Seeding teams for the playoffs has always been challenging, a process that has also been somewhat controversial.
Each season, like clockwork, stories begin to circulate, conjuring visions of Central Section coaches or athletic directors locked away behind closed doors, hashing out the merits of each team or league or city. Afterwards, accusations of hidden agendas, collusion and unfairness became almost a yearly right of passage.
Then there are the all-to-familiar complaints about teams being placed in the wrong division, with private schools — with hand-picked talent in some cases — having an unfair advantage over public schools with small enrollments.
To help level the playing field and create more transparency, the section adopted a new seeding format several months ago, where football, tennis, volleyball, water polo, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball playoff division placements and seedings will be based strictly by computer rankings.
The Central Section started releasing the prospective seedings and division placements last week, and will continue to do so until the official announcement following the regular-season finales.
It’s certainly not a full-proof solution, and it’s not an exact science, but at the very least, there shouldn’t be too many surprises. Teams are able to see where they rank each week, and calculate where they likely will be slotted once brackets are released.
Although the rankings figure to change in the next four weeks, here’s a look at where the area teams are slotted by the computer rankings if the section playoffs started today:
Football (playoffs open Nov. 5)
The area’s top-ranked team, No. 5 Liberty (4-2), has been locked into that spot the past few weeks. If the Patriots’ position holds, they would open play as the only local Division I team, playing on the road in their first-round matchup at No. 4 Clovis (4-2) for the eight-team D-I playoff bracket.
Those seedings will likely change, but it gives the teams an idea of where they stand at this stage of the season.
All other divisions will feature 16-game playoff brackets, proving ample opportunity for schools to move up and down a division or two based on how strong their competition is and how well they do down the stretch.
Garces (3-3) dropped from the No. 6 seed in D-I last week, to the top seed in Division II after a 26-7 loss to Liberty. No. 2 Frontier (4-1), No. 3 Bakersfield High (1-3) and No. 6 Centennial (4-1) would also have first-round home games, with No. 11 Stockdale (4-1) and No. 12 Wasco (5-0) on the road. But with the Rams playing at the Titans, and the Drillers hosting the Mustangs, there will definitely be some movement in the next week.
At No. 8, Kennedy (5-2) would be the highest seed in Division III, earning the Thunderbirds a home game, with No. 11 West (5-0) and No. 15 Bakersfield Christian (3-3) playing on the road.
The seedings could also shift if teams with poor records choose to opt out of the postseason.
Winless Ridgeview (0-4), with the benefit of a tough preseason schedule, would be the third seed in Division IV and have a first-round home game along with No. 7 Highland (5-1). No. 9 Foothill (5-0) and No. 13 Shafter (4-2) would be on the road.
Tehachapi (2-3) would be the No. 1 seed in Division V and play No. 16 North at home. No. 7 South (2-3) would also play at home, with No. 10 Boron, No. 12 Independence (0-6) and No. 14 Delano (3-2) traveling for an opening round game.
No. 3 Taft (2-2) would be the lowest seed in Division VI and would open the postseason at home along with No. 8 Chavez (1-4). No. 10 Golden Valley (1-4), No. 14 East (2-4) and No. 16 Kern Valley (2-0) would play on the road.
Volleyball (playoffs start Oct. 26)
The Division I bracket provides a glimpse of a potential problem with the new system. Liberty, the defending co-SWYL champion would be the No. 8 seed if the playoffs were to start today, one spot behind No. 7 Centennial, despite the fact that the Patriots (16-4, 5-0) defeated the Golden Hawks (17-6-1, 4-1) in four sets two weeks ago. The difference is in strength of schedule where Centennial rates a 13.5, while Liberty’s is at 9.1. Both teams would start the postseason with a road game.
Stockdale (20-10) would be the top seed in Division II and have a first-round home match along with No. 6 Bakersfield Christian (9-5). No. 12 Chavez (20-2-1) and No. 13 Frontier (10-9-3) would travel for their first-round contests.
In Division III, South Yosemite League leader Tehachapi (12-6) is the sixth seed, with McFarland (12-6) 15th and SEYL leader East (17-7-1) at No. 16.
Garces (8-7) would be the No. 4 seed in Division IV, with Immanuel Christian (14-5-2) at No. 9 and Independence (8-6) seeded 15th.
In Division V, Arvin (14-9) would be the top seed and play No. 16 Delano (10-12-1) at home, with No. 2 Taft (14-10-1), No. 4 Wonderful Prep (14-5-1) and No. 7 Rosamond (10-5-1) also hosting first-round games. No. 8 Wasco (11-10-1) would host No. 9 Bakersfield High (2-15) for a first-round match. Golden Valley (10-9-2) would be seeded 12th.
Highland (9-8) would be the No. 2 seed in Division VI and play at home along with No. 5 Boron (7-7) and No. 6 Frazier Mountain (5-6). Mira Monte would be the 12th seed, with North garnering No. 16.
Water polo (boys playoffs start Nov. 2; girls Nov. 3)
In girls water polo, Garces would be the No. 4 seed in Division I, with Liberty No. 2 in D-II. Three area teams are featured in Division III, with No. 3 Centennial, No. 8 Bakersfield Christian and No. 14 Frontier. Stockdale and BHS are listed in the next 8, with hopes of moving into a postseason slot.
In boys water polo, the Rams would be seeded sixth and play on the road in D-I. There is currently no local team in D-II, but that could change in the next few weeks. Centennial is No. 11 in D-III. Liberty and Bakersfield are listed among the next 8.