A very new-look postseason in boys and girls basketball has already developed its fair share of issues, especially over the weekend when the Colorado High School Activities Association released game times for the Great 8 and Final Four later this week at the Denver Coliseum.
The advent of the newly-created 6A classification this season — which is where the largest schools based on enrollment ended up — is partially responsible, as is the CHSAA Basketball Committee’s vote to include three classifications (6A, 5A and 4A) at the Coliseum, as opposed to two as in the past, which combined to make for great challenges in scheduling.
With the Great 8 (aka the quarterfinals), Final Four (semifinals) and championship games in boys and girls for three classifications — a total of 78 games in all — all scheduled to take place at the same venue, the logistics are challenging to say the least. So, according to CHSAA Associate Commissioner Bethany Brookens, who oversees basketball, a scheduling formula of sorts was created.
As opposed to the past, when the organization considered the teams that qualified and attempted to set the schedule based on what was perceived to be the matchups with the most interest or which factored in geography and travel of fan bases, teams that earned their way to the Coliseum this season were slotted according to seeding. And, in the interest of equity of experience for girls teams — which in the past have played in front of significantly smaller crowds than the boys — the basketball committee chose to alternate girls and boys games according to Brookens.
So the schedule formula for the 6A Great 8 round has No. 4 seeds (or the lowest seeds remaining) playing first (girls followed by boys), then the No. 3 seeds, then the No. 1 seeds — which are in desirable time slots because they are the top seeds — followed by the No. 2 seeds in the final two contests.
That formula has unintentionally created some unrest among qualifying Aurora programs — all of which are involved in 6A play March 4 — for several reasons.
The boys teams from Smoky Hill and Denver East are scheduled to play at 10:15 a.m. in what many consider to be the marquee matchup of the four Great 8 games in 6A and officials from both schools have contacted CHSAA as they believed their programs have been purposely relegated to a non-prime time slot because of their demographics. The scheduling formula put them there because the Angels are the No. 4 seed with the three seeds in front of them (No. 1 Mountain Vista, No. 2 Rock Canyon and No. 3 Fossil Ridge) still alive. Had any of the three teams in front of them been knocked off, they would have moved to the corresponding time slot.
Regis Jesuit is one of only two 6A schools to have both girls and boys teams qualified (Valor Christian is the other) and they ended up on the complete opposite ends of the eight-game slate. The girls game vs. No. 4 Monarch is scheduled to tip at an abnormally early 8:45 a.m., while the boys vs. No. 2 Rock Canyon, are in the 8:30 p.m. time slot.
So Regis Jesuit fans who want to see both games will have to be at the Coliseum in the early morning and the late night. Valor Christian, meanwhile, won’t have the same issues as its girls team is 6A’s No. 1 seed (and will play No. 8 Arapahoe), while its eighth-seeded boys team plays No. 1 seed Mountain Vista, so the Eagles play back-to-back in the slots at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Regis Jesuit’s situation is definitely the outlier among the three days of quarterfinals, as in 4A, the Lutheran and Holy Family boys and girls play back-to-back, while in 5A the Air Academy girls and boys play back to back early in the day, while the Windsor and Mead boys and girls play consecutively in the evening.
Brookens acknowledges there is a “lot of confusion” from the outside with the way in which the games times were unveiled and she allowed that putting out the game times well ahead of time might be a good idea in the future so teams could see before the tournament even begins when they might play if they make it through the first two rounds to reach the Coliseum.
“We are continuing in everything that we do to make experiences for our student athletes better,” she said.
Another point of contention for some with scheduling comes again for the semifinals, which run March 9 (4A boys and girls, 5A girls) and March 10 (6A boys and girls, 5A boys) as the 6A games — which determine which teams play in the championship game the next day — run at 11 a.m. (6A girls), 12:45 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. (6A boys) and 4 p.m. (6A girls), which is largely right in middle of a school day and it also makes it difficult for parents or fans that are working to be able to attend what may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for their family.
Brookens said that the schedule will rotate every year so that different classifications play the day and evening time slots.
The tournament culminates March 11 with championship games that put 6A teams sandwiched around a Unified contest at 1:15 p.m. (girls) and 4 p.m. (boys).
For ticketing, there will be two sessions for Great 8 games on March 2, March 3 and March 4 where spectators who buy morning tickets can watch four games and then the house is cleared and an afternoon ticket provides entry to the last four games. On semifinal and championship days, only one ticket is needed to watch all six contests.
— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes
CLASS 6A BOYS & GIRLS BASKETBALL GREAT 8
March 4 (at Denver Coliseum)
Game 1 (Girls): No. 4 Monarch vs. NO. 12 REGIS JESUIT, 8:45 a.m.
Game 2 (Boys): No. 4 Denver East vs. NO. 5 SMOKY HILL, 10:15 a.m.
Game 3 (Girls): No. 3 Highlands Ranch vs. NO. 11 GRANDVIEW, 11:45 a.m.
Game 4 (Boys): No. 3 Fossil Ridge vs. No. 6 Fort Collins, 1:15 p.m.
Game 5 (Girls): No. 1 Valor Christian vs. No. 8 Arapahoe, 4 p.m.
Game 6 (Boys): No. 1 Mountain Vista vs. No. 8 Valor Christian, 5:30 p.m.
Game 7 (Girls): No. 2 Cherry Creek vs. No. 7 Doherty, 7 p.m.
Game 8 (Boys): No. 2 Rock Canyon vs. NO. 7 REGIS JESUIT, 8:30 p.m.
6A BOYS & GIRLS BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR
March 10 (at Denver Coliseum)
Game 1: 6A girls semifinals, 11 a.m.
Game 2: 6A boys semifinals, 12:45 p.m.
Game 3: 6A boys semifinals, 2:15 p.m.
Game 4: 6A girls semifinals, 4 p.m.