The Montana high school state basketball tournaments were cut short last week, crowning co-state champions in each of the four classifications.
Whether fans agree or disagree with the decision to cancel the tournaments after Friday's semifinal games, all should be able to agree Montana's annual high school basketball calendar would look a lot better with one additional weekend: an all-class final four pitting the state champions from each class on the same court to play out three games to determine the all-class state champion.
Semifinal games featuring the Class AA or A champion versus the Class B or C champion to set up a winner-take-all championship would make for fun basketball and great theater. Imagine the bragging rights that entire classes would carry into the following seasons after their champion became the state champion.
Class AA would have the most to lose in this scenario and, really, nothing to gain. Montana's largest classification is supposed to produce the state's best teams, so an all-class title wouldn't carry nearly the same weight for a Class AA school as it would for a school in a smaller classification. This year, the Missoula Hellgate boys and Helena Capital girls certainly looked the part. They'll share the state championships with Billing Skyview and Billings West, respectively, and whichever teams won those now-hypothetical championships would have been considered the favorites to cut down the nets at the far-fetched final four. But would that have made it any less fun to watch Scobey, Fairview, Roy-Winifred or Belt try to hurl enough pebbles to take down the giants in Montana's ultimate David-vs.-Goliath game?
Maybe chalk would have prevailed in this year's imaginary bracket with the Class AA champion defeating the Class A champion for the all-class title, but fans have long dreamed of watching the small-school underdog get its shot at its larger counterparts. It's what makes Hoosiers such a great basketball story, and it's why we love the NCAA Tournament. Few root for Duke, Kentucky or Kansas. Many root for Loyola Chicago, Davidson, Butler or that March's flavor-of-the-month Cinderella.
There are certainly some small-town Montana teams that could have, at a minimum, given the big schools all they could handle. The Jill Barta-anchored Fairfield girls and the Mike Chavez-led Heart Butte boys immediately come to mind. We'll never know how those squads would have fared, and it's unlikely we'll ever see any Class B or C teams get their shots in the future.
But, because sports across the country have been canceled or postponed and we're missing the NCAA Tournament to fill our basketball void, a fan can dream of what Montana Madness might look like. There's just something that looks right about a 32-team bracket ...