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Musings with Rich: Are computers always right?

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

BROWN COUNTY – In the past, high school basketball coaches in the state had some say in their team’s postseason seeding.

Coaches traveled to seeding meetings to vouch for their team, going back and forth with other coaches in attendance until a vote was taken.

Sure, maybe in years past, a team may have gotten a slightly better or worse seeding than they deserved, but it wasn’t too drastic.

If a coach didn’t get a seeding he or she agreed with, there was also an appeals process.

In a first-year move, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) instituted a computer ranking system using six factors – own winning percentage; opponents’ winning percentage; opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage; defeated opponents’ winning percentage; defeated opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage; and own winning percentage versus teams in regional/sectional grouping – to determine a team’s seeding.

It’s important to understand the change to computer rankings was recommended by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

The WIAA also said it wouldn’t release the exact formula/weight of each factor.

Some might say the WIAA is trying to hide things, but I don’t think that’s the case.

If teams know how much weight each category has, they could schedule based on that – I don’t think that’s fair.

Some may argue – and maybe rightfully so – a team does have control over their seeding – win as many games as you can.

While this is mostly true, you might notice, a head-to-head game against an opponent is not a factor in determining seeding.

This is where I’ve noticed discrepancies.

I don’t want to say a head-to-head game should be the only factor in seeding, but personally, I feel it should have some bearing.

Take the Bay Port girls’ basketball team, for example.

The Pirates, under Head Coach Dennis Gladwell, received a No. 8 seed in Division 1 and host No. 9 Hartford Friday, Feb. 25, in a regional game.

Bay Port finished the season 14-10 overall and 12-6 in the Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) – in my mind, a solid season.

At first glance, a No. 8 seed seems relatively fair, until I saw Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) received a No. 7 seed.

The Pirates beat DSHA, 44-33, Jan. 29 on the road.

Again, I know one game shouldn’t define a seed, but I feel it should have some bearing.

DSHA finished 12-12 overall and 11-5 in the Greater Metro Conference.

Maybe you feel a computer doesn’t lie, but at the very least, when two teams had similar seasons, as Bay Port and DSHA did, don’t you think a head-to-head game should matter, at least a little?

“I think it’s safe to say I would have had a valid argument for us being seeded higher than DSHA (if the meeting had been in-person),” Gladwell said. “We beat them on their court, and that’s a big factor, in my mind. We had similar seasons. In the past, had I not liked the seeding, I could have appealed it as well.”

Gladwell said he was initially a bit disappointed in the seeding, but he and his team are “over it.”

“You can’t dwell on it too much,” he said. “If you dwell on it, it’ll affect your play.”

If the Pirates manage to beat Hartford, their prize is a date Feb. 26 with Germantown, the No. 5-ranked team in the state and the defending state champs.

“That would be a nice present,” Gladwell laughed.

The boys’ bracket was even more baffling, especially in Division 2.

Green Bay Southwest, under Head Coach John Polkowski, earned a No. 10 seed.

The Trojans are currently 6-17 overall and 5-12 in the FRCC.

I’m guessing Polkowski wasn’t expecting a great seed, but I’m sure he figured he’d get a higher seed than both Pulaski and Green Bay West, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, respectively.

It’s no knock on those two teams, but Pulaski is currently 5-17 overall and 2-15 in the FRCC – the same conference the Trojans play in.

Another kicker is, Southwest beat Pulaski both times this season.

Green Bay West is currently 1-20 overall and 0-13 in the Bay Conference.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s a good argument for either team having a better seed than the Trojans.

Because Southwest received a 10 seed, it has to go on the road for its regional opener against No. 7 Menasha Tuesday, March 1.

Meanwhile, Pulaski gets to host Green Bay West the same night.

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