The N.C. High School Athletic Association clarified at least one part of its new playoff format for the boys and girls basketball playoffs.
While the NCHSAA is switching from its old playoff structure (where each team had an assigned first-round match-up) to one much like how the NCHSAA football brackets are decided (where teams are seeded 1-16 and grouped by geography) it will not be changing how teams qualify for the playoffs.
Associate commissioner Rick Strunk wrote in a email response: "The qualification will be the same as in the past using the formula of half number teams in conference plus one. We will also select the wild-cards if necessary. After the 64 qualifiers are set, we will begin the seeding process. We are not yet ready to release the final details, but those are forthcoming."
That means leagues like the Cap-8, Tri-Nine and Greater Neuse River Conference still have five automatic berths in the postseason.
Leagues with seven or fewer teams, like the PAC-6, Eastern Carolina and Carolina 3A, still have four automatic berths. A team can clinch a spot in the NCHSAA postseason by winning its conference tournament, no matter its regular-season finish in the league (Lee County's boys did this last year in the Tri-Nine Conference after a 6th-place finish).
There had been some confusion on just how far the NCHSAA was going to make its basketball postseason like football, where only the three teams of each league get automatic bids and all others are seeded as wild-cards.
Strunk's clarifying email today means we can continue to follow the developing fight for final playoff spots in each conference.