think it would mean a lot. I think student-athletes would buy into it, and most of the coaches would buy into it. I think it would be different, and I’d like to see it myself.”

Here’s an easy way to do it:

There are 21 teams in CMS conferences. So, you have three brackets, set up so everyone gets at least two games. Currently, some teams only get one.

Each bracket is named after a longtime CMS athletic director.

The top bracket is named for Vicki Hamilton and would feature the top eight teams, determined by a seeding committee, MaxPreps rankings, The Charlotte Observer, whatever you prefer.

The next eight teams go into the Dave Harris bracket; the final five into the Sue Doran bracket.

You try to ensure teams from the same league only meet in the finals if possible. You’d want all games — played on CMS sites — completed by Thursday, except the boys’ and girls’ championship games in the Hamilton bracket. Those games would be played Friday at the largest venue you could find: UNC Charlotte, Davidson, Bojangles’ Coliseum.

Maybe there’s a local NBA team that might get involved.

This format would allow all teams to play similar competition and allow some of the lower seeded teams to actually play for some hardware.

Each bracket would have an all-tournament team and an MVP, with plaques and trophies.

Finally, on Championship Friday, there could be a 3-point shootout and a dunk contest between games, as well as an opportunity for CMS to recognize its all-conference teams in front of a big crowd.

And this event would generate large crowds.

“Everybody has a chance to win something,” former CMS coach Gary Richmond said. “A kid that makes all-tournament may not have made all-conference but that’s still good reward for having three good days of games.”

For CMS, it could be a boost to its athletic budget, too. Local coaches need to be paid more and this could possibly help the system boost those stipends.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Independence’s Davis said. “I hope it gets done. I’d love to see it. It would be something different for our city, especially for the public schools. We’re kind of in a state now where we need that, to get that support. I’ll do my part and put it out there, in coaches ears, and see if we make some changes and get it done.”