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WIAA prepares to release first venture into RPI rankings for basketball

It’s expected by Friday that the WIAA will release its first RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) rankings for boys and girls basketball under changes implemented for the 2016-17 season.

The RPI will serve as the seeding tool for state tournaments in all classifications.

The WIAA was moved to make a change after some glaringly unwanted matchups that happened during the regional round of state and the final three days of the tourney last year. Those matchups pitted teams most believed were ranked first and second in their respective classes.

And those matchups happened because of pulling names out of a hat. Something had to change with that archaic format.

So the WIAA got on board with what states regionally have embraced – an RPI system.

The WIAA RPI format is being run by Maxpreps with a few tweaks by the WIAA. State officials anticipate the first attempt will be tweaked next year to make it better.

It’s anticipated that the first RPI rankings probably won’t look exactly like polls sponsored by the Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune newspapers. Or like the first rankings the Associated Press puts out next week.

Don’t be alarmed if the Rainier Beaches of the state aren’t ranked atop their respective polls.

From the point of the first release of the RPI polls through the end of the season, the rankings could change on a daily basis.

The end result is this. When all is said and done in district and subregional play to determine which teams advance to state, that’s when the WIAA will use the RPI to seed the qualifying teams.

Here’s an example of how it might play out. Let’s say the Central Valley girls, the defending State 4A champs, end up for whatever reason ranked second in the RPI. If the team ranked ahead of the Bears also qualified for state, it would get the second seed. If the Bears were the highest qualifying team, they would get the top seed.

To take this scenario further, consider the WIAA also expanded the state tournaments by a day, allowing 12 of the 16 teams that qualify for the regional round of state to advance the following week to a tourney that is now four days instead of three.

In regional round matchups, No. 1 will meet No. 8, No. 2 will face No. 7 and so on for the top eight seeds, which are accorded double-elimination status. The 9-16 seeds meet in loser-out games. The winners move on to state for a matchup against a loser from games involving the top eight seeds.

This all bears repeating because of the anticipated unveiling of the RPI rankings and the fact that the state format has been altered.

Will coaches like the RPI format? Not overwhelming. Will it be better than pulling names out of a hat? Without question. Will the WIAA make future changes to the RPI to tighten up its ability to seed the teams properly? Absolutely.

Like anything new, this is the pilot process. It’s not going to be perfect. But patience is warranted. Because whether coaches or parents believe it or not, the WIAA’s goal is to put the best product on the courts and put kids in the best possible situations.

WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese has said an RPI system will be considered for other sports in the year to come.

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