MHSAA adds two basketball games starting in 2022-23

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

NILES — Following its annual winter meeting, the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Representative Council announced Tuesday that it would allow schools to increase their boys and girls basketball schedules by two games beginning next season.

The announcement was welcome news for area coaches and athletic directors, who view the change as a positive one that will allow more flexibility in scheduling, playing more games outside of their conference schedules, and the potential to either host or play in a holiday tournament.

The council met March 25 in East Lansing and approved the basketball committee’s request to allow teams to play up to 22 regular-season games across all three levels — varsity, junior varsity and freshmen. By increasing the number of possible competition dates, Michigan will be in line with other Midwest states.

As a part of that proposal, the council approved the committee’s request to shorten the number of mandatory practices by one, which will allow teams to begin competition after 14 days instead of the current 21.

Schools like Brandywine, which will be joining Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Benton Harbor and Dowagiac in a new league next year, will allow Bobcats Athletic Director David Sidenbender to seek out other competition that will get Brandywine ready for the postseason.

“Brandywine will most definitely try to take advantage of the extra games,” he said. “This allows schools that have say 16 or 18 conference games to branch out and play more non-conference games, which could include tournaments. By cutting back on mandatory practice times, schools will be able to spread out the increase in games and make scheduling more flexible. I think these changes can be a big positive for kids and schools.”

Brandywine Girls Basketball Coach Josh Hood, who likes to seek out top-flight competition anyway, said he likes the idea of additional games.

“Being able to play more games against quality competition, the kids are really going to enjoy that,” he said. “We would most definitely be open to a holiday tournament, but we would want to have it that first week of Christmas break so that the girls can get seven or eight days where they can celebrate the holidays and spend time with their families. You want them to get that break before you get into the real grind of January and February.”

Cassopolis Athletic Director Chad Gardner is also looking forward to being able to schedule more games.

“We will definitely take advantage of the extra two games,” he said. “This will allow us to schedule more non-conference games and continue to look for great competition. The possibility of holiday tournaments would be back on the table because it allows for a great day of basketball over a time when there is a lull in some of the action.”

Gardner does have reservations about shorting the preseason practice schedule.

“The biggest concern I have about the 14 days of practice compared to the 21 days of practice before the first competition is conditioning, and I would imagine that the first couple of games will not be as crisp, but we will adjust and be ready for action.”

Cassopolis Girls Basketball Coach Stefon Luckey, who took a winless team in 2020-21 and turned it into a 12-win team this past season, his first as head coach, also has concerns about shortening the practice schedule.

“I will need a little more information on cutting mandatory practice,” he said.

As far as adding games, he most definitely is onboard.

“I definitely plan to take advantage,” he said. “I believe that two more games allows us as coaches to schedule some teams that we wouldn’t normally get the chance of playing. It could be higher level competition or even just wanting to switch things up a bit. I played in holiday tournaments when I was a player. I would love to bring that back.”

Buchanan Coach Gabe Miller would not automatically schedule two extra games because he could.

“I would like to take advantage of the two games if the right circumstances present themselves to provide us with an opportunity to schedule quality competition and get better,” he said. “This may allow us the chance to cross the state line and play a quality opponent from the South Bend area.”

Miller is also open to a holiday tournament, but realizes there are challenges in scheduling over the break.

“I would be open to the opportunity to play in some version of a holiday tournament, just to break up the two-week break that tends to take place,” he said. “However, with more and more families scheduling vacations this time of the year that could be a challenge.”

As far as shortening the mandatory practice time, Miller and Josh Hood agree that it depends on your team.

“I would presume it would be beneficial for the more experienced teams, as teams with new coaches and players could use the extra time to put in systems and plays,” Miller said. “However, with our third week being the week of Thanksgiving, I am not sure how many girls teams will get too many games in that first week anyways.”

Hood added, “I think it depends on the situation you are in. If you are a really young team like we were this year, you need all the practice time you can get. But if you are an experienced team like we are going to be the next couple of years, after two weeks, you should be ready to play games.”

At Edwardsburg, Coach Steve Wright, who led the Eddies to the regional finals this past season, likes additional games, but also likes having some open dates to develop his team.

“I think the opportunity to play extra games is a great idea,” he said. “It provides more chances for exposure to those players looking to play basketball beyond high school. However, we benefit from the occasional open Tuesday or Friday in order to rest and get healthy throughout the season, especially in January and February. Also, having some open dates allows us some extra practices to work on our weaknesses. The extra games would be great for a holiday tournament or some games prior to the holiday break.”

Wright is used to not having all of his players available for three weeks of preseason practice.

“The mandatory practice change will not impact us here at Edwardsburg,” he said. “We have many multi-sport athletes, many who play football. We typically need the extra time to get healthy from an extended football season, which is due to the great success of Coach [Kevin] Bartz and his program.”

Dowagiac Coach Danum Hunt likes the extra games, but would like the state to go further.

“Great news,” he said. “Now, I just need the shot clock rule to go into effect.”

The council also approved a classification committee proposal that will allow the postseason divisions to be more reflective of the number of schools participating in the state tournaments. The state announced its classifications Monday and the breakdown of teams by divisions in each sport.

Currently, by the time the state tournament begins, the small-school divisions end up with fewer teams because schools elect to drop out for various reasons.

“With this change, schools that have indicated they will sponsor a sport but haven’t participated in that sport as a team or with individual qualifiers over the previous two years will be removed from the classification process before divisions are determined,” according to an MHSAA statement released Tuesday. “Those schools that have been removed must then notify the MHSAA they have an active team before being added back into the tournament.”