Usually around this day of the year, we can all be reporting on the draw for the annual Summit Athletic Conference Holiday Tournament. It isn’t hard usually to pin down what the seeding will be, but every now and then there is a surprise since it is basically decided in the preseason, especially for boys.
This year’s seeding? It will be announced on December 16, multiple SAC coaches have confirmed to Outside the Huddle. And why the hang up? Because this year’s seeding will be done based on Sagarin ratings and NOT by the vote of conference coaches.
Jeff Sagarin’s rating method is used across a lot of sports across the country, including Indiana High School basketball. An explanation of the ratings can be seen here on John Harrell’s website with the most recent Indiana girls basketball rankings. Some people live by them, some people think they are silly. But are they really the best way to seed a high school conference tournament? By looking at the girls side, where the latest Sagarin ratings were done on November 30, the quick answer is yes. According to those rankings, the seeding or the girls side of the SAC Tournament would look like this as of today:
- South Side
- Bishop Luers
- Concordia Lutheran
- Bishop Dwenger
- North Side
And that is essentially how I would rank them today too (6 of those teams are in my top 10 of the area this week). I could have South over Carroll, but that is comparing apples to apples likely. This isn’t really a question of the success of the Sagarin ratings, they are right far more often than they are wrong.
The broader question is why did this format come into play from the SAC athletic directors? One coach we spoke to indicated that there is a feeling that coaches try to manipulate the process, which to me seems like an empty reasoning although not completely unlikely because I’ve known some past SAC coaches (who are no longer SAC coaches), who certainly used their votes for their own favor in previous seedings and All-Conference picks.
Bounce isn’t a big proponent for most broader rankings; both the coaches and Associated Press polls are hollow and represent a small sample of voters with a broad reach but a regional-at-best knowledge.
But here? Why let a computer decide what these coaches should? Sagarin seems unnecessary for something this small in scale. I am all for human opinion and, in some cases, error. I firmly believe taking the vote away from the coaches doesn’t help this tournament that is in the middle of some redevelopment pains.
It also takes its toll on coaches, who now will now know until 10 days prior to opening tipoff who their opponent is. Yeah, any coach you talk to will tell you that they don’t worry about their first round SAC game until its the next game up. And its probably true. But almost every single one of these men and women would vastly prefer knowing their first opponent and seeding when December opens as usual.
Last season, I wrote a column about five potential SAC Tournament changes – yes, the fifth one is in jest – but pushing back the seeding announcement and taking away the coach vote don’t line up with anything that makes this tournament more intriguing or competitive a year after one of the poorest attended SAC Tournaments in recent memory.
Despite rumors of a move to Carroll, the tournament returns to Wayne and doesn’t allow fo a central location, not that Carroll was exactly an option for that either. Wayne and athletic director Gary Raber do a great job of hosting this tournament and made some upgrades to their gym since last year, so I can continue to buy in to the Generals having the host site.
When I heard there were going to be some SAC Tournament changes, I really did get my hopes up though. Delayed knowledge of seeding and computer generated choices just fall short of options that I wanted to see. They also fall short of infusing the SAC Tournament with a new life that, after what we saw last season, it direly needs.
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