Polk County's Kinsley Huskey reaches for a shot in a match earlier this season

NCHSAA playoff seeding: Walking through how the new process will work

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has adopted a new process for determining playoff qualifiers and seeds for the 2021-22 season.

On Thursday, the NCHSAA will use that process for the first time, seeding the state volleyball playoffs. Using volleyball as an example, here is our understanding of how the process will work and what Polk County fans can expect on Thursday and with all other sports this season.

Automatic Qualifiers
There are 11 2A West conferences this season. The champions of each (or top team in a split conference) will receive an automatic berth. There are also four other conferences, including the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference, that have seven or more teams and will thus receive two automatic berths.

The 2A West bracket will include 32 teams in most sports. For volleyball, 15 of those spots will thus go to automatic qualifiers.

Based on current standings on MaxPreps, here are all the automatic qualifiers:

Piedmont Athletic (1): Southwest Randolph
Mid-State (2): McMichael, West Stokes
Rocky River 2A/3A (1): West Stanly
Central Carolina 1A/2A (1): East Davidson or West Davidson (tie to be broken Wed. night)
Yadkin Valley 1A/2A (1): Mount Pleasant
Foothills (2): East Surry, West Wilkes
Catawba Shores Athletic 1A/2A (1): Lincoln Charter
Southern Piedmont 1A/2A (1): East Gaston
Mountain Foothills 7 (2): Brevard, Hendersonville
Western Highlands 1A/2A (1): Owen
Catawba Valley Athletic (2): Maiden, Bandys

Wild Cards
Now, the fun begins.

For the first time, the NCHSAA is using a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to rank all teams. The RPI is based on a combination of winning percentage, average opponents winning percentage and average opponents’ opponents winning percentage. You can read more about that here.

All teams in the 2A West bracket are ranked by RPI, and the top 17 teams not earning an automatic berth receive a wild card spot.

As of this writing, here are the 17 highest-ranked teams that do not have an automatic berth:

Surry Central
R-S Central
East or West Davdison
Pine Lake Prep
Community School of Davidson
Polk County
Providence Grove
Anson County
West Lincoln

As of now, those 32 teams would represent the 2A West bracket.

This is actually a fairly simple process now. All conference champions/top teams in split leagues are first seeded using RPI as the sole factor. For split leagues, a team must finish in the top three and have a record of .500 or better to be seeded as a conference champion.

Given that, as of this writing, here are how those 11 teams will be seeded:

  1. East Surry
  2. Southwest Randolph
  3. Lincoln Charter
  4. McMichael
  5. Brevard
  6. Mount Pleasant
  7. West Stanly
  8. East Davidson, West Davidson or Maiden
  9. West Davidson or Maiden
  10. East Gaston
  11. Owen

The four remaining automatic qualifers and all wild cards are then seeded 12-32. As of this writing, that would look like this:

  1. Surry Central
  2. Randleman
  3. West Wilkes
  4. Hendersonville
  5. R-S Central
  6. Patton
  7. West Stokes
  8. Bandys
  9. East Davidson or West Davidson
  10. Pine Lake Prep
  11. Community School of Davidson
  12. Polk County
  13. Providence Grove
  14. Wheatmore
  15. Trinity
  16. Morehead
  17. Walkertown
  18. Lexington
  19. Anson County
  20. Forbush
  21. West Lincoln

Given the above, teams would finally be filled into the bracket, with 32 at 1, 31 at 2, 30 at 3 and so on.

If the above holds and is accurate, Polk County would travel to East Gaston for the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

We’ll all know for certain on Thursday when the NCHSAA releases the state 2A playoff bracket.