Basketball committee recommends going to 64-team brackets for 4A and 5A state tournaments

basketball committee

Members of the CHSAA basketball committee talk through various playoff format changes. (Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

AURORA — The basketball committee met at the CHSAA offices Thursday to discuss the inclusion of RPI into the next two-year cycle (beginning with the 2016-17 school year) and how it will change playoff formatting in the five classes.

But playoff formatting in Class 4A and 5A proved to be the big change of the day as each class is slated to move to a 64-team bracket beginning in 2017. The move must be approved at the next Legislative Council meeting in April.

The move to a bracket that includes almost every team in the state is driven by the idea that any team in 1A, 2A and 3A can qualify for state through a district tournament. A 64-team bracket would give a 4A or 5A team who had ineligible players or injuries at the start of the year, a chance to play themselves into contention once the tournament started.

"If you look at those other classes, everyone has a chance to play their way into the tournament," committee chair Paul Cain said. "In 4A and 5A, we don't have those opportunities, so if you have some kids who were or ineligible at the start of the season, they may never get that chance to play their way into the tournament. This provides that chance."

Unlike what is seen in NCAA basketball tournament every year, the 4A and 5A state brackets will not pit the best team in the field against the worst. Seeds 1-16 will be given a double-bye in the tournament and seeds 17-32 will be given a single-bye.

That means in the first round of the tournament, it will be the No. 33 team hosting No. 64, No. 34 hosting No. 63 and so on. The seeding committee does have the latitude to adjust the bracket for geographical considerations.

For 5A, the plan to play the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum and the Final 4 at the Coors Events Center in Boulder went unchanged.

"We’ve been back and forth over what the membership wants and it’s been kind of a split," Cain said. "We thought this was a way to do it so that we weren't matching that 1 vs. 64. We put in those byes so some of the other schools can work their way into the tournament."

The seeding will be determined based on RPI, but league champions will automatically be placed within the top 32 seeded teams in order to receive at least one bye. If a league champion happens to fall outside the top 32, they will be placed in and the lowest non-automatic qualifier will be placed outside of that window.

From an administrative and coaching standpoint, there is hope that a bigger bracket will encourage participation in the waning months of the season. Coaches and players will be able to track their RPI status daily, so knowing that there is potential of postseason play will hopefully provide motivation from those teams on the bubble.

"What we were seeing and hearing from coaches and from programs was that kids were excited about participating in the postseason, but if they knew they were out of the postseason, that really caused some problems for coaches to keep kids excited about playing basketball," CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said. "That's not what we wanted. We want that excitement to continue. By expanding to the 64-team bracket, that gives some of the others a chance to do that."

Borgmann added that the first round matchup should pit teams with similar records and similar abilities against each other which ideally results in competitive games early in the tournament.

It is still possible for this proposal to be amended as it gets in front of the Legislative Council, but the group that proposed the change saw a chance for more student-athletes to get recognized on a higher state.

"I think the basketball committee saw this as an opportunity to put more teams on center stage and this is a way to do that," Borgmann said. "And they get to do that against teams who are similar in ability the chance to do that, certainly in the first two rounds."

Other playoff format changes

  • The bracket in 3A will remain at 32 teams. District tournament champions and runners-up will automatically qualify for state with the rest of the field determined by RPI. The seven district champions and the top RPI team will host the first weekend of the tournaments. Seeds 9-23 will be determined by straight RPI with seeds 24-32 being geographically based.
  • There were no changes to the district format for 2A. For regionals, they will take four teams from each district, with the exception of District 3 who will only take three. Whichever district they are pitted against in regionals will then take five teams. The teams are seeded in regionals by RPI. The top two teams from each region will then head to state.
  • There were no major changes to the playoff format for 1A, but seeding will be done by RPI.

Notables

  • In addition to expanding the state bracket to 64 teams, there was discussion to add a third- and fourth-place game for 4A.
  • There was talk of expanding 3A to a 48-team bracket. Committee members wanted to continue the discussion while seeing how RPI factors into the current playoff format. They are leaving the possibility of expanding the bracket open for future committee meetings.
  • The Colorado High School Coaches Association broached the subject of adding a 45-second shot clock. A formal rule change proposal would have to be submitted to and approved by CHSAA and then submitted to the National Federation of High Schools.
  • There was casual talk in 2A about moving to a Final 4 format, but the discussion was not discussed among the entire committee.
  • A conversation involving the potential move of championship sites was had. One idea that was pitched was moving the 4A and 5A Final 4 to the Denver Coliseum, the site that is currently used for the 5A Great 8.