PREP NOTES: PIAA makes change to state basketball tournament, anticipates 'normal' fall

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Bob Lombardi

The state basketball tournament will start a little earlier this winter under a schedule change that makes cross-state travel easier for the semifinals and finals.

The PIAA board unanimously approved the new postseason schedule Wednesday when it met at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College. The in-person meeting was the board's first in more than a year after months of online meetings.

The board decided the 2021-22 state basketball playoffs will begin on a Tuesday and Wednesday (March 8-9), with the second round on March 11-12 and the quarterfinals on March 15-16.

The finals are on March 24-26, with the semifinals a week earlier, on March 18-19.

"It was approved for one year, and then we'll review how it worked," PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

In recent years, some semifinalists had to travel across the state on a weeknight, and winners faced a quick turnaround for their trip to the finals. This winter, the semifinals will fall on a Friday and Saturday, and winners will have additional time to prepare for the finals.

COVID-19 guidelines: The PIAA anticipates sports returning to normal this fall and does not intend to release updated COVID-19 guidelines.

The recommended guidelines issued last school year are no longer in effect, Lombardi said.

"We're trying to go back to normal, or the 'new' normal," he said. "We want people to be cautious and use common sense, use good hygiene practices and follow the directives from the department of health as issued."

The PIAA won't issue lengthy guidelines but will convene its sports medicine advisory committee in the coming days to discuss fall sports seasons.

"We'll review some items and see if there are any suggestions," Lombardi said.

Last school year, the PIAA adjusted the number of preseason practices required for teams to start competition, but those numbers will revert to pre-pandemic standards.

Transfer rule tweaked: The PIAA is adjusting its postseason eligibility rule to address late-season transfers.

Currently, if an athlete switches schools after 50% of a team's season has been completed, he or she is only ineligible for the rest of that year's regular season and postseason.

However, a tweak the PIAA added Wednesday says an athlete who transfers after 75% of a season is complete is ineligible for the rest of that season and also the following year's postseason.

Competitive-balance formula: The board discussed making small changes to the PIAA competitive-balance formula, but none was enacted yet.

The competitive-balance rule makes football and basketball teams compete in a higher classification if they have both postseason success and added a certain number of transfers in a two-year period.

Under consideration was a proposal that wouldn't count transfers from a school that closed.

Another proposal would let a team return to a lower classification if that team doesn't earn any "success points" in the next two-year cycle. The points are awarded for reaching the PIAA playoffs and increase with each round a team advances.