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MHSAA makes changes to state basketball tournament format

The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s (MHSAA) state basketball tournament is changing its look once again.

On Tuesday, the MHSAA announced the elimination of quarterfinal games played in Jackson. The tournament’s new format will send the semi-finalist from each classification to play in the capital city.

The change also eliminates the need for Jackson State University to host games as the field making the trip to Jackson has been cut in half.

Now, all games will be played at the Mississippi Coliseum, more affectionately known as ‘The Big House’ in basketball circles.

The tournament shifted its format four years ago, sending eight teams to Jackson after the first two rounds were held on location in school gyms. Jackson State and the Coliseum alternated hosting the boys’ and girls’ quarterfinal rounds each year.

“As far as the travel, as far as the time out of school and the financials in making that trip, that’s what (the change) was about,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said. “It’s something our executive committee did and was able to do. If you look at all of our activities and events that we have, we try to do what’s best for all of our schools. We felt like this was a move, particularly this year with all the things happening around the Coliseum.”

The Coliseum is currently involved in a construction project, creating logistical issues that would require fans and teams to use the south entrance instead of the normal north entrance.

The MHSAA Executive Committee made the change last Thursday, but coaches were beginning to be informed on Tuesday evening.

A consensus, at least among several local coaches, was the lack of input they were allowed to have in making changes to the tournament format.

“It took us a few years to get to the format that we were at, and it takes an hour to change it with no basketball coaches, that I know of, being involved in the decision making,” Lafayette girls’ head coach Shayne Linzy said.

“That’s where a lot of basketball coaches feel our voices aren’t heard or given an opportunity to voice our opinion. Whether it’s for or against,” Linzy said

The new tournament format resembles the pre-2014 model where teams will play two games in Jackson. The higher seeded team – one from the North division, and one from the South division – will face the lower seeded team from the opposite division in the semi-finals.

The winner of those two contests will meet to play for a state championship.

The new tournament format is similar to how it was before the change four years ago, except all quarterfinal games be played as north vs. north and south vs. south, rather than the previous north vs. south arrangement.

The semifinals will be then reset the bracket.

In the quarterfinals, the highest seeded North or South team will host the game. If the teams are equally seeded, the team with the higher region number will host in 2019, in 2020, the lower region team would host.

With the change, more emphasis has been placed on respective region tournaments. Now, teams who can clinch the top seed will have a better chance of playing at home until they head to Jackson.

“(The region tournament) is now a huge deal,” Linzy said. “Because now you want that top seed so you can be home for rounds one, two and three.”

Hinton said this is the plan for the 2018-19 season and the MHSAA would revisit it after this year to see if other changes are needed.