GHSA to consider seeding basketball tournament with computer rankings

The state basketball tournament set records this year for its lopsided scores in the semifinals, and many of the highest-ranked teams were beaten by other highly ranked teams before they could get that far.

One local coach says the problem is the Georgia High School Association’s method for constructing the brackets, and his plan — to seed the 32 playoff teams using computer rankings – is on the agenda for the GHSA executive committee’s spring meeting April 14-15 in Macon.

‘’Too many state finals or semifinals are being played in the second round or quarterfinals; that’s what we’re trying to eliminate,’’ said Alexander boys coach Jason Slate, whose proposal was introduced to the GHSA by Alexander’s Region 5-AAAA.  “From the response I’ve gotten, people are tired of how the tournament is done right now. People just want to see a better format for the state of Georgia.’’

Except in Class A, which uses a points system to seed its public and private teams, the GHSA seeds very bracket sport based each team’s finish in its region. The draw does not consider the strength of regions. As a result, certain quarters of the draw might be much stronger than others.

In the recent state tournament, No. 1-ranked Tift County and No. 2 North Cobb played in the Class AAAAAA boys quarterfinals. North Cobb won in overtime.  Eventual state champion Norcross met unbeaten and second-ranked Parkview in the girls’ second round. Norcross won in two overtimes. In the semifinals, Norcross beat Langston Hughes 62-16.

‘’When you have Parkview and Norcross, arguably the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams in the state, playing in a second-round game and then Norcross wins a semifinal by 50 points, that’s a joke,’’ Slate said. ‘’If you look at the NCAA tournament, you’re not going to have Western Kentucky seeded No. 1 because they won their conference championship. But according to Georgia High School, it doesn’t matter how crappy your season was. If you win your tournament, you’re going to have a No. 1 seed. It doesn’t make sense.’’

At the GHSA, executive director Ralph Swearngin expressed concerns about the feasibility of a plan that involves computer models.

“I find it interesting that so many people see computer rankings as the answer, but every year in the BCS – which are the most technical and sophisticated computer models – there’s no consensus of the accuracy,’’ Swearngin said. “I’m not convinced it’s going to work.’’

Swearngin also expected that a bracket that did not consider geography in the first round would create travel nightmares. Slate said he had crunched some hypothetical numbers that didn’t support that fear.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Slate’s idea would be getting votes from regions whose teams figure to be at a competitive disadvantage if not guaranteed equal billing on the draw with the other regions. Slate’s plan could become a metro Atlanta vs. rural Georgia issue since metro teams have won 46 of the past 54 state championships in basketball and figure to benefit most by computer ratings.

What Slate doesn’t propose is changing is how teams qualify for the state tournament. The GHSA takes the top four teams from each region. Slate will not ask the GHSA to budge on that.

But Slate doesn’t want to stop with the seeding format. He also proposes that the top eight seeded teams host a pair of first-round games. For example, first-round games between the No. 1 vs. No. 32 seeds and the No. 16 vs. No. 17 seeds would be played as a double-header at the site of the No. 1 seed.

Slate said having only eight first-round venues per class instead of 16 would require fewer, and presumably better, officials. Slate also wants the quarterfinals returned to neutral sites. For the first time in history, they were held at the site of the higher-seeded teams this past season.

“By us having quarterfinal games at one school, we’re taking away from the experience that these kids have,’’ Slate said. “A tournament is supposed to be at a neutral site. You’re playing at a college, a bigger arena.  The quarterfinal is a special game, but you’re not doing anything special for it.’’

But Slate’s main target is to see more competitive games and more of the better teams advancing to the semifinals and finals. The average margin of victory of the girls’ semifinals this year was 21.1 points, making them the most lopsided in state tournament history.

The boys’ semifinals average margin of 11.9 points, on the rise from 11.0 in 2012 and 9.9 in 2011. Miller Grove won 72-38 in Class AAAAA. Eagle’s Landing won by 26 points, Columbia by 27 and Johnson of Savannah by 22.

“The ultimate goal is to get the best four teams in the semifinals,’’ Slate said. “Is it going to happen? Not always, but at least it’s set up that way. There are going to be upsets. But you can’t tell me that  Parkview’s girls shouldn’t be playing in the semifinals. That’s a tragedy.’’

21 comments Add your comment


April 3rd, 2013
11:21 am

As a coach, I know that the vast majority of coaches support this for both football and basketball. About time…

Ba Zing

April 3rd, 2013
12:32 pm

It goes in cycles. I don’t remember the folks in Albany complaining when they were battling in the early rounds back in the mid 90’s. however, the site issue makes sense but the power rankings….I don’t think they will work. Not everyone plays out of state national powers so those schools will be penalized for not doing so. The majority so the A schools don’t like the power rankings by the way. We could not,get everyone to update scores.

Bright Idea

April 3rd, 2013
2:25 pm

Most colleges in the state don’t want to fool with hosting high schools. Plus the GHSA would have to pay rent. As for seedings, the devil is the details.


April 3rd, 2013
3:20 pm

It would be interesting to see the algorithm that determines the seeding. It could encourage more travel by some schools seeking to increase their ranking. As Bright Idea said, the devil is in the details.

