New wrinkle coming to hoops postseason

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published January 17, 2020

 West Bloomfield High’s Niah Thurman goes up for a shot against Southfield A&T earlier this season. The Lakers were 7-2 overall at press time.

West Bloomfield High’s Niah Thurman goes up for a shot against Southfield A&T earlier this season. The Lakers were 7-2 overall at press time.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 St. Clair Shores South Lake’s Jeremiah Joliffi drops in a layup Jan. 9 during a game earlier this season. Record and strength of schedule will be factors in deciding which teams earn the top two seeds in each district.

St. Clair Shores South Lake’s Jeremiah Joliffi drops in a layup Jan. 9 during a game earlier this season. Record and strength of schedule will be factors in deciding which teams earn the top two seeds in each district.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

METRO DETROIT — The Michigan High School Athletic Association has approved a big change for this year’s boys and girls basketball district playoffs.

In the past, tournament games were based on a random draw, without any seeding formula in place. With that system, there was nothing to prevent two top-tier teams from playing each other in the first round of the tournament.

However, this year’s boys and girls district playoffs will have a limited seeding formula, in which the top two teams from each district will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket, assuring that they would not match up until the district final, should both advance that far.

According to an MHSAA press release, the top-seeded teams will be determined using the Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) computer formula based on regular-season results against other MHSAA tournament-eligible teams and opponents’ strength of schedule.

Brackets will be drawn approximately two weeks before the start of district play. After the top seeds are determined, the other teams in each district will be placed in a randomly selected order.

Geoff Kimmerly, media and content coordinator for the MHSAA, said the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) wanted to have some sort of seeding at the district level.

“I think what people were driving for is to have those top two teams meet in the championship game of this round,” Kimmerly said. “It’s a matter of teams wanting to be rewarded, I guess, more for their regular-season success. … If you have a great record and you’re one of the top two teams, you (want to) play in the last game and you don’t (want to) play the other best team the first night.”

This past fall, MPR was also used to similarly seed boys soccer district tournaments, and based on that, from Kimmerly’s perspective, there could be another potential advantage of having a seeding formula.

“I think crowds for those games will be really big, and that’ll be great,” Kimmerly said. “Soccer being a good indication, we saw some pretty good attendance for those big championship game matchups at the district level. So if you feel like that might be the same for basketball, that’s something you can look forward to.”

Although the seeding system might be welcome news for some, from the perspective of Clinton Township Chippewa Valley boys basketball coach Kevin Voss, it wasn’t necessary.

“I’m not crazy about (it),” Voss said. “What was fine was fine.”

Utica High girls basketball coach Tom McDonald shared a similar sentiment as Voss.

“I didn’t think it was really necessary,” McDonald said. “There’s enough good teams that most of the time it’s whoever plays best that week is (going to) win it, no matter what your draw is. But I do see why; There are some districts, especially in metro Detroit, where there’s two clear favorites.  … I guess if it makes that Friday night more special in different gyms, then it’s probably a cool thing.”

From Voss’ perspective, an element of the district playoffs may now be missing.

“Part of districts is, there’s upsets,” Voss said. “We’ve lost districts where we had the rough road and a team that had hardly any wins had the easy road, got to the final and they beat us. It takes away a little bit of the potential for a Cinderella.”

Roseville High girls basketball coach Andy Houghton is aware of the potential benefit of having a seeding system in place.

“As a program, our main focus has always been to prepare ourselves for the regular season and playoffs,” Houghton wrote via email.  “In doing so, we like to schedule a tough nonconference schedule. In theory, this would mean that our opponents will have a high MPR, which will help us.  The rest of it is up to us. … Play well and get rewarded with a good seed.”

Farmington High boys basketball coach Terrance Porter is in favor of seeding.

“I think seeding is a good thing,” Porter wrote via email. “This is the first year, so I will see how it works out. I think it puts more of an emphasis on the regular season and your nonleague schedule. You should want to compete against teams that are going to test you and expose things you need to work on. You want to go into March having been tested.”

Macomb Dakota boys basketball coach Paul Tocco, who has led his program to multiple postseason championships in recent seasons, is in favor of the addition of playoff seeding, but believes more should be done down the road.

“I’m not sure why (the MHSAA) decided on (only seeding the top two teams in each district),” Tocco wrote via email. “It’s a good start.”

Kimmerly is aware that there are those who would like to have each district entirely seeded. However, he said, “That is not what our council was interested in.

“The thing they wanted to accomplish, the thing BCAM wanted to accomplish and coaches wanted to accomplish, was to get those top two teams separated until the championship,” Kimmerly said. “That is what this accomplishes.”

Sports Writers Jason Carmel Davis, Jacob Herbert and Zachary Manning contributed to this report.