The state’s basketball pundits spoke, and the administration listened — the RPI system will undergo a major facelift next season.
The WIAA announced Wednesday that its executive board approved changes to two of its most debated RPI rules for seeding teams in state basketball tournaments. Beginning with the 2017-18 season, district and league playoff games will count toward teams’ RPI, and out-of-state opponents will no longer be assigned .500 records for purposes of opponent win percentage (OWP).
The benefits of these changes are clear: No more meaningless district championship games, and no more discouraging teams to play quality out-of-state opponents.
While the amendments are recognized as a step in the right direction for the RPI, which received mixed reviews in its Washington debut this winter, some feel the rankings still weigh too heavily on teams’ paths to a state title. District playoffs still decide which teams qualify for state, but the top-eight seeded teams play regional games for a first-round state tournament bye, and the bottom-eight teams play loser-out games in the regional round.
The Richland High School boys basketball team, which took fifth in state, had to deal with a loser-out regional game — beat Moses Lake 84-58 — as the 16-team tournament’s No. 11 seed, and would have had to win four straight games in Tacoma to win the state championship. The Bombers’ seeding likely would have improved had district playoff games counted, since they twice toppled Ferris (No. 7 in RPI) and lost a triple-overtime game against Gonzaga Prep (No. 2).
“I think the one thing that’s still out there is that if you’re going to play a state tournament, I think it’s a little unequitable for just some teams to have to win four games to win a state tournament,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said. “All 16 teams ought to play four games to win it.”
Out-of-state opponents were assigned .500 records for purposes of the RPI last season because their wins and losses could not be accurately reported like Washington’s schools (wins and losses must be entered on a program called MaxPreps). Washington schools will be responsible for tracking down and reporting the records of out-of-state opponents, the WIAA announced in a press release.
“It’s a good thing it worked out that way, because we were just going to go play the games that we were going to play anyway,” Streufert said. “In the whole scheme of things, high school basketball is about the experience. And our guys have a chance to go play in Utah in a tournament, or wherever we play. We made the decision before the WIAA did, that we were going to go play the games that gave our guys the best opportunity to get better.”
Both RPI changes dramatically affect the formula because of how heavily OWP is weighted, accounting for 50 percent of a team’s rating.
BASEBALL ON THE BIG STAGE
The board also announced that Seattle’s Safeco Field will host this year’s Class 3A and 4A baseball state championships for the first time since 2010. Those games will take place May 26-27.