Blake: a playoff proposal that works for all

Posted by J. Mike Blake on April 22, 2014 

Over the last two weeks, I’ve used feedback I’ve gotten from several high school coaches across different sports to come up with a new way for the N.C. High School Athletic Association to do its playoffs. Below, I’ll show a quick diagram of how it would look if adopted.

Recapping the first column: something needs a change with regards to split conferences.

A tweak in how the NCHSAA determines how many teams from a split conference get into the playoffs – it divided in half but rounded up instead of down before adding one – resulted in no wild-cards in 3A volleyball, baseball or softball but allowed an 0-17 volleyball team into the postseason.

Rounding down is an option.

So too is establishing a minimum winning percentage – but not 50 percent, more like 33.3 percent – for teams who do no finish first in their half of a split conference. A 2-22 team made the 4A boys basketball playoffs automatically, but a rule like this would take the decision to “opt-out” of the playoffs out of the coaches’ hands.

To recap the second column: there are many things coaches liked with this year’s seeded playoffs that can be applied to the old format. A little old and a little new can give coaches (excluding football from this list as their seeded and subdivided playoffs work well) exactly what they seek.

Spreading out automatic bids (in 4A, 3A and 2A) so that there are not hyper-local halves of the East and West regions makes sense. How to spread them out and better balance the bracket? Base it on how far the conference got in the previous playoffs.

In the next year’s bracket, a regional champ’s conference gets its No. 1 seed on the opposite side of the bracket as the regional runner-up’s conference No. 1, and so on.

A blank 64-team bracket looks like this when working with an even 8 conferences. Tweaks can be made for those regions that have 9 conferences. If a league does not have a 4th automatic bid, it turns into a wild-card spot:

Conf. 1 #1 vs Conf. 8 #4

Conf. 7 #2 vs Conf. 2 #3

Conf. 8 #1 vs Conf. 1 #4

Conf. 2 #2 vs Conf. 7 #3

Conf. 5 #1 vs Conf. 4 #4

Conf. 3 #2 vs Conf. 6 #3

Conf. 4 #1 vs Conf. 5 #4

Conf. 6 #2 vs Conf. 3 #3

-

Conf. 2 #1 vs Conf. 7 #4

Conf. 8 #2 vs Conf. 1 #3

Conf. 7 #1 vs Conf. 2 #4

Conf. 1 #2 vs Conf. 8 #3

Conf. 6 #1 vs Conf. 3 #4

Conf. 4 #2 vs Conf. 5 #3

Conf. 3 #1 vs Conf. 6 #4

Conf. 5 #2 vs Conf. 4 #3

I promised an illustration, and here are a few examples of what this would look like using the 4A East bracket. The conference rank is listed and explained.

BOYS SOCCER

Conference rank: 1-Cap Eight (because Sanderson won regional); 2-Southwest Wake (because Green Hope runner-up); 3-Mideastern (had both semifinal losers); 4-Southeastern (Pinecrest lost to Sanderson in 3rd round); 5-Mid-South (Pine Forest lost to Laney in 3rd round, Laney lost to Sanderson); 6-PAC-6 (Jordan lost to New Hanover in 3rd round, NH lost to Green Hope); 7-Greater Neuse River (all out by 2nd round); 8-Eastern Carolina (all lost in 1st round).

Top half of East bracket: Cap Eight #1 vs wild card (Eastern Carolina only gets 3 bids); Greater Neuse #2 vs Southwest Wake #3; Eastern Carolina #1 vs Cap Eight #4; Southwest Wake #2 vs Greater Neuse #3; Mid-South #1 vs wild-card (Southeastern only gets 3 bids); Mideastern #2 vs PAC-6 #3; Southeastern #1 vs Mid-South #4; PAC-6 #2 vs Mideastern #3

Bottom half of East bracket: Southwest Wake #1 vs Greater Neuse #4; Eastern Carolina #2 vs Cap Eight #3; Greater Neuse #1 vs Southwest Wake #4; Cap Eight #2 vs Eastern Carolina #3; PAC-6 #1 vs wild-card (Mideastern only gets 3); Southeastern #2 vs Mid-South #2; Mideastern #1 vs wild-card (PAC-6 only gets 3); Mid-South #2 vs Southeastern #3.

