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WIAA makes slight adjustments to electronic seeding for 2022-23

02/01/2023, 10:00am CST
By Mark Miller

In less than three weeks, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association will release electronic seeding placements for the 488 boys' basketball teams taking part in this year's playoffs.

Seeding via computer began last season. Prior to last year, seedings were determined by high school coaches from each regional and/or sectional in the state. 

The biggest reason for the change -- from high school coaches to a pre-determined computer formula -- centered on coaches, at times, seeding teams within their grouping based on their best interests rather than an earned seed. That line of thinking often led to some hard feelings among the coaches taking part in the seeding process. 

But the computer formula used a year ago also led to legitimate concerns.

Head-to-head competition was not utilized, strength of schedule was somewhat minimalized, and all out-of-state opponents were given a .500 record instead of their actual winning percentage.    

As an example of the head-to-head contests being ignored, Oshkosh West defeated Appleton West twice during the regular season a year ago, but Appleton West was given a home game as the No. 16 seed against Oshkosh West, the 17th seed, in the opening round of regional play. Oshkosh West won that playoff game and did finish ahead of Appleton West in the Fox Valley Association standings.

During the offseason, the WIAA tweaked its seeding procedure to make sure something like the above doesn't happen in the future.

"As for head-to-head competition, there was a slight change," said Kate Peterson Abiad, the assistant director of the WIAA in charge of basketball. "There are very few situations when head-to-head will be considered. Those situations only include when two teams are meeting in the first round of the tournament and the seed determines who will play at home.

"In that case, a team with a 100 percent winning percentage over the team they are facing in the first round would get the higher seed if the seeds are consecutive. If the seeding formula places a 16 seed against a 17 seed, playing at the home of the 16 seed, and the 17 seed has a 100 percent wining percentage over the 16 seed in head-to-head, the seeds would flip. This does not affect a 12 seed who meets a 5 seed in the first round, and the 12 seed has beaten the 5 seed earlier in the year." 

The actual criteria used by the WIAA for seeding does not change from a year ago. It includes the following:

1) Own winning percentage;
2) Opponents' winning percentage;
3) Opponents' opponent's winning percentage;
4) Defeated opponents' winning percentage;
5) Defeated opponents' opponent's winning percentage.

The exact formula/weight of each factor is not being released.

Strength of schedule, it appears, is based solely on wins and losses and not the strength of a particular conference. But many coaches contend win/loss records of teams is not equal, and feel the electronic formula doesn't address this concern. 

Thus, some believe playing smaller schools with winning records is beneficial to a larger school's seeding.

Large schools playing against other large schools might be better from a competition standpoint, but from a seeding perspective, it might be better for a large school to beat a highly successful team from a lower division in a non-league outing. 

And the competitiveness/strength of all leagues are not the same, even if they are in the same division. But accommodating those differences, whether perceived or actual, is not something the current formula takes into account.  

However, Peterson Abiad doesn't necessarily agree with that line of thinking.

"Strength of schedule has been a part of the electronic seeding," she said. "We collect all scores from all games. A school's opponents win-loss record is calculated, as well as their opponent's opponents. This, in itself, calculates their strength of schedule. The better the opponent's record, the better the strength of schedule. The same is true for calculations of the opponent's opponents record."  

Finally, for Wisconsin schools playing teams from out of state, the electronic formula remains the same. All out-of-state teams are given a winning percentage of .500 instead of their actual winning percentage. Data collection of out-of-state teams, both in terms of their records and their opponents' opponent's record, is not readily available. 

"Games against non-WIAA members were reviewed -- both in-state and out-of-state," Peterson Abiad said. "After reviewing the final seeding from last year, there were more concerns about WIAA teams playing against non-WIAA schools from inside the state. Therefore, that was adjusted. Out-of-state opponents will remain the same as last year."

Winning percentages from in-state, non-WIAA members will not be factored into the electronic seedings for this year. 

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