(In Region 2-6A, whose top four faced Region 1’s top four in the 1st round, the qualifiers were: 1. Maryville; 2. Bradley Central; 3. Cleveland, 4. Farragut.)
Were the Region 1-6A seedings fair and objective? Maybe not. Science Hill was the outright champion, but the three-way tie for 2nd place made things messy.
The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association mandates the first tiebreaker between teams with equal records is their head-to-head meeting. That’s clear when two teams are involved but muddled when it’s three. Indeed, head-to-head fails here – the Indians beat the Wolves, the Patriots beat the Indians, and the Wolves beat the Patriots.
But Dobyns-Bennett found itself as the 4th playoff qualifier, sending them on the road to meet a 1st round playoff opponent no team wants to face -– undefeated, 2nd-ranked, and 17-time state champion Maryville.
Did it have to be that way? Again, maybe not. The TSSAA’s second regional tiebreaker is overall record, which is where the system goes wrong. Determining region standings by a team’s performance outside the region is puzzling. It rewards teams who load up on an easy schedule ahead of those who try to improve themselves against higher-quality opponents.
Is there a more objective and equitable system? Yes.
Some college conferences, faced with unbalanced schedules and other extenuating circumstances, have used a “power points”-type system as a tiebreaker. Such systems are designed to be completely objective and apply only to intra-conference games. Each team is awarded a pre-determined amount of points for a victory, a road victory, defeating teams ahead of them in the standings, and the like. At the end of the season, each team’s point total is divided by the number of games played, and that number is used to determine the final standings. Non-conference games matter little, if at all.
We can apply such a system to Region 1-6A, one that prioritizes in-region performance and rewards teams that play challenging non-region schedules:
- Head-to-head matchups
- Point differential in games among three or more teams tied for the same finishing position in the standings
- Capped* point differential in all conference games
- Capped* average point differential in conference road games
- Strength of non-conference schedule
- Coin flip
(* = “Capped” at a margin of victory or defeat of 21 points, which discourages teams from running up the score. This idea was suggested by Will Prewitt, Commissioner of the NCAA Division II Great American Conference, who lives in Arkansas. That state caps its point differential at 14 points to discourage winning teams from running up the score. But, to me, a 21-point cap is more representative of a game’s outcome.)
For the three teams tied for 2nd in Region 1-6A, one traditional tie-breaker -– win-loss record vs the team or teams ahead of them in the standings -– fails here because each lost to Science Hill. Which brings us to the 2nd tiebreaker in my system, point differential in games among the tied teams, which winds up giving us this:
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s pretend the Wolves, Indians, and Patriots still came out even after the 2nd tiebreaker and move on to #3. (Note that Morristown East and William Blount did not qualify for the post-season.):
If the 3rd tiebreaker didn’t clarify matters, we’d get to #4:
If, somehow, tiebreaker #4 didn’t sort out things, we’d get to #5:
I came up with a similar, objective, power-points tie-breaking method for last spring’s Big 7 baseball season, when it looked like there’d be a logjam for 2nd place. The formula for each team was this, if head-to-head meetings weren’t applicable:
- 10 points for a win
- 3 bonus points for a road win
- 2 bonus points for “DOW,” or “defeated opponents’ wins.” * That is, the number of conference wins of a defeated conference opponent, per conference win
- 1 bonus point for a “run rule” victory (10 or more runs) ending a game before the winning team had to record 21 outs against the defeated team. Run rule wins are desirable outcome in that they help preserve pitching.
(* = For example, Science Hill earned 108 DOW points on its way to the regular season title: 8 for defeating Dobyns-Bennett once, 16 for defeating Tennessee High twice, 14 for sweeping Daniel Boone, 12 for sweeping David Crockett, and so on. Dobyns-Bennett took 2nd place ahead of Tennessee High in the final standings by virtue of its win over Science Hill [and its 11 conference victories] on the last day of the regular season.)
The final regular season standings came out like this:
I’ll be the first to acknowledge my suggested tie-breaker systems are arbitrary and, perhaps, overly meticulous. But it’s completely objective and uses data only from games played within the district or region, and a fair way to determine who finishes where.
What do you think?