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.
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