MAYER: In Class AA, Sweet 16 shouldn't be the only change
Change may be coming to the state's largest class. Momentum has continued to build for all of South Dakota's classes to adopt the Sweet 16 state-qualifying format for boys and girls basketball, as well as volleyball. Class A successfully used the...
Change may be coming to the state's largest class.
Momentum has continued to build for all of South Dakota's classes to adopt the Sweet 16 state-qualifying format for boys and girls basketball, as well as volleyball. Class A successfully used the format this past season in the three sports and backlash against the new format has been mostly limited in public debate.
There's always going to be an argument about having geographic representation at the state tournament. Aside from that, if the goal is to have a stronger, more competitive state tournament field, the Sweet 16 is accepted as the current best format to make that happen.
The Class AA version of the Sweet 16 - which would eliminate the longstanding four district and two region, double-elimination alignment currently used - passed easily through the South Dakota High School Activities Association basketball advisory committee 7-0 and the SDHSAA volleyball advisory committee 7-0. Last week, the Sweet 16 decision went in front of the 18 Class AA athletic directors at the South Dakota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association's annual meeting, where it narrowly passed 10-8.
Now it's a waiting game.
It's up to the SDHSAA Board of Directors to make the change official. The momentum for the change is there, but a 10-8 decision by the ADs proves there isn't a real strong majority in favor of it and no one knows for sure how the board will vote on the decision in Class AA.
This sports reporter is in favor of the change. The Sweet 16 format rewards the regular season a lot more than the current format does and every team has the same shot at the state tournament. If you're a 4-16 team and you can win your one state-qualifying game in the opponent's home gym, you earned your spot in the state tournament with the upset and there should be no complaints about that.
And while the wheels for change appear to be moving forward, I'd like to add another tweak for Class AA basketball. More specifically, a change in the Eastern South Dakota Conference.
Let's end the regular season double round-robin schedule. The current system eats up 16 of every ESD team's 20 regular season games. In Class AA, that puts a big drain on all 18 teams, not just the ESD teams.
For Mitchell, the emergence of the Mike Miller Classic has taken another two games off the schedule, leaving just two other games to face 10 of the other non-ESD, Class AA teams. Those are teams, under a potential Sweet 16, Mitchell could face for a state tournament berth.
It's not realistic for every Class AA team to play each other, but if there is one thing the Sweet 16 format has proven, is tougher regular season schedules will benefit teams in the race for a stronger seed.
When Harrisburg joined the ESD for all sports in 2012, it pushed the number of league teams to nine. In a 20-game regular season, 16 conference games make a much a bigger impact than when it was just 14 ESD games.
A possible compromise could be an unbalanced conference schedule, as well, like we see in the Big Ten for college basketball. Instead of 16 games, schools could play 12 ESD games, and Mitchell could play Yankton, Pierre, Huron and Aberdeen Central twice to retain rivalries and every other team once.
Is this scheduling change a realistic possibility? Probably not right away. But if the Sweet 16 format becomes the new normal, it'll be interesting to see how the ESD's schedule helps or hurts its teams from winning a one-game playoff.
Like the vote on the Sweet 16, we'll just have to wait and see.