It was in October 2020 that NSAA basketball assistant director Jon Dolliver got the news: the University of Nebraska would be hosting the 2022 Big Ten wrestling tournament.
The news that mattered to him was simple. The dates would be March 4-6, the Friday and Saturday that is traditionally on the calendar for the girls state basketball tournament.
“Almost immediately, we started putting ideas on the table of what we could do, but the biggest thing we kept coming back to was keeping the integrity of the tournament,” Dolliver said on Tuesday.
Many ideas were put on the table.
Having the girls tournament at the same normal date, but at a separate site was quickly extinguished as they wanted finals at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Another idea that was discussed was having the opening round on March 4 (girls) and March 5 (boys) at six separate sites across the state. Then, bringing the teams together for semifinals and finals in Lincoln on March 9-12. Again, the integrity of keeping all the games in Lincoln for the teams and schools weighed heavily on tabling this option.
So, Dolliver kept coming back to a one week tournament all in Lincoln that they could get to look as close to each of the previous tournaments as possible.
“The idea was simply to try and get a fair and equitable tournament both based on classes and when they have traditionally played and also to be fair to each gender,” Dolliver noted.
This quickly eliminated another option — having the girls tournament the first three days or having girls and boys on alternating days.
“We really liked the idea of balancing our championships — three boys and three girls on each day,” Dolliver said. “So we worked out those championships and went backwards from there.”
The result is what you’ll get over the next few days as brackets are released and the schedules are set. And, while you’ll see times on the NSAA website for games, some will be left blank while timing is completed.
So, Dolliver has a little flexibility with game times for a school like Grand Island Central Catholic and possibly Shelton if their boys win tonight. Both teams would play on the same days based on schedules. Other schools that qualified two teams are set to play on different days already.
“We will discuss those games and try to disrupt the bracket as little as possible,” he said. “But we also want fans to be able to get to both games for their school and allow them plenty of time to do that.”
It’s been since 2019 when there was a traditional two week run for Dolliver in basketball. In 2020, the boys tournament was one of the last events in the nation that survived Covid-19. Last year, also due to Covid protocols, the tournaments were spread over five days each.
Dolliver believes the 2022 tournament has a chance to be different in a good kind of way.
“We think this is a real unique opportunity to do something different with the event,” he said. “We know that we may have to deal with it again at some point down the road and we will get to see what works and what doesn’t.
“I think from a player and coach perspective, the rest will help the quality of basketball. I think the fans will get to see good basketball and some that maybe don’t come to the girls or boys tournament get a chance to see both.”
Official brackets for girls will be released Wednesday morning with the boys to follow on Thursday after Class A boys districts are completed tomorrow night.