Column: The un-state basketball tournament

All it takes is winning two games in the state's toughest classification.

Fight through a tough opener. Then survive a typically harder second-round game. After that, it's on to the quarterfinals for the first sniff of true state-tournament atmosphere.

That's the situation facing the Class AAAAA basketball teams in North Georgia, get two wins to fully appreciate state. Because scheduling problems kept the Georgia High School Association from finding suitable first- and second-round host sites, the first two games of the state tourney are at host schools, with just one game at each site.

So even if teams make it past the first round, they're heading back to high school gyms for the second round, not the ideal situation for the 14 Gwinnett teams in the AAAAA boys and girls brackets. Instead of going to Georgia Tech like the past few seasons for the second round and quarterfinals, the second set of games will be at places like Campbell, Wheeler or South Cobb. What a thrill.

And you get to drive on I-285 to get there.

There are some positives to this season's format. The higher-seeded teams in the first two rounds get bonus home games and a decided advantage. But they don't get a true state-tournament atmosphere.

When I think state tournament, I don't think one game at one site, which is the predicament forced by the GHSA's inability to find a big enough host site.

You get to see more hoops at the thousands of basketball doubleheaders held three times a week during the regular season.

The GHSA won't even allow schools with boys and girls teams in the state tourney to host doubleheaders unless they're playing against the same school (Wesleyan got that dispensation this year because both of its teams face Westside).

The state tourney is about sitting there and soaking up as much basketball as you want, with games back to back to back to back. It's about fans of one Gwinnett team rooting on another, as the Norcross fans did for the Collins Hill girls at Georgia Tech last season.

Unfortunately it takes getting to the AAAAA quarterfinals at Morehouse College this season for any of that to happen. By then only eight of the 32 state-tournament teams in AAAAA will be left. The 24 that were eliminated in the first and second rounds will be gone without truly feeling what it's like to be in the state tourney.

All they get for their outstanding seasons is another game or two in a high school gym. They deserve much more.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnett

dailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.