High School Sports

Mississippi’s state basketball tournament is changing sites. Here’s what to expect.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s state basketball tournament will likely see significant changes for the 2019-20 season with several games being moved to college campuses.

MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves announced Wednesday night that championship contests will take place at either Ole Miss or Mississippi State this season, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton acknowledged Thursday that the changes are in the works, but they have yet to receive final approval.

“Those sites have to be approved and the committee doesn’t meet for another week or so,” Hinton said. “We’ve been talking with (Pearl River Community College), the Coast Coliseum and also Southern Miss.”

Hinton pointed out that USM is unable to host games in the tournament at this point due to Conference USA’s scheduling model that doesn’t set sites and dates for the final four or five conference games until after the first 14 league games are complete.

The plan is to move state tournament games to neutral sites beginning in the quarterfinal round with Pearl River Community College and the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi serving as the two sites in the South. In the North, the games would be played at Mississippi Valley State and Itawamba Community College.

The semifinal contests would be played at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, which has long served as the home of the semifinals and state title contests.

State title games will be played at either Ole Miss or Mississippi State, depending on where each of those SEC squads will be playing that weekend.

The first two rounds of the high school basketball state tournament will see no changes and games will be played on the highest seed’s court.

While the state tournament will likely be tilted toward the northern half of the state in the first two years of the changes, Hinton seems open to moving more games to the southern portion of the state in the future. He said that the Coast Coliseum and BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo may be considered as future sites for the state title round.

If C-USA’s scheduling format changes, USM’s Reed Green Coliseum would also garner serious consideration to host state tournament games. The coliseum will undergo a series of renovations in the coming years after Hattiesburg voters in April approved $3.6 million in funding for upgrades over the next three years.

The Coast Coliseum is also set to undergo improvements — a new video board, dressing room enhancements, a redone roof and a new VIP seating area.

If the Coast Coliseum hosts quarterfinal contests as planned in 2020, it will mark the first time that it has hosted state tournament games in the arena’s 42-year history.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.