The state basketball tournament will have a new format and seeding system — and it will take effect this upcoming 2016-17 season.
The new format: 12 schools at championship sites instead of eight.
The new seeding system: Use Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to rank and then seed the 16 schools that qualify for the regional round of the state tournament.
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The WIAA released the news Monday following a vote from its executive board.
“There are a lot of people who believe that it can work,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said. “And there are a lot of people who are committed to make it work.
“It will be a lot more work for staff, and there will have to be a lot of dedication from coaches to turn in information on their scores. We’re going to rely on their ability to do that.”
The state football coaches association had also been looking at the RPI system. Basketball could just be the first of the dominoes to fall.
It could be implemented in other team sports as early as next fall, said WIAA assistant executive director Cindy Adsit.
“The football coaches have been interested in rankings for quite some time,” Colbrese said. “I think this will drive that discussion definitely a lot more than there has been in the past, and obviously it has a chance to have an impact on other sports, as well.”
The RPI system will not determine which schools qualify for state, only where each school will be seeded once they’ve qualified through their district.
Here’s how Sumner School District athletic director Tim Thomsen, a co-chair of the WIAA’s committee that spearheaded the new format, said the RPI formula will work — at least for the first year:
▪ 25 percent weight for win-loss percentage.
▪ 50 percent weight for opponent win-loss percentage
▪ 25 percent weight for the opponents’ opponents win-loss percentage.
The rankings will be tracked by MaxPreps. The first rankings will publish on the WIAA website on Jan. 1, with updated rankings posted every Monday after that until the end of the regular season.
Here’s the caveat — the rankings will not factor in postseason games.
Thomsen said they will monitor how the formula works, adjust it as needed the following year and determine what changes should be made to adopt it for other sports.
“It’s a big step,” Thomsen said. “We think it’s the right step and we think this is a fair way to do it.
“If districts start to seed their tournaments with this, it will add another value,” he added. “We’ve certainly talked about it in our district (the West Central District) and other districts have talked about it.”
The committee sent a survey on Aug. 15 to superintendents, principals and boys and girls basketball coaches across the state, and 71 percent responded in favor of using 1-16 rankings to seed the state tournaments.
Except the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association (WIBCA) released a letter Tuesday saying it does not support Monday’s decision. The association said that 746 respondents was too low of a sample size in the WIAA’s survey and that a 16-team single-elimination tournament format most closely resembled the 16-team modified double-elimination format that was eliminated following the 2009 season.
Thomsen said the roughly 750 responses is on target with most WIAA surveys.
“Option B is substantially more financially sustainable than Option A (the 16-team single-elimination format),” Thomsen said. “And we wouldn’t have been able to get all six classifications in the big sites in two consecutive weekends anyway. And, regardless, Option B was more popular.
“It doesn’t seem like they (WIBCA) are speaking for their constituents.”
In the WIAA’s current draw criteria, teams that win a district title are considered a No. 1 seed out of their district to the state tournament and are spread out evenly throughout the bracket as No. 1 seeds.
Auburn Mountainview was the No. 1 seed out of the 3A West Central District boys basketball tournament last year. It played the No. 5 seed from the 3A SeaKing District tournament — Rainier Beach.
Rainier Beach went on to win the 3A state title.
But there was also unbeaten Zillah playing unbeaten Lynden Christian in the 1A regional round. Unbeaten Moses Lake played unbeaten Central Valley in the first round of the 4A state girls basketball tournament.
Colbrese said the push for a ranking system took off more than ever with this past year’s state basketball tournaments.
“I think people realized that the draw criteria is really complex and they wanted to be able to understand it,” Colbrese said. “People see where they are in the bracket and people get emotional, and it’s difficult to explain something that is complex like in this situation. I think people wanted something simpler and they see the rankings system as a simpler way to look at it.”
Of the 102 South Sound area basketball coaches who responded to a The News Tribune’s survey last spring, 79 percent of them indicated they would prefer a rankings system of the WIAA’s previous draw criteria.
“On a positive note, all of the poor seeding this year has really shifted the focus on fixing this problem rather than continue to argue with the WIAA about going back to 16 teams at the dome,” AMV coach Thomas Ostrander had said.
Turns out, coaches got a little bit of both.
The WIAA’s executive board’s approval of the new tournament format will allow 12 schools instead of eight to advance to the championship sites — being the Tacoma Dome (4A and 3A), Yakima Valley SunDome (2A and 1A) and Spokane Arena (2B and 1B).
Of the 16 teams that reach the regional round, the top eight teams — as determined by the newly implemented ranking system — will play for the right to earn a bye to the state quarterfinals. The losing team would still advance to the first round.
In the current format, teams that lose in the regional round don’t advance and their season ends.
For the other four regional games — involving the Nos 9-16 ranked teams — those would be loser-out games with the winners advancing to the first round to face the losers of the other four games.
The first round, played the following Wednesday, would be single elimination and the tournament would continue with an eight-team modified double-elimination format from the quarterfinals through the state championship.
The WIAA had brought in almost $40,000 more per day in ticket revenue at the Class 3A and 4A boys and girls state basketball tournament in the 2014-15 season, records requests into the Tacoma Dome showed, than the state’s nonprofit governing body for high school sports did in 2009, when it organized a 16-team, single-site tournament for each classification.
The coaches association had long argued that what the WIAA saved in costs, it lost in memories, lost dreams and lost learning opportunities for 96 teams and 1,152 players denied the opportunity to participate in one of the state’s double-court tournament sites.
“That was one of the goals, was to figure out how to get more teams there and create more excitement,” Colbrese said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677