EVANSVILLE, Ind. – For the first time in 20 years, the Indiana High School Athletic Association made a change to one of its biggest events.
The IHSAA executive committee approved a proposal last week to alter the boys and girls basketball tournament. Starting next year, the regional will be one game and the semistate now requires two victories. The opposite was previously the case.
As one would expect, some simply didn't like the modification. Others called it a cash grab from the IHSAA because more teams get a trophy.
But for the teams themselves? It's generally seen as a positive.
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"I don't know why a shakeup every once in a while is not exciting," said Bosse coach Shane Burkhart. "We're set in our ways down here. If they're going to include all eight sectionals, I don't know if they will, that means every one of us has the same opportunity as everyone else. If we have the opportunity to progress forward, you have to beat those teams anyway
"What difference does it make if it happens to be a one-game or two-game regional?"
Why the change?
IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig conducted a survey this spring of principals, athletic directors, boys and girls basketball coaches. Of the 781 respondents, over 70% were in favor of the new format.
The reason behind the push was to generate more excitement deeper in the tournament because more teams will still be competing. This would also give teams better preparation following the sectional, which for many is three games in five days.
What will the regional look like? This hasn't been answered yet. The pairings will be drawn and announced at the same time as the sectional, as it always has been. But will your opponent be against those from the traditional four-sectional pod? All eight sectionals in your half of the state? Face the same sectional winner every year like the one-game softball regional?
IHSAA sports information director Jason Wille said the exact format wasn't finalized at the meeting last week. The regional sites — there could be multiple championships played at one location, possibly from different classes — won't be determined until the fall. It still would be played on the weekend following the sectional.
"I'm one of those guys who doesn't like change," said Memorial coach Lee Auker. "I can see the other view. It's make the semistate a little more exciting. There are too many questions and not enough answers. If it's meant to keep the regional closer to home, then I think it's great."
What do other coaches think?
The Courier & Press asked several boys and girls basketball coaches — all of whom have been in multiple regional games as head coaches or assistants — for their opinion on the change.
Kyle Brasher, Gibson Southern: "Winning two games in one day is tough no matter whether it's a regional or semistate. That part doesn't change. In a two game regional, you're usually familiar with at least one of the opponents. With two games now being semistate, it'll make prepping that week a little bit more difficult. At the end of the day, everyone is just excited to keep advancing so it's just an adjustment everyone will happily make."
Jason Roach, North: "The thought behind the tough grind of our sectional when you have to win three, turn around and play a day/night the next weekend can be very difficult. The pairing of sectional winners will be huge. Now, you get to focus solely on one team and not three. We always prepare with the mentality that you have to win the first game, so it doesn't change a whole lot for us."
Kurt Wildeman, Mater Dei: "When you get to that level, whether you're playing one or two games, you're usually playing against good teams. Most teams have the goal to keep advancing. At some point, you'll have to win two anyway. Some have strong opinions on it. I see what the state is trying to do to keep more excitement in it."
Mark Rohrer, Gibson Southern: "I would really like it if (the IHSAA) paired, for example, Sectionals 31 and 32. It would be another local feel. People will like it because teams stay in it a week longer. That was one of their pushes. It will be a major challenge to win two at semistate and then turnaround – you're in Indy for the press conference that Monday – to the state finals. I voted yes."
I'm actually old enough to remember when the regional was one game. My alma mater, Bedford North Lawrence, advanced to the semistate at Hinkle Fieldhouse in 2001 after winning a mid-week game against Harrison. This change isn't a foreign concept.
Ultimately, it's fine with me for one major reason: Those who advance that far still must win the same number of games. One or two games, it's semantics if you make it to Indianapolis. The regional was one of my favorite days due to its unique nature and perhaps the semistate will take that place.
Eventually, the change will be accepted as commonplace. Then, everyone can go back to arguing for a shot clock or seeding in the postseason.
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Evansville coaches discuss high school basketball postseason changes