Pros, Cons of the Combined Basketball Tournament Format
This past weekend Sioux Falls hosted the first combined Class AA basketball tournament. Overall, the system worked.
A lot of basketball was played over three days between the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and the Sioux Falls Arena. 24 games were played, eight per day, with some games beginning as early as 10:00 A.M.
The championship games on Saturday night was the biggest positive. Having the girls championship game followed by the boys title game made for a great doubleheader. Most fans stayed inside the PREMIER Center for both games, and attendance on Saturday night was great. It was the best championship atmosphere that I have experienced in my time back covering high school basketball in Sioux Falls.
Having the tournaments combined gave the opportunity for fans to see multiple games for just $15. The ticket price was the same price as the State A tournament in Rapid City (and actually cheaper if you go by each individual session), and both AA and A were $4 more than the B tournament in Aberdeen (however AA still technically cheaper per day if attending both sessions). Fans were able to freely move between the PREMIER Center and Arena, and that gave them the opportunity to see the games they wanted.
Each tournament was played at the same time, which made it impossible for schools to have both their girls and boys playing at the same time. This made for tournament attendance to stay fairly consistent for schools that had both programs into the tournament. Each team also had the opportunity to play inside the PREMIER Center.
Even with the challenges of the new format, with multiple games going on at once, the SDHSAA and Denny Sanford PREMIER Center/Sioux Falls Arena did a great job of controlling the event.
There were some negatives though with the new format. Fans didn't have the opportunity to see every game on either side of the bracket. So while they had a choice of what game to watch, fans were still missing another game that was taking place.
The format allowed for no time between games. Once a game finished, 15 minutes would be put on the clock for the next teams to warm up. This made the event feel like a marathon. The format that A and B still follows allows for an hour and a half to two hours for a break between sessions. That gives fans a chance to reset and, selfishly, media members to also do so (especially on the TV side). Granted, this is a give and take with the price cost per session.
Overall I thought the tournament was well organized and the combined format had more positives than negatives. The combined tournament format will remain for 2017 in Rapid City and 2018 in Sioux Falls.