VOLLEYBALL

Conference rank: 1-Cap Eight (because Wakefield won regional); 2-Eastern Carolina (D.H. Conley runnerup); 3-PAC-6 (Riverside lost to Wakefield in semis); 4-Mideastern (Hoggard lost to Conley in semis); 5-Mid-South (Pine Forest lost to Conley in 3rd round); 6-Southwest Wake (Apex lost to Wakefield in 2nd round); 7-Southeastern (Pinecrest lost to Conley in 2nd round); 8-Greater Neuse River (Garner lost to Millbrook, a 3rd round team, in 2nd round).

Top half of East bracket: Cap Eight #1 vs Greater Neuse River #4; Southeastern #2 vs Eastern Carolina #3; Greater Neuse River #1 vs Cap Eight #4; Eastern Carolina #2 vs Southeastern #3; Mid-South #1 vs wild-card (Mideastern only gets 3 automatic bids); PAC-6 #2 vs Southwest Wake #3; Mideastern #1 vs Mid-South #4; Southwest Wake #2 vs PAC-6 #3.

Bottom half of the East bracket: Eastern Carolina #1 vs wild-card (Southeastern gets only 3); Greater Neuse #2 vs Cap Eight #3; Southeastern #1 vs wild-card (Eastern Carolina gets only 3); Cap Eight #2 vs Greater Neuse #3; Southwest Wake #1 vs wild-card (PAC-6 gets only 3); Mideastern #2 vs Mid-South #3; PAC-6 #1 vs Southwest Wake #4; Mid-South #2 vs Mideastern #3

GIRLS TENNIS

Conference rank: 1-Southwest Wake (because they had both regional finalists); 2-Cap Eight (Broughton lost to PC in round prior to regional); 3-Greater Neuse River (Clayton lost to PC in 2nd round); 4-PAC-6 (East Chapel Hill lost to Broughton in 2nd round); 5-Mid-South (Jack Britt lost to Millbrook in 2nd round); 6-Mideastern (all teams lost in 1st round, New Hanover lost to regional runner-up GH); 7-Eastern Carolina (JH Rose lost to Millbrook, an eventual 3rd-round team, in 1st round); 8-Southeastern (both teams lost in 1st round to teams that fell in the 2nd round).

32-team bracket demo I: Conference 1 #1 vs Conference 7 #2; Conference 8 #1 vs Conference 2 #2; Conference 5 #1 vs Conference 3 #2; Conference 4 #1 vs Conference 6 #2 // Conference 2 #1 vs Conference 8 #2; Conference 7 #1 vs Conference 1 #2; Conference 6 #1 vs Conference 4 #2; Conference 3 #1 vs Conference 5 #2.

32-team bracket demo II: Conference 1 #1 vs Conference 3 #2; Conference 8 #1 vs Conference 6 #2; Conference 5 #1 vs Conference 7 #2; Conference 4 #1 vs Conference 2 #2 // Conference 2 #1 vs Conference 5 #2 ; Conference 7 #1 vs Conference 4 #2; Conference 6 #1 vs Conference 8 #2 ; Conference 3 #1 vs Conference 1 #2.

East bracket using demo I: Southwest Wake #1 vs wild-card (Eastern Carolina only gets 1 autobid); Southeastern #1 vs Cap Eight #2; Mid-South #1 vs Greater Neuse River #2; PAC-6 #1 vs wild-card (Mideastern only gets 1 autobid) // Cap Eight #1 vs Southeastern #2; Eastern Carolina #1 vs Southwest Wake #2; Mideastern #1 vs PAC-6 #2; Greater Neuse River #1 vs Mid-South #2.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Conference rank: 1-Southwest Wake (because Apex won regional); 2-Cap Eight (Millbrook was runner-up); 3-Greater Neuse River (Clayton lost to Apex in regional semis); 4-PAC-6 (Northern lost to Apex in 3rd round); 5-Mid-South (71st lost to Millbrook in 3rd round); 6-Mideastern (New Hanover lost to regional semifinalist Panther Creek in 3rd round); 7-Eastern Carolina (South Central lost in 2nd round); 8-Southeastern (all their teams lost in 1st round).

