The new way in 2A

Complex wild-card system “certainly different”

Don’t bother asking Gary Rankin about likely Alcoa playoff opponents in two weeks.

“I don’t even want to look at it,” the Tornado coach said. “I just want someone to call me Saturday morning (following the regular season finale) and tell me who and where we play.”

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association released the brackets for the upcoming playoffs on Tuesday. With the teams to be added over the next two weeks, not much has changed for classes 1A, 3A, 4A and 5A. Class 2A, where the association is debuting a new wild-card format, is a whole other ball game.

The addition of schools in West Tennessee necessitated increasing the number of Class 2A regions statewide from eight to nine. To hold to the customary 32-team format, only the top three per region earn automatic playoff berths, with the rest of the bracket filled by five statewide culled wild cards.

Alcoa can clinch the Region 2-2A title with a win at Rockwood on Friday, but it would do little to clear the complex playoff scenarios that lie ahead.

Under the new format, the 32 teams will be grouped according to geography, with two eight-team brackets for the eastern and midstate areas, two others for the midstate region and west. The kicker comes with the seeding those teams within their brackets.

Much like the Division I NCAA men’s basketball tournament, teams will be seeded one through eight, with Nos. 1 and 8 squaring off, 2s and 7s and so forth. A region championship does not guarantee a top slot within a bracket. If two champions within a bracket finish with matching regular season records, a five-step tie-breaker is in place to determine Nos. 1 and 2.

The same applies for a determining a bracket’s second- and third-seeded teams.

That’s not the good part, though.

Should two teams within a region tie for the championship, second or third-place spot, with the tie-breakers unable to break the deadlock, they would meet at a neutral site on Monday and commence a 10-yard line, overtime procedure until the higher playoff seeding is determined.

“I’ve never been involved with anything like this,” Rankin said.

The three automatic berths from each of the state’s nine regions will comprise 27 of the teams, with the wild cards adding the other five.

All teams statewide who didn’t earn one of their region’s automatic berths are eligible for the wild card, which has a possible 17 tie-breaker scenarios. Once selected, wild-card teams will be assigned a bracket according to geographic and region considerations.

“Unbelievable,” Rankin said.

Considering the various scenarios, scouting a pair of likely opponents the remainder of the regular season is no longer possible.

“You can’t do any of that stuff,” Rankin said. “So it’s certainly different.”

Complete details of the 2A changes are available at TSSAA.org.

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