The change in the boys and girls basketball playoffs was a topic of discussion well before they were released on Saturday. So what do you think of them now that they're out?
I did some research, and here's a look at some of the perceived problems heading in (conference re-matches, quick turnaround) and some of the problems/concerns that popped up and affected Green Hope, Panther Creek and Charlotte's Berry Academy.
I won't list my solutions to any of these problems (spoiler alert: one of these items turned out to not be a problem), choosing instead to throw out multiple scenarios that could address needs while also looking at what the future holds.
It's a lot of words, so I underlined some key facts.
Conference re-matches: Coaches were really dreading facing a first-round conference opponent they had already faced twice -- possibly three times -- already in a season.
They had followed how the pods increased them in the football playoffs, and many were wary.
But what coaches didn't account for, perhaps, was that the football playoffs consist of 32-team fields, and by default had a pool of possible opponents half that of basketball.
The overwhelming majority of coaches will not face a conference opponent in the first round. Out of the 128 first-round match-ups around the state, just 24 involve teams of the same conference.
Two of those would have happened the way the slot system was organized for this year -- with the 4A east wild-card facing the Mid-South champ.
The 1A West boys accounted for five of the 24 intra-conference match-ups, the most of any bracket half.
Quick turnaround: The first release of the brackets came just after 3:10 p.m. on Saturday. After a few drafts were released and re-released, they were finalized just before 7 p.m.
One coach said this week that he'd like to start the playoffs on Tuesday if he won't find out his Monday opponent until after dark on Saturday night.
Both volleyball and soccer have playoff games on Saturday (this past year's 2nd-3rd-4th rounds of volleyball playoffs were played Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday), so playing on Tu-Th-Sa isn't unheard of.
Coaches -- especially the preparation freaks -- seem willing to switch to that rather than not being able to have a practice and little more than 48 hours to get ready for their first postseason opponent.
The question for the NCHSAA would be whether or not a Saturday playoff game would be worth the risk of being snowed out, and therefore complicate the next week's regional schedule.
Green Hope situation: An error in the records that the Tri-Nine Conference originally submitted caused Green Hope's boys to be initially listed as the top 3-seed in its bracket. But although it was the 3-seed in the conference tournament, Green Hope had also defeated the team it was tied for second with in the conference tournament -- which should have counted for a tiebreaker.
Almost immediately, Green Hope called to make the correction and was seeded as a 2-seed instead. The difference was between being 8th and being 5th overall in the pod.
The error happened because when the conference had to submit overall records and season finishes to the NCHSAA, it had to do so before the Tri-Nine tournament -- but unlike other conference, the Tri-Nine did not denote that there was a tie for second.
Who knew that the overall records had to be submitted before the conference tournaments, and that conference tournament games would not count towards the overall seeding process?
This is why you saw Chapel Hill seeded as 24-0, despite the Tigers losing its conference title game.
NCHSAA deputy commissioner Que Tucker said that when the association seeds any playoff teams, it's always used the record pre-conference tournaments.
Nobody's noticed it before because there is no conference tournament for football, and there's typically not a conference tournament in the other sports which count on the NCHSAA to seed (rank is a better word) the wild-cards before selecting them.
In past years for basketball, the records next to team names had always included the conference tournaments because they were added in -- the same way football's brackets show endowment games on Monday.
Overall records will be updated today to show conference tournament games, according to Tucker, but that will not change seeding.
Coaches who play in leagues were conference tournament upsets aren't the norm were excited that these games would finally "mean something." Those who I interviewed talked about the need to make a good run in their tournament to make sure their seed was as high as it could possibly be.
But instead, it looks more like the 1-seeds and maybe even some 2-seeds, already frozen in their standing, would have been better off putting out a team of JV players and resting up for the aforementioned quick turnaround.
But what if they had mattered?
For one, Wakefield's girls would be hosting Clayton in the 8-9 game, not the other way around.
This brings up the first of two contradictions you can cite in this year's playoff format: if conference tournaments matter in that a 3,4,5,etc. seed can win it and assume a 2-seed in the state playoffs, why don't conference tournament wins and losses matter when seeding between teams of the same rank?
Do the conference tournaments matter or not? As of right now -- both.
Berry Academy situation: There's a bit of an uproar in the western part of the state as Charlotte Berry Academy's boys basketball team -- which is 18-8 -- missed out on the 3A playoffs.
The 3A classification does not have any wild-card spots, and because Berry is one of three 3A teams in its 4A/3A split conference, there were only two auto-bids for available for the 3A teams in that particular league.
All NCHSAA conferences determine automatic bids by taking the number of teams in a conference, dividing in half, then adding one (or if it's 4.5, etc, rounding up).
Now, rules are rules (Panther Creek folks just punched their computer screens -- easy guys), so the fact Berry missed the playoffs has nothing to do with any shortcoming by the NCHSAA.
But it does bring up a discussion -- wasn't going to 64-team tournaments supposed to end the days of teams who win two-thirds of their games missing out on the playoffs?
As the classifications grow to nearly 100 teams each, wild-card spots are being gobbled up, which opens the door for situations like Berry's.
And then I came across this -- after some research, I found out a potential problem in the future that could necessitate changing either the bracket or the half-plus-one automatic bid formula for conferences.
According to the 2013 alignment, there will be one wild-card in 3A, none in 4A, and the 2A class will actually have too many automatic bids.
That's right, in 2013 the 2A class -- which will have 100 teams total -- is slated to have 65 automatically qualifying playoff teams for 64-team brackets.
Do you change the half-plus-one process, or do you go to what the NCAA men's basketball tournament looked like a few years back and use a play-in game?
Remember, football does not use the half-plus-one formula. It instead takes the top three seeds from every conference as automatic qualifiers, then leaves the rest as seeded wild-cards.
UPDATE: another possible remedy would be to limit the number of automatic bids that conferences can have to four. It wouldn't open up as many wild-cards as the football system, but more than the current system.
Panther Creek situation: There isn't much to discuss here aside from the colossal failure to communicate and throughly explain a delicate and important process.
No matter what the NCHSAA says it thought was understood, it left more than enough reason for Panther Creek to suppose it was in the playoffs based on the written language.
In fact, the NCHSAA should probably thank Panther Creek for being alert and observant enough to know it should qualify under the literal definition of the rule and likely helping add language to future writings about the seeding process.
But it does bring up another contradiction, the second one so far: does geography matter?
Richmond County spent all of its season in an "eastern" conference, but if it makes it to the title game, it will be representing the west. Same for the Southern Alamance girls and Southeast Guilford boys, but in reverse.
But geography did matter to the NCHSAA when picking wild-cards, which appear to have less affiliation with either half of the bracket than a team who earns an automatic bid through its conference.
Richmond received its bids because of how they did specifically against their conference foes -- eastern conference foes. Wild-cards receive bids based on how they did against everyone, non-conference and in-conference.
So does geography matter or not? Right now, the answer is "it depends."
If the future rules state that the wild-cards can come from anywhere, that would be consistent.
Or, if the wild-cards stay east/west, changing the brackets to keep schools playing in the same playoff brackets as their conference foes would also be consistent.