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MIAA BASKETBALL COMMITTEE

Scoring margin for MIAA’s new power ratings system a point of debate for basketball committee

“In sports, you win or you lose. I don’t see in this formula [with a scoring margin] that winning even matters. We’re losing sight of what high school sports are about. I think wins need to be factored in somehow.” BOB RODGERS, Whitman-Hanson boys' basketball
“In sports, you win or you lose. I don’t see in this formula [with a scoring margin] that winning even matters. We’re losing sight of what high school sports are about. I think wins need to be factored in somehow.” BOB RODGERS, Whitman-Hanson boys' basketballDebeeTlumacki

With a historic statewide format and a new power ratings system in place for MIAA tournaments starting this fall, members of the association’s basketball committee addressed a few concerns in a virtual meeting Wednesday morning.

At the heart of the debate is the question of margin of victory, one of the determining factors in a team’s overall rating under the new ratings system.

The system, developed by Globe correspondent Jim Clark, simply combines a team’s margin of victory or defeat, with the average of their opponent’s rating. The MIAA’s Tournament Management Committee voted to cap the counting margin of victory at 10 points — so a 10-point win counts the same as a 25-point victory.

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Still, there are questions about how the importance of winning by double figures might affect sportsmanship. Whitman-Hanson boys’ basketball coach Bob Rodgers asserted that the system doesn’t value narrow wins, because it rewards narrow losses to quality opponents.

“In sports, you win or you lose,” said Rodgers, also the athletic director at Whitman-Hanson. “I don’t see in this formula that winning even matters. We’re losing sight of what high school sports are about. I think wins need to be factored in somehow.”

At the same time, high school sports (especially during the regular season) can be about challenging student-athletes to compete against the best competition they can find. Clark said his system will encourage teams to create the toughest nonconference schedule they can, and live with the results.

As far as concerns that a large margin of victory will prevent coaches from playing reserves, Clark analyzed 6,983 games from the 2019-20 basketball season and found that nearly 60 percent of boys’ games and 66 percent of girls’ games were determined by 10-plus points without any emphasis on margin of victory in the seedings process.

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In crunching the numbers, Clark found that the difference between winning multiple games by 9 points versus 11 points would only affect a team’s rating by about .02 points, which would only impact seeding if two teams are extremely close in the final standings.

Furthermore, the interconnected nature of the system makes a one-point victory against a quality team more important, because that opponent might go on to win several games by double digits, thus boosting their rating.

“Some of the issues of disparity and sportsmanship in high school sports now are beyond anything the power ratings system can create,” said Clark.

“This system shows that every team in the state is connected in some ways through various levels, so every score matters, every game matters, accuracy matters.”

▪ The committee also revealed the recommendations created by a subcommittee over the past several weeks regarding state tournament formats.

In the first three rounds of the statewide tournament, the higher seed will host, but the host site must be able to accommodate 250 spectators for the Round of 32 and 500 spectators for the Rounds of 16 and 8. This requirement is in place largely to ensure that the family members of student-athletes can secure tickets.

If the host site doesn’t meet the requirements in place, the host AD will have a chance to find an alternative site, or the game could be moved to the lower seed if the tournament director is unable to secure an appropriate neutral site.

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▪ With teams potentially traveling across the state, the subcommittee recommended increasing warm-up time from 10 minutes to 15 minutes prior to state tournament games.

Warm up time could remain at 10 minutes for games at larger venues in the state semifinals and finals.

▪ The committee announced dates for the 2021-22 state tournament with preliminary games starting on Feb. 28 and state semifinals beginning by March 14. Per MIAA Associate Director Peter Smith, the committee hopes to secure state semifinals sites — including the TD Garden — by the fall and will then create a system that determines which divisions will be given the chance to play at the Garden on a yearly basis.