We knew the IHSAA was considering some pretty significant changes for the boys and girls state basketball tournaments when they met last week, but the changes they approved were not the ones we thought they were considering.

The IHSAA announced last Thursday that they were making an adjustment in the path teams must take to get to the state championship game.

Starting next winter, the regionals in each class for each gender will be single-game events and likely will feature multiple regionals in different classes at the same venue.

The semi-states will become four-way tournaments, with two semifinals and a championship on the same day.

The executive committee voted 15-2 to make that change. It’s based on surveys of principals and athletic directors over the last year which found that almost three-in-four of those surveyed wanted to see more teams extend their seasons longer.

The point is this: in the current format, the number of basketball teams playing at the semi-state level is 16 across the four classes. Those 16 are pared down to eight for the state finals. With the format approved last week, that number will grow to 32.

That’s twice as many schools that get to hold more pep rallies.

It’s twice as many schools who get to sell “semi-state bound” T-shirts.

It’s twice as many schools that get the thrill of being one day of basketball away from a trip to Indy.

It’s hard to argue with that, right?

The more the merrier!

The immediate reaction on social media was that the change would throw cold water on teams who only had to win one game to be called “regional champions” compared to previous years where two wins were required.

It should be mentioned that there were years early in the class basketball system where regionals were single games on Tuesday nights.

My response to that is that when class basketball started over 25 years ago, one of the arguments against it was that smaller schools’ championships would be demeaned because they were only beating smaller schools. “Who will care who wins the 1A and 2A state titles?” they proclaimed.

Well, what we found out is that smaller schools didn’t really care what kind of shade people wanted to throw on their success. They just wanted the chance to succeed.

We also found out that people do care about the state champions equally. Now, it should be pointed out that, based on where you live, that feeling can change. For example, the Indy Metro area cares more about 4A because most of their schools are 4A. In the suburbs and surrounding counties, they follow 3A more closely. In rural areas, you’re more likely to follow a smaller school if you have some sort of connection to schools still playing.

Part of me really likes the way it was. If you survive the regional round and the two games in one day that comes with it, it made what comes next a lot easier. Teams that won regionals could call themselves “Final Four teams”, which traditionally means a banner will be hung on a wall or from a rafter in your gym. It also means those teams only have to focus on one team during the week they play for a trip to the state championship game. The Final Four teams will now be determined in the middle of the afternoon on the third Saturday of February and March, and there will still be another game to play that day.

It also means that more fans will have longer drives for longer days during semi-state week. It means two-hour bus rides home from games that end well after 10pm for schools from the Eastern Time Zone who play their semi-state in the Central Time Zone.

It usually doesn’t take me long to formulate an opinion on these things, leaving room to change my mind based on new facts and evidence as we get a larger sample size of the results.

I think we may all have to experience the new format for a year or two before we can know for sure whether it works or not.

Some of you will immediately snap back something snarky like “well those idiots at the IHSAA are always messing up things…” or something to that effect.

Most of those people think we should go back to single-class basketball, and we are most definitely not doing that.

I am willing to wait and see how this works out.