WIAA state

Onalaska and Willapa Valley battle during the first round of the 1A boys basketball state tournament in Spokane on March 4, 2020. (Brandon Hansen / For The Chronicle)

In Motion: Committees Will Include Coaches, Athletic Directors, Administrators and Media

Big changes are coming to high school state tournaments in Washington state, adding a human element and scaling back computer analytics.

The WIAA executive board has approved a resolution to adopt seeding committees for all state tournaments for all team sports, as first reported by Eli Sports Network Friday afternoon.

The WIAA has made no official public announcement as of Sunday afternoon, but WIAA sports activities information director Casey Johnson told ScorebookLive.com: “It will be exactly like football,” WIAA sport activities information director Casey Johnson said. “The plan is to still have RPI (rankings) displayed for every sport on our Website as a rankings tool. But at the end of the day, the seeding committee will make the decisions.”

The new seeding format will go into effect starting with fall 2020 sports.

Football has been seeded by a committee the past two seasons with an eight-to-nine member committee. Now basketball, softball, baseball, soccer and volleyball will follow suit but it is not confirmed yet how large the committees, made up of coaches, athletic directors, administrators and media, will be. The committees will meet immediately following district tournaments.

Each league may nominate two potential candidates to serve on a committee, and only one from each league will be selected, according to an email to league presidents and WIAA executive board members. The deadline for league presidents to nominate candidates to the seeding committees is May 27. The WIAA will choose candidates and notify the leagues by June 15.

Each classification, sport and gender will have its own separate seeding committee.

The WIAA Executive Board “will determine the makeup of each committee, based upon recommendations from the WIAA staff, chair of the RPI committee and the Washington State Coaches Association,” the email stated.

Criteria to be considered by the committees for seeding includes avoiding first-round matchups for teams from the same league, head-to-head results and travel distances.

The committees do not affect how teams qualify for a state tournament, only how they are seeded once they qualify through league play and district playoffs. Teams will be evaluated by win-loss record, WIAA’s rating percentage index system, MaxPreps rankings and coach/media polls.

Changes to classification and alignment back in January for the upcoming school year means tournament brackets will be either eight, 12, 16 or 20 teams, depending on the number of schools in the classification. The bracket size for 50-68 school classifications is 16 teams. That includes Class 2B (61 schools), 1A (60) and 2A (62 schools), which are the only three classifications found in Lewis County.

The new process will have a big impact on basketball, which has been seeded using WIAA’s RPI, placing teams one through 16 in the state tournaments, considering each team’s win-loss record and strength of schedule.

King’s High School is a prime example of how the new format could impact teams at state, where the Knights won the 1A boys state championship this past winter after entering the tournament as the No. 14 seed.

Still, it won’t have much bearing on how Chad Cramer, Morton-White Pass’ boys basketball coach, goes about his business. He’s more worried about what he and his team can control, rather than what is out of their hands.

“I spend so much time on the game in front of me,” Cramer said. “And I figure as long we win the game in front of us then the RPI and these types of things will take care of themselves. Spending so much time wondering what a committee might think or what a media person might think, if I go out there and prepare my team, they perform well and we win, then we’re going to get to state.”

With the new system only affecting state seeding, not how teams qualify for state at districts or regionals, teams that have earned the right to compete at state, like always, also have to earn their victories at the tourney.

When Morton-White Pass boys basketball won state in 2014, they beat the teams that placed second, third and fourth at state. This past winter, Willapa Valley boys basketball entered as the No. 10 seed, upset top-seeded Liberty (Spangle) in the quarterfinals and ended up placing fifth.

“It is important to (make sure) the two best teams aren’t playing in an opening loser-out round,” Cramer said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to win the game in front of you. Every team is good.”

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