PREP BASKETBALL: IHSAA changes postseason tournament format

·5 min read

Jun. 23—For the first time in two decades, changes are coming to the IHSAA girls and boys state basketball tournaments.

The IHSAA Executive Committee approved a new format for the postseason tourney Thursday, changing the regional round to one game and the semistate round to two games. Since 2002, the regional has been a two-game setup and semistate just one contest.

The decision was approved by a 15-2 vote. This change will start immediately, going into effect for the 2022-23 season.

"We really like the potential of a high-energy atmosphere at the semi-state level with a chance to advance to the state championship games the following week at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the home of the Pacers and Fever," IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig said in a statement. "This new format will double the number of teams who play a week longer in the tournament and should create a lot of excitement in those communities and will be financially beneficial for those communities that serve as host sites."

At the same time that the sectional pairings are announced, regional matchups will be setup as well. For example, in Class 4A, sectional 1-4 winners will all be in a grouping to determine who will play each other in the new one-game regional. Once the sectional brackets get released, the blind draw will then determine which sectional will face each other in the regional.

Two regional games will be played at the same site, but could feature contests from different classes based on geography of the sectional winners.

Once the one-game regionals conclude, the IHSAA will host another blind draw show to determine who will play each other in semistate semifinal games.

Per an IHSAA press release, 73.4% of the 781 people polled by the Association during the spring approved of this idea. Neidig led the charge on the survey, asking for opinions from principals, athletic directors and both girls and boys basketball coaches.

The timelines of the respective tournaments will stay the same. For the girls, the sectionals will run through the first week of February. The one-game regional will be the second Saturday of the month, the two-game semistate the third Saturday and the state finals on the final Saturday.

For the boys, sectionals will run through the first week of March, the regional on the second Saturday of the month, the semistate games on the third Saturday and the finals on the final Saturday.

LOCAL COACHES' REACTIONS

Fairfield girls basketball coach Brodie Garber, who coached the Falcons to the semistate game in Class 2A last year, is not fully in favor of the new tournament format.

"I'm good with where it's been at," Garber said. "Maybe I'm just a creature of habit because we've done it now for (a while). But I like that two-game regional, kind of going at it. In theory, you meet up with someone at semistate who's the next-best team in, at least for us, the northern part of the state. So, I like to be able to prepare for just one team for that game."

If last year's tournament had played out under the new format, Fairfield would have, in theory, played Eastside in a one-game regional. That would've sent the Falcons then to a semistate with Andrean, Winchester and Frankton, three teams Fairfield had not played all season.

Losing some of that familiarity when having to plan for two games will make it harder during the week to get ready for, in Garber's mind.

"That's pretty tough to prepare for," Garber said. "And I'm not saying that Eastside was not tough to prepare for, but we did see them twice during the season. So, there's more familiarity with that."

On the flip side, NorthWood boys basketball coach Aaron Wolfe — who's led the Panthers to two-straight Class 3A regional championship game appearances — is in favor of the format change.

"It's something that's going to be new and exciting and, obviously, anytime you do something like this, you're going to hopefully promote interest," Wolfe said. "Anytime Indiana high school basketball is highlighted and people are making strides to improve what we're doing, I'm in favor of it."

Before the move to a multi-class system in 1998-99, both the regional and semistate rounds were two-game setups. Being able to recreate some of that feel in this new format is a good thing, in Wolfe's eyes.

"I always thought the semistate championship game in a two-game format was going to be exciting and a big draw for your fanbase because you had a chance to punch your ticket to state," Wolfe said. "And so, I would imagine it'll have some of that same allure."

OTHER IHSAA CHANGES APPROVED

While the basketball tournament change was the biggest one to come from Thursday's meeting, other changes happened as well.

Most notably, ticket prices for sectional contests have been raised from $6 to $7. Part of this change is due to an increase in pay for officials, as their pay was raised $10 per contest and mileage rate was doubled from 25 cents to 50 cents per mile.

Also, the IHSAA removed a rule that prohibited schools from playing other schools that were more than 300 miles away from their location. For example, Goshen High School can now go compete against a school or in a tournament in Tennessee if they'd like to, and vice versa.

Finally, Dugger Union, Purdue Polytechnic and Evansville Christian were officially given full membership to the IHSAA, allowing them to compete in state tournament events starting this fall.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.