Crowded House: State tourney expansion ends North, South events

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton discusses football and basketball playoff changes on Monday. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton discusses football and basketball playoff changes on Monday. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

CLINTON – The state basketball tournament’s expanded format – from 36 games to 84 games – forced the Mississippi High School Activities Association to add another venue.

Along with playing games in Jackson’s Mississippi Coliseum, aka “The Big House,” this season’s boys state quarterfinals – 24 games – will be played March 3-7 at Jackson State University’s Athletics and Assembly Center.

The 24 girls quarterfinal games will be March 4-7 at the Coliseum.

The tournament’s boys and girls semifinals and finals, scheduled for March 9-14, will be played in the Coliseum.

“I think it’s a great thing for (JSU),” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said during a Monday news conference to announce the association’s move of its state championship football games to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. “You’ve got 48 schools coming to their campus.”

Big format change

The new postseason format in basketball eliminates the North and South state tournaments, where teams would all travel to one site for quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

In Class 5A and 6A, the No. 2 and No. 3 teams coming out of the division tournaments will play. The winner will then play the top-seeded team, which receives a bye.

In Classes 1A-4A, four teams will come out of division play, with the top seeds hosting.

“If you win your division, you’ll play home games until you get to Jackson,” MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves said. “This will eliminate the North and South tournaments as we know them.

“In the past you’d have eight schools coming to one site. This will cut down on travel and help at the gate. It has to be better.”

Belmont girls basketball coach Chris Higginbottom said he likes the expanded postseason.

“Hopefully, you’ll get the four best teams from the North and South to Jackson,” he said. “In past years we’ve had two good teams in the same bracket and one would be eliminated on Thursday or Friday.

“I think the expanded (postseason) gives more players the opportunity to experience the state tournament. I’m glad it’s going to remain at The Big House because of all the tradition.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com