Top half of East bracket: 1-Southwest Wake vs wild-card (only 3 bids for Southeastern); 2-Eastern Carolina vs 3-Cap Eight; 1-Southeastern vs 4-Southwest Wake; 2-Cap Eight vs 3-Eastern Carolina; 1-Mid-South vs wild-card (only 3 bids for PAC-6); 2-Greater Neuse River vs 3-Mideastern; 1-PAC vs 4-Mid-South; 2-Mideastern vs 3-Greater Neuse River.

Bottom half of East bracket: 1-Cap Eight vs wild-card (only 3 bids for Eastern Carolina); 2-Southeastern vs 3-Southwest Wake; 1-Eastern Carolina vs 4-Cap Eight; 2-Southwest Wake vs 3-Southeastern; 1-Mideastern vs 4-Greater Neuse River; 2-PAC-6 vs 3-Mid-South; 1-Greater Neuse River vs wild-card (only 3 bids for Mideastern); 2-Mid-South vs 3-PAC-6.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Conference rank: 1-Greater Neuse River (because Southeast Raleigh won regional); 2-PAC-6 (Hillside runnerup); 3-Cap Eight (Millbrook lost to Southeast Raleigh in regional semis); 4-Mideastern (Laney lost to Southeast Raleigh in 3rd round); 5-Mid-South (EE Smith lost to Riverside in 3rd round); 6-Southwest Wake (Cary lost to Riverside in 2nd round); 7-Eastern Carolina (South Central lost in 2nd round to Laney, which lost to SE Raleigh); 8-Southeastern (Lumberton lost in 2nd round to Southern Alamance, which lost to Hillside)

Top half of the East bracket: Greater Neuse River #1 vs wild-card (Southeastern only gets 3 autobids); Eastern Carolina #2 vs PAC-6 #3; Southeastern #1 vs Greater Neuse River #4; PAC-6 #2 vs Eastern Carolina #3; Mid-South #1 vs wild-cad (MEC only gets 3); Cap Eight #2 vs Southwest Wake #3; MEC #1 vs Mid-South #4; Southwest Wake #2 vs Cap Eight #3

Bottom half of the East bracket: Southeastern #2 vs Greater Neuse River #3; Eastern Carolina #1 vs wild-card (PAC-6 only gets 3); Greater Neuse River #2 vs Southeastern #3; Southwest Wake #1 vs Cap Eight #4; Mideastern #2 vs Mid-South #3; Cap Eight #1 vs Southwest Wake #4; Mid-South #2 vs Mideastern #3;

WRESTLING

Conference rank: 1-Mid-South (because Jack Britt won regional); 2-Southwest Wake (Holly Springs regional runner-up); 3-Mideastern (Laney lost to Britt in regional semis); 4-Cap Eight (Sanderson lost to Holly Springs in regional semis); 5-Greater Neuse River (West Johnston lost to Holly Springs in 2nd round); 6-Southeastern (Pinecrest lost to Laney in 2nd round); 7-PAC-6 (Riverside lost to Sanderson in 2nd round); 8-Eastern Carolina (New Bern lost in 1st round).

32-team bracket demo I: Conference 1 #1 vs Conference 7 #2; Conference 8 #1 vs Conference 2 #2; Conference 5 #1 vs Conference 3 #2; Conference 4 #1 vs Conference 6 #2 // Conference 2 #1 vs Conference 8 #2; Conference 7 #1 vs Conference 1 #2; Conference 6 #1 vs Conference 4 #2; Conference 3 #1 vs Conference 5 #2.

32-team bracket demo II: Conference 1 #1 vs Conference 3 #2; Conference 8 #1 vs Conference 6 #2; Conference 5 #1 vs Conference 7 #2; Conference 4 #1 vs Conference 2 #2 // Conference 2 #1 vs Conference 5 #2; Conference 7 #1 vs Conference 4 #2; Conference 6 #1 vs Conference 8 #2; Conference 3 #1 vs Conference 1 #2.

East quadrants using demo I:

quadrant 1: Mid-South #1 vs PAC-6 #2; Eastern Carolina #1 vs Southwest Wake #2

quadrant 2: Cap Eight #1 vs Southeastern #2; Greater Neuse River #1 vs wild-card (Mideastern gets just 1 autobid)

quadrant 3: Southwest Wake #1 vs wild-card (Eastern Carolina gets just 1 autobid); PAC-6 #1 vs 2-Mid-South

quadrant 4: Mideastern #1 vs Greater Neuse River #2; Southeastern #1 vs Cap Eight #2

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