Pelham Hornet '96

April 3rd, 2013
4:08 pm

Can we use the power ranking system in football when it comes determining the host of quarterfinal and semifinal game?

Coin flips sucks.

South GA doin well

April 3rd, 2013
8:09 pm

Ba Zing is right….it does go in cycles. Beat the teams you face. Let the seeding stay the same. Teams who win the most games in the tourney will be declared champions. All the “Pro Atlanta” folks need to realize the world doesnt revolve around I-285

hind tit

April 3rd, 2013
9:28 pm

If the GHSA would stop the cheaters and recruiting everything would be work the way it is.


April 4th, 2013
6:41 am

I agree with ht. Focus on all the “mystery move ins and transfers and you level the competitive balance in most cases.


April 4th, 2013
7:36 am

The issue is not the use of the Power Rankings, this could simply be solved by seeding basketballl the way football is seeded.

Ba Zing

April 4th, 2013
9:20 am

Football and basketball are currently seeded the same 2013. Lets ask Coach Slate how the officiating for his games are next year once the ref’s see his comments about “better officiating”. Dude sounds like a hot head but I guess when Miller Grove puts you out of the tournament 3 times, it is easier to complain about the system vs. working to get better as a team and coach

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April 4th, 2013
11:42 am

Football and basketball are not seeded the same. In the quarterfinals of football the north and south play each other. In basketball that doesn’t happen until the semis. A lot if you want to knock the suggestions but what we have now clearly doesn’t work. When you have a bunch of old football coaches making the decisions this is what you get. They are trying to form a GHSBCA here in GA so the coaches have a voice. They tried it before but maybe this one will work out.

Todd Holcomb

April 4th, 2013
1:04 pm

re: officiating …

I don’t think Coach Slate was taking a swipe at officiating.

Here is what he was saying: If you have 40 first-round doubleheaders played at only 40 sites in the first round, the GHSA can assign what it believes to be the best 40 officiating crews. But if you’ve got 80 single games in the first round played at 80 different gyms on the same night, then somebody is getting the 80th best officiating crew. Slate didn’t say the No. 80 crew was bad. He just said that No. 40 was better.


April 4th, 2013
1:42 pm

Keep it like it is, you can’t help it if a #4 seed upsets a team or two and finally in the quarter or semis faces a top ranked team and gets blown away, that’s basketball. The rankings of teams does not effect where each team is seeded, it’s the regions and what place your team finsihes in the region tournaments .

hit a single

April 4th, 2013
2:42 pm

My God, it goes in cycles. I want us to keep on and screw everything up just like Class A this year.

C fr SoGA

April 5th, 2013
5:55 am

If a #4 seed upsets a team or two ranked very high in the State Rankings, then just maybe some of those teams are over ranked.


April 5th, 2013
11:02 am

I was not for the Class A power rankings and split (still not for the split) but the power rankings worked in the private school playoffs. Seeds 1-8 made it to the Elite 8, seeds 1-4 made it to the final 4…and #1 and #2 played for the state championship. Will it always work out that perfect? Of course not, but its better than having #1 and #2 playing in the first round.

Todd Holcomb

April 5th, 2013
11:40 am

”If a #4 seed upsets a team or two ranked very high in the State Rankings, then just maybe some of those teams are over ranked.”

We’re not talking about #4 seeds that beat state-ranked teams. Nobody has a problem with that. We’re talking about how two Top 10 teams might meet in the first round, or how teams that are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the state might meet in the second round, or how No. 1 and No. 2 might meet in the quarterfinals. In the NCAA tournament, the two highest-rated teams can’t meet in the third round.

Not saying that I support this proposal, but I want to make sure readers understand it.


April 5th, 2013
10:45 pm

Todd, HS tourn starts with 32 teams which is the equivalent of the 2nd round of the NCAA. The 2nd round of the HS tourn is the sweet 16. There are very meaningful games in the sweet 16 of both NCAA & HS wouldn’t you agree? At what point do you start favoring a certain part of the state? In AAA this year, 2 south teams dominated boys and in football ELCA did not want to face ECI In the class A football title game I can assure you. There is no doubt that there is more talent in region 7 & 8 in 6A but restructuring the entire state for a few that can’t compete does not settle well for those of us in the south. If the GHSA bows down to this then if they thought the potential exodus with the A schools last spring was alarming, just wait.

Correct me if I am wrong but Coach K didn’t whine like a little baby when Louisville beat them in the quarter finals “elite 8″. It is a freaking tournament, if you are good enough, you will win!

So if rankings are the way Slate wants to go, ask him if Notre Dame vs. Alabama or UGA vs. Alabama was a better football game?


April 6th, 2013
1:10 am

There’s a lot of recruiting in our great state at the high school level. hind tit & So True are both correct in my opinion. I believe the playing field would more steady if the athletes stayed in their true home schools & played it would be a more fair playing field. Let’s stop the high school recruiting & then work on improving the seeding.


April 6th, 2013
10:00 pm

In my opinion….AAU paves the way for most have said…address the recruiting issue STATEWIDE first, then you will unmask the fact that the current system does in fact work. Win your regular season games on your schedule, win your region tournament…and if you ( a team) are as good as you (and your fans) claim to be, shouldnt matter who you play when and where…If you are going to change anything, change the region matchups in the playoffs