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MSHSL makes changes to boys and girls basketball tournaments

MINNEAPOLIS - Beginning in 2014 and for three years, the Minnesota high school boys basketball tournament will be played one week before the girls basketball tournament due to scheduling at the Target Center. The girls will play Tuesday through Saturday, and the boys will play the normal Wednesday through Saturday schedules.

The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors approved the modifications at a meeting Thursday because the Target Center entered into an agreement to host the Division I National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament from 2014 to 2018. The dates of the hockey tournament fall in either the second or third full week of March.

In addition to altering the weeks, Mariucci Arena will come into play. The boys will play at both Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota and the Target Center.

But the next week, when the hockey tournament is going on, the girls will primarily play at Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. The Target Center will be used for some quarterfinal games on Tuesday of the week of the girls tournament.

"This solution is not ideal, but it is the least complicated to implement and meets the preference of the Board and the basketball coaches associations to maintain an eight-team Twin Cities tournament for all classes," said MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle in a news release. Merkle oversees boys basketball.

Further complications involved the availability of Williams Arena, which has hosted 10 quarterfinal games on Wednesday and Thursday for both tournaments since the semifinals and finals headed to the Target Center. University officials have reserved dates at Williams Arena in future years to possibly play host to early-round games in either the NCAA or NIT tournaments for women's and men's basketball.

The decision by the MSHSL board allows eight teams from four classes to come to Minneapolis rather than play quarterfinal games at various Minnesota sites and bringing four teams from each class to Minneapolis for the semifinals and the finals.

"I don't think it really hurts things at all," said Brad Strand, who is the coach of the No.2-ranked Fergus Falls girls squad in Class 3A. "Williams and Mariucci are awesome because they are so close to each other. You can't get any better than Williams Arena. When you think Minnesota basketball, you think Williams Arena."

Strand is in his first year coaching girls basketball, after coaching 22 years on the boys side, so he still has the instinct of questioning changes for the boys.

"I would assume there might need to be a start date change for football for those years," Strand said. "If you have a good football program and basketball program, you already miss that first week, so you're looking at missing another week without football players. My second year at Pelican Rapids that happened. The kids need a break for their bodies to heal from the artificial turf."

The old coach of Pelican Rapids wasn't the only one with football on his mind. Doug Bruggeman, the current coach of the

No.6-ranked Vikings boys basketball squad, had the same question.

"Right now, we started basketball season the last week of the football season," Bruggeman said. "If they move it up, it will be interesting to see if they move football up too. That would be my biggest concern."

Merkle was quick to point out that overlaps in seasons happen for the best teams, but with the move from the Metrodome, the 2014 and 2015 football seasons could be done early.

"Some people are ready to jump off the cliff any time something changes," Merkle said. "People are always worried about that overlap. By the time you get to November 11, the only teams left are the ones going to the semis and finals. Volleyball and swimming overlap for girls basketball, so we always have overlaps with teams that go to the finals. Schools deal with it and adjust schedules.

"In the fall of 2014 and 2015, it's very likely the season will be done earlier because there will not be a dome to play in. People are good about rearranging things and the basketball coaches association is behind this decision."

As for where the tournaments are played, a chance for a state championship needs only two basketball nets.

"Once you make it down to state tournament, you could play in the smallest facility in the world and the competition will be good and the fire will be there no matter what," Bruggeman said.