Winter sports changes

Basketball district limited seeding, hockey schedule shift

EAST LANSING – The introduction of limited seeding at the District level for girls’ and boys’ basketball, and a shift in the postseason schedule for ice hockey, are among changes that will be noticed most this season by those who compete in and follow the 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) sponsors postseason tournaments.

Girls’ basketball’s first games tipped off Dec. 2, followed by boys’ basketball openers Dec. 9. This winter, for the first time, the top two teams in every basketball District will be seeded and placed on the opposite sides of their bracket, making the District Final the earliest round they could play each other. Those top-seeded teams will be determined using the Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) computer formula based on regular-season results against other MHSAA Tournamenteligible teams and opponents’ strength of schedule. (Games against out-of-state or non-MHSAA opponents will not count in the MPR formula.)

The MHSAA will draw all brackets 15 days before the start of District play. After the top seeds are determined and separated to opposite sides of the bracket, the draw process will place the remaining teams on the bracket based on a randomly selected order determined earlier in the season. MPR also was used to similarly seed Districts for boys’ soccer for the first time this past fall and in the spring for boys lacrosse.

Also undergoing a change this winter, the MHSAA Ice Hockey Tournament will be played over three weeks rather than two as in previous seasons. The traditional dates for the start of the regular season and Finals will remain the same, as will the total number of regular season games allowed. However, the MHSAA Tournament will begin on the third Monday before the Finals instead of two weeks before, and the extended postseason schedule places the maximum of six games that may be played from the start of Regionals through Finals over 20 days instead of the previous 13.

While those changes will affect tournament structures, a handful of others affecting daily competition will be particularly noticeable as well this winter:

As with Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving season in the fall, a pair of changes for LP boys and Upper Peninsula girls will take effect this winter. For swimmers, the definition of a legal finish has changed to include a competitor touching any part of the finish end of the lane, not just the touch pad. In diving, the degree of difficulty was adjusted for back and reverse somersaults to provide consistency with difficulty of other dives.

In hockey, the allowed stick length for a non-goaltender has been extended to 65 inches with a blade no more than 12.5 inches long and between 2-3 inches high. The allowances for a goaltender’s stick also were adjusted – the widened portion up to 28 inches from the heel and to 3.5 inches in width, with a blade at maximum 15.5 inches in length. These changes were made to accommodate the greater average height of today’s athletes.

In girls competitive cheer, nonbraced static inversions will be allowed only with the following stipulations: the original base or spotter maintains constant contact with the flyer, prior to the static inverted position the flyer must originate from below shoulder level, and the inversion must dismount to the cheering surface, cradle, any waist-level position or a non-inverted stunt at shoulder level. Also, twists from inversions and inversions released to extended level are illegal.

A new rule in wrestling will allow for additional time to evaluate head and neck injuries. If an injury occurs involving the head, neck, cervical column and/or nervous system and an appropriate health care professional is present, that caregiver may request the traditional 90 seconds of injury time be extended up to a maximum of five minutes to evaluate the injury. Before that time expires, the wrestler must be ready and able to continue the match or it will be defaulted.

Also for wrestling, a new criteria has been added to the tie-breaking system used when a dual meet finishes in a tied score. The new sixth criteria “f” states that the team giving up the fewest forfeits during a match shall be declared the winner.