Ball State’s Luke Bumbalough (2), a sophomore from New Castle, attempts the second of three free throws he received after getting fouled attempting a trey as teammate Miryne Thomas (0) and visiting Northern Illinois’ Anthony Crump (50) and Adong Makoui (13) wait along the foul lane during last Saturday’s MAC men’s basketball game in Worthen Arena. Bumbalough tallied 11 points in the host Cardinals’ 78-58 win over the Huskies.

The IHSAA announced this week that it was moving the date of this season’s boys basketball tournament state finals from Saturday, March 27 to Saturday, April 3.

The reason for the change is pretty simple to understand. Indianapolis and its surrounding area are hosting the entire NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the NCAA wanted Bankers Life Fieldhouse available for use for its tournament on March 27.

It’s a pretty big deal hosting an entire NCAA tournament from start to finish, the NCAA’s headquarters are in Indianapolis, and Indy wants to continue hosting NCAA tournaments of all types in years to come, so it’s reasonable that the IHSAA would bend to the NCAA’s request.

The only rub I see in things is that now the IHSAA boys basketball state finals will be on the same date, April 3, as the NCAA’s Final Four for men’s basketball in the same downtown.

Granted, they won’t be at the same venue, as Bankers Life Fieldhouse will be used by the IHSAA and Lucas Oil Stadium by the NCAA for their games, but think of the possible massive traffic jams and possible parking programs that will be present on that date.

I have a solution. Move the IHSAA boys basketball state finals back to Saturday, March 27 and hold them in New Castle Fieldhouse.

Once again, we have the largest and finest high school fieldhouse in the world, we have plenty of FREE parking on the premises and close by, we’re rather centrally located, and there won’t be massive traffic jams to contend with.

After all, it’s still a year when COVID-19 is raging and I think the Fieldhouse with its 8,424 seats is plenty big enough to hold the state finals this year.

Also, fans won’t have to pay $10-20 per car to park here.

I don’t expect the IHSAA to take this idea and run with it. I don’t seem able to convince people to ditch cash and use cash-back credit cards to pay for their groceries, either.

But the idea of using the Fieldhouse for this year’s boys state finals is a possibility.

On another matter, for the first time this season, I went up and saw the Ball State men’s basketball team play at Worthen Arena last Saturday against Mid-American conference opponent Northern Illinois.

The Cardinals’ Luke Bumbalough, a 2019 NCHS graduate, once again is starting for BSU and playing a lot, and I got a chance to talk with him after the game, albeit on my cell phone from a distance.

Interviewing college athletes after their games is different than it is for high school, as a reporter can’t just walk up and talk to a college athlete after a game, particularly with a pandemic going on.

So I had to ask Luke questions over the phone. I asked him what it was like playing basketball with limited numbers of fans in attendance this season.

“It’s really different,” Luke said. “Last year, we fed off the energy of the crowd to help get us going. But this year, with only parents in attendance, we have to bring our own energy. Once the game starts, though, it’s just basketball and we are able to keep our focus on the game.”

BSU cheerleaders and the Code Red Dancers were in attendance in limited numbers, but were not on the floor. They were relegated to a section in the upper part of the arena and cheered from there.

I asked Luke how this season was going thus far.

“We’ve had some ups and downs,” he said. “But we’ve played really well the past two games with wins at Bowling Green and today, and we’ve had a number of guys step up and do well for us.”

Ball State had an extended Christmas and Semester Break, and I asked Luke when the spring semester for him begins.

“Unfortunately next Tuesday (Jan. 19),” he replied. “But I had a really good fall semester with my grades. I did well and have an overall solid GPA of 3.5. This spring is a mixture of in-person and virtual classes. I would have liked a longer break, but I’ll be ready to do well when classes begin.”

Ball State lost at Miami (Ohio) this past Tuesday, and Luke played the most of any Cardinal player once again.

At least if Ball State does get a bid to the NCAA tournament this season, fans won’t have to go far to see Luke and the Cardinals play if non-family fans are allowed to attend.

David Risley is sports editor of The Courier-Times