Saturday, July 1, 2023

Navigating the NCHSAA Playoffs: A Closer Look at the Complex System

Navigating the NCHSAA Playoffs: A Closer Look at the Complex System

Conference Seeding, RPI Ratings, and More

In the world of high school sports, especially football, the journey to the playoffs is more than just wins and losses. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has designed an intricate system to determine which teams make the cut and how they are seeded in the playoffs. Let's dive into the details of the Playoff and Seeding Format, highlighting key points that govern the road to glory.

Conference-Based Playoff Berths

At the heart of the NCHSAA playoff system is the allocation of playoff berths based on the number of schools fielding a team in a particular sport within a conference. The rule of thumb here is straightforward:

- 1-5 Teams: The conference champion secures a berth.
- 6+ Teams: Both the conference champion and the runner-up, or the winner of the conference tournament, earn playoff berths.

Additionally, if a conference is divided into classifications, the highest finishing team from a specific classification qualifies for the playoffs, irrespective of the overall conference finish. However, this requires a minimum of two schools per classification in the split conference.

Adding RPI to the Mix

One of the significant updates to the NCHSAA system is the addition of the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) rating to the Handbook. This change plays a crucial role in conference tie-breaking procedures and serves as the final tiebreaker in case teams find themselves deadlocked.

Wild Cards and RPI Ratings

For teams that don't secure an automatic berth, there's still hope through the RPI rating. These remaining non-automatic teams in each region (East/West) will fill the vacant playoff berths solely based on their RPI ratings. The RPI becomes the ultimate judge of a team's worthiness.

Seeding by RPI

Seeding in the NCHSAA playoffs is a structured process. Conference champions are seeded before any other qualifying teams, and this seeding is determined by the RPI rating. This rewards excellence within the conference, ensuring that strong performers are recognized.

All other teams are then seeded after the conference champions, and their RPI rating takes precedence over their conference finish. Importantly, each region (East and West) is seeded independently based on the RPI rating of the school.

Breaking Down the RPI Formula

The crux of the NCHSAA playoff system is the RPI formula. This formula, used for all team bracketed playoffs, consists of three components:

- Winning Percentage (WP): Calculated by dividing the number of wins by the total games played, with ties considered as half a win.
- Opponents’ Winning Percentage (OWP): This involves averaging the winning percentages of a team's opponents. It's essential to note that games involving the team whose RPI is being calculated are not included in this process.
- Opponents’ Opponents Winning Percentage (OOWP): Similar to OWP, this is calculated for the opponents of a team's opponents. There's a slight exception for out-of-state teams, which we'll delve into next.

Handling Out-of-State and International Opponents

Out-of-state opponents from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are treated the same as in-state opponents if they have a verified MaxPreps account and schedule. For all other out-of-state opponents, their direct winning percentage counts, but each of their opponents receives a .500 winning percentage in the formula.

International opponents, on the other hand, do not impact the RPI calculation, ensuring that the system remains focused on in-state competition.

Other Considerations

The NCHSAA has put in place measures to handle non-varsity competition, in-state non-NCHSAA schools, and other nuances. When competing against in-state, non-NCHSAA schools, the direct winning percentage counts, while each of their opponents receives a .500 winning percentage.

To maintain fairness, NCHSAA member schools are responsible for ensuring that the data from their opponents is accurately listed on MaxPreps, with an additional note that contests against "Varsity Opponents" will not contribute to the team's RPI number.