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A new basketball tournament format, modeled after the NCAA tournament, could get more fans in the stands for state basketball tournaments. (File The Spokesman-Review)

WIAA committee looking at major change to basketball tournaments

A WIAA committee is preparing to propose a major change to the state basketball tournament format and seeding criteria.

The changes could be effective beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

The format calls for 16-team state tournaments being held over consecutive weekends – beginning with the state regional round and concluding with a Final Four on the weekend used to crown champions.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said. “Once the board has determined a solid proposal, the schools will be asked for their input.”

The committee, which includes three WIAA executive board members, representatives of school administrators from all classifications statewide and boys and girls basketball coaches, held its first meeting May 1. At the meeting, four state tourney formats were considered before the committee came to a consensus.

Tourney play would be single elimination until the Final Four. The semifinal winners would play for the title while the losers would play for third and fourth.

The committee plans to pass along the format change to the executive board for consideration at June 5-6 meetings.

Another major change would involve how the teams are paired for opening-round games. The committee will propose a computer-based rankings with RPI. The final 16 would be paired to play like the NCAA does with its men’s and women’s regional rounds – 1 against 16, 2 against 15 and so forth.

Oregon schools went to computer rankings to seed their state tournaments this year. The committee is seeking information on how the format was implemented.

“We caught more concern this year about seeding and the draw than we ever have,” Colbrese said.

Details are still being worked out regarding facilities.

Some legwork on the changes was done at the state athletic directors meeting in Spokane two weeks ago. Last fall, another committee, led by Zillah superintendent Kevin McKay, polled superintendents statewide asking if they would support going back to 16-team state tournaments at a single site. About 75 percent said they supported the format.

The major obstacle was finding a way to finance going back to such a plan.

The committee is now hopeful that fans would support the format change and help defray costs of renting arenas over two weekends by attending the events in better numbers than years past.