Analyzing the IHSA’s new basketball state finals format

The Illinois High School Association has released a tentative schedule for the weekend.

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Belleville West holds up the Class 4A state championship trophy.

Belleville West holds up the Class 4A state championship trophy.

Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

While we wait for the Illinois High School Association to announce the future home of the boys state basketball finals –– both Peoria and Champaign put in bids to host with an announcement set for April –– the new state series format and schedule, set to debut next season, has been set.

Among the highlights:

▪︎ The Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A boys state basketball finals will be held together over a three-day weekend, beginning next year on Thursday, Mar. 11 and concluding Saturday, Mar. 13.

▪︎ All four state championship games in all four classes will be played on the same day.

▪︎ Regional play will begin on a Saturday with regional quarterfinal games and the higher seeded team hosting.

▪︎ All regional semifinal games will be played on the Wednesday following the Saturday quarterfinal games.

▪︎ Sectional week will remain the same with sectional semifinal games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the sectional championship on Friday.

▪︎ All super-sectional games will be played on Monday instead of the traditional Tuesday.

▪︎ The boys and girls formats, held on back-to-back weekends, will be exactly the same.

The schedule for the IHSA State Finals, for both genders, will be identical. The tentative schedule the IHSA has released will look like this:

Thursday

Class 1A semifinal game, 10 a.m.

Class 1A semifinal game, 20 minutes after

Class 2A semifinal game, 2:30 p.m.

Class 2A semifinal game, 20 minutes after

Class 1A third-place game, 7 p.m.

Class 2A third-place game, 20 minutes after

Friday

Class 3A semifinal game, 10 a.m.

Class 3A semifinal game, 20 minutes after

Class 4A semifinal game, 2:30 p.m

Class 4A semifinal game, 20 minutes after

Class 3A third-place game, 7 p.m.

Class 4A third-place game, 20 minutes after

Saturday

Class 1A state championship game, 11 a.m.

Class 2A state championship game, 20 minutes after

Class 3A state championship game, 5:30 p.m.

Class 4A state championship game, 20 minutes after

2021 BK State Series Structure.pdf

The IHSA needed to make a change. The buzz and interest surrounding the State Finals has been declining for years. Combining all four classes will surely bring more fans together over one three-day weekend. But will one single State Finals weekend generate more interest and attract more casual basketball fans?

The good

Championship Saturday:The fresh idea of four state championship games on one day is clearly attractive.

The final day of the high school basketball season should draw a considerable amount of fans with the four biggest games of the year all being played on one day and at one site.

Since the advent of four-class basketball in the 2005-2006 season, one of the drawbacks has been the fact championship Saturday hasn’t been all that appealing to the fan. There have been championship games played at 1 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., but there are hours between the games and a couple of uninteresting third-place games played in front of sparse crowds littering the day.

The potential of increased media attention:While the IHSA could certainly improve its marketing of its premier event, the media coverage could increase with this new format. With that comes more access and information for the fans.

With this schedule the semifinal games, both on Thursday and Friday, will be played and finished in plenty of time for media members to highlight the results of the day and preview and promote the championships games. With semifinal games at 2:30 p.m. and roughly 4:30 p.m., the hype can be built a little earlier in preparation for championship Saturday.

The bad

The inconvenienced 1A and 2A fan:With this schedule there is no way around the fact the Class 1A and Class 2A fans, both the traditionalists who attend every year and fans of the participating schools, will feel some disruption and inconvenience in their weekend.

With the semifinals on Thursday and the championship games on Saturday, do Class 1A and 2A fans stay through the weekend? Do they travel back and forth from their hometowns? Do those fans lose a little of the experience with the one-day break?

Semifinal games at 10 a.m.:No one wants to play what at that point would be the biggest game of their season just after breakfast. Save that for AAU basketball. The energy a semifinal game naturally creates will be zapped a little with the 10 a.m. start time.

The only alternative would have been to play the consolation games in the morning –– Class 1A and 2A third-place games on Friday morning and Class 3A and 4A third-place games on Saturday morning. That would then push back the starting times of the 3A and 4A semifinals on Friday and the four championship games on Saturday.

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