State adds RPI to help determine playoff seeds, new formula used for the first time

Published 7:39 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

Anything beats drawing names out of a hat.

Everything about the 2020-21 high school sports year was off kilter because of COVID-19 but determining playoff seeding by lot might have been the oddest occurrence.

Farmville Central rolled to another 2A state basketball championship without a post-season home game, despite winning their conference and the top rank in every poll.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association reacted by introducing the RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, to this year’s seeding process to make the playoff pairings more equitable. The fall sports affected are football, volleyball and soccer.

College basketball fans should be familiar, since the NCAA has used it for years in determining the basketball tournament brackets.

Basically, the formula considers a team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of a team’s opponents and the winning percentage of a team’s opponents’ opponents, meaning a school will be rewarded with a higher seed by playing a tougher non-conference schedule than a team that doesn’t.

“It’s good to have something clearly defined, but we won’t know how effective it is until the end,” Washington football coach Perry Owens said. “We have losses to two quality opponents (Northern Nash and West Craven) which should help us, but right now teams who are undefeated against soft opponents are ahead of us in the rankings. We’ll wait until the end of the season to see how it shakes out.”

32 teams will make the East playoffs in 1A and 2A, so theoretically, a team in the top 32 of the RPI will get in.

Here’s how things stack up for the county teams after the second set of rankings were released Thursday:

Football: Washington is 26th in 2A, down from 14th after the West Craven loss. Southside is fourth in 1A after a 4-0 start, while Northside is sixth at 4-1. If both continue their success, they should have home-field advantage through most of the playoffs.

Volleyball: Northside is 12-1 and ranked second in 1A East behind Perquimans. Southside (6-6) is on the playoff bubble at 33, while Washington (5-7) is 25th in 2A.

Soccer: Washington (6-4-1) dropped from 11th to 14th after a loss to top-ranked Greene Central, while Southside (7-3-1) dropped from sixth to seventh after a pair of wins over Washington Montessori, who is not a member of the NCHSAA.

“I think it’s an improvement and hopefully will show our team’s strength,” Northside volleyball coach Michelle Leathers said. “It’s easy to just look at a team’s overall record when they do the seeding, but then not look any closer to see who they’ve played and how strong the conference is. It will help the seeding committee see that we’ve played some good teams, which should help our seeding and it will help coaches schedule better non-conference matches in future to help their seed.”

It’s a little different in soccer, where Washington’s Jim Kozuch said things are fairly cut and dried.

“You get a better seed if you win your conference,” he said. “You still make the playoffs if you finish second or even third, but you are probably on the road after the first couple of rounds. I always try to play bigger, better schools like D.H. Conley, J.H. Rose and New Bern to prepare us for our conference season. Win or lose, it helps us.”