High School Sports

The Swish: Long wait for basketball brackets rewarded with strong matchups

Trae Smith (21) of Wakefield gets his shot blocked by John Jiles (15) of Wake Forest. The Wake Forest Cougars played the Wakefield Wolverines in a men basketball game that took place in Raleigh, N.C. on Friday, January 27, 2017. Wakefield won 69-62.
Trae Smith (21) of Wakefield gets his shot blocked by John Jiles (15) of Wake Forest. The Wake Forest Cougars played the Wakefield Wolverines in a men basketball game that took place in Raleigh, N.C. on Friday, January 27, 2017. Wakefield won 69-62. newsobserver.com

The angst among sports writers and high school basketball coaches across the state could be felt on social media Saturday afternoon and into the night as the N.C. High School Athletic Association basketball brackets were pushed back until Sunday.

Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, both boys’ and girls’ brackets were at long last finalized.

The NCHSAA said computer trouble was to blame.

“We at the NCHSAA were extremely disappointed in our inability to accurately complete the seeding process on Saturday as scheduled. Our staff worked very hard in the lead up to Saturday to ensure that all things were ready and each system was functioning properly, including accounting for changes that were made to the process such as seeding on a 20-game record,” commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement. “However, due to circumstances beyond our control, the computer programming mechanisms that normally help guide the seeding process were flawed, providing incorrect data for the process. By the time we realized the issue, it was too late to make corrections to the program or data on Saturday night.”

She continued: “It was a difficult decision to postpone the seeding, because we know that our schools and teams were looking forward to the release of the brackets; but ultimately to get to the accurate brackets we released on Sunday, time was needed to repair the database. We will continue to examine our process to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent similar problems with the seeding process, especially in the spring.”

Computer problems aside, basketball brackets are usually later in the day, when the NCHSAA staff is stretched thin between working on the bracket release and staffing its biggest state title event, the wrestling championships in Greensboro. By comparison, this year’s football, boys soccer, volleyball and girls tennis brackets were all done relatively early – closer to lunchtime than sunset.

It may be a good thing, especially in case something like this comes up again, to try to do the wrestling championships and basketball brackets on different weekends. The wrestling championships are the largest NCHSAA event, requiring all sorts of planning and logistics to work out among about 200 schools for the three-day tournament.

With the long wait out of the way, we’ve got a compelling group of eight brackets that are almost entirely void of first-round conference matchups (the biggest complaint in recent years).

BY THE NUMBERS

0: No boys basketball teams in the East will see a conference opponent in the first round.

1: This may be the last basketball game in Apex’s home gym when the girls host Rolesville.

1: It’s Rolesville’s first girls basketball playoff appearance after having to forfeit last year’s bid after the brackets were released. The Rolesville boys are also making their first appearance.

2: Two girls’ games out of 64 (J.F. Webb at Northwood, Corinth Holders at Triton) feature conference rematches.

4: For the first time since Overhills opened in the fall of 2004, all four Harnett County boys basketball teams qualified for the playoffs. Western Harnett is in for the first time in 10 seasons, last making the field in 2007.

6: The Southwest Wake Athletic Conference placed six boys teams into the playoffs (Cary, Green Hope, Apex, Panther Creek, Athens Drive and Middle Creek).

8: Person’s girls made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, last making it in 2009.

32: Keep an eye on each team’s 1-32 regional seed as it determines which team hosts, not the 1-16 subregional seed (which applies to Mideast and East subregions).

It’s a necessary change that ensures the better team gets the home game. For instance, Fike’s boys are the East No. 9 but will host Mideast No. 8 Williams. Fike is the No. 15 overall regional seed and was seeded by its 16-4 20-game record while No. 18 Williams was 13-7.

DOUBLEHEADERS

Some fortunate fans will get to see two games on Tuesday as both programs host first-round games.

4A: Hillside’s girls host J.H. Rose and the boys host Broughton; Green Hope hosts the Clayton girls and Knightdale boys; South Central hosts the E.E. Smith boys and Hoke County girls; Millbrook hosts the Panther Creek boys and Pine Forest girls; Heritage hosts the Harnett Central boys and Panther Creek girls

Also, the Riverside girls and Middle Creek boys are heading to the same place – New Hanover.

In 3A: Fike hosts the Williams boys and Gray’s Creek girls; Eastern Wayne hosts the Western Alamance boys and Eastern Guilford girls; Nash Central hosts the Chapel Hill boys and Western Alamance girls; Orange hosts the Gray’s Creek boys and West Brunswick girls; Triton hosts the Westover boys and Corinth Holders girls.

In 2A, South Granville hosts the North Lenoir boys and East Duplin girls.

BEST GAMES

Girls: Jordan hosts East Wake in a 4A 8-vs-9 game as does Leesville Road with visiting Cary. The 4A 7-vs-10 game of Cardinal Gibbons at Holly Springs also looks like a toss-up.

Boys: East No. 12 Panther Creek’s young, but talented and will face Mideast No. 5 Millbrook. East No. 11 Broughton visits red-hot Mideast No. 6 Hillside in another intriguing game.

Cardinal Gibbons’ boys will go to Carolina Beach to face Ashley in a 4A 8-vs-9 game.

In 3A, East No. 6 Nash Central’s home game with Mideast No. 11 Chapel Hill figures to go either way.

POTENTIAL UPSETS

Girls: Wakefield is the 16-seed from the East, but is battle-tested and could give Mideast 1-seed Lumberton a game. Farmville Central, the East No. 10, might even be favored to win at Mideast No. 7 Eastern Randolph.

Boys: East No. 15 Wake Forest is capable of taking down Mideast No. 2 Overhills, and Mideast No. 11 Apex could win at East No. 6 Hoggard down in Wilmington.

Mideast No. 10 Leesville Road might get a road win at East No. 7 D.H. Conley, but the Pride is ranked so high in the MaxPreps state rankings that it wouldn’t classify as an upset.

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