Out with the new, in with the old

A way of splitting up North Dakota’s basketball teams is being put back into effect for the upcoming 2023 season.


North Dakota’s two-class basketball system, A and B, is changing. Starting next school year, North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) will implement a three-class system. This change has already been seen in North Dakota, as Class A, Class B and Class C when the former system was used until 1963.

From 1963 until now, schools with 325 or fewer students were Class B and any school bigger than 325 students was Class A. Now the cut-off is split three ways- AA will include schools with greater than 650 students, schools between 162 and 649 students will be class A, and schools fewer than 162 will be B.  

Private schools in AA cities, like Dickinson Trinity and Shiloh Christian, will be placed in the A division. Fargo Shanley and Bismarck St. Mary’s opt to stay up in AA. Even though neither met the required numbers, both private schools are located in AA districts and have continuously put up a fight on the court against larger schools. Minot North will automatically be put at AA even though they currently only have one grade attending the school. 

This change will affect all schools for the better. The three classes will enhance the competitive spirit in North Dakota high school basketball by balancing both sides of the spectrum. Turtle Mountain boys’ basketball has only had one WDA title since moving up to Class A in 1984. However, schools like Watford City and Turtle Mountain will now have a better chance at an equal contest with three classes, while AA schools will continue playing teams that make for a competitive game. 

Removing two schools and adding one into the AA class still leaves an extra two games within the 25 maximum games a team can play. This free space allows room for teams to play eastern schools, or even play outside of North Dakota. Bismarck High has played Pierre, South Dakota the past two years. However, before Watford City was moved up a class, BHS would travel to Wyoming to play in a tournament over Christmas break. Moving two teams back down allows all AA teams two extra games. 

This change could also impact WDA, EDC, and state tournaments. Class A and Class B state tournaments are held on different weekends. Starting next year, tournaments will overlap. 

According to NDHSAA, state tournaments will be as follows-

Feb. 29-March 2: Class A girls in Minot, Class B girls in Jamestown

March 7-9: Both girls and boys AA in Bismarck

March 14-16: Class A boys in Fargo, Class B boys in Minot 

South Dakota has had a three-class system since 1985 and could serve as a model as NDHSAA works to iron out the details of this new system. Most players, coaches and fans agree this new system will even the playing field and provide more opportunities for kids to succeed on the court.

For more about future state tournaments click here