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Devils Carve Hokies, 90-40
Player by Player
Previewing Duke at Virginia
2011 ACC Tournament Seeding
By James Armstrong, Guest Columnist
February 22, 2011

A Detailed Look at Procedure, Tiebreakers, and Possibilities

When the ACC expanded in 2004-5, followers of conference basketball faced new challenges in figuring the seeding for the ACC Tournaments. At the time, I prepared a simple program for the Duke Basketball Report that would exhaustively search all the possible results of the final 10 games, and produce output of the resultant tournament seeds. These were published for the men's teams after each game for the last week of the season. I repeated this for the next season, and after leaving DBR, I continued to prepare these forecasts for my own interest. Over time, I've expanded coverage to other conference races. Last year, I expanded to cover the ACC women's tournament seeds.

The problem of breaking ties predates expansion. When two teams ended up with the same conference record, there had to be a mechanism for assigning seeds in the ACC Tournament to determine the correct matchups. If one team swept another, it was simple, that team would get the higher seed. But when the teams split, originally there was a hat draw. When Florida State joined the conference, they went to a more complicated method -- the ladder. If two teams were tied, and split head to head, then their record against the top finisher in the conference would be compared, then stepping down the finishers, until one team or the other had a better record. That would break the tie, and only if the two teams' records against each team ended up the same would a hat draw take place. When three or more teams were tied, they'd be treated as a mini-league, and head to head and the ladder would separate teams until there was a two team tie, or all the teams are resolved.

With the most recent expansion, schedules ended up needing to be unbalanced, as there wasn't enough time for a 20 conference schedule with 20 or 22 games. For the women, there is now a 14 game schedule, where two teams are permanent partners, playing twice, one team floats, and every other team is played once. This can result in teams playing weaker and stronger conference schedules. The shorter schedule will result in many ties resolved by a single, head-to-head game. Home court may now determine the ACC Tournament seed, and may even put teams on and off the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Three or more teams tied may result in an unequal number of games played by the teams in the mini-league.

Last year, there were four ties that had to be broken, as can be seen here. At the top of the standings, Duke and Florida State both finished 12-2. Duke won the top seed by beating Florida State in their one match. Wake Forest and North Carolina State tied at 7-7, and split head to head. Both went 0-2 against Duke and Florida State, the first step on the ladder, but since Wake Forest beat Virginia and North Carolina State lost to Virginia, Wake Forest won the fifth seed. North Carolina and Boston College tied at 6-8, but since Boston College beat North Carolina head to head, they won the seventh seed, and North Carolina fell to the eighth seed. Last, at the bottom of the conference, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Miami all finished 4-12. In the mini-league, Virginia Tech beat both opponents to finish 2-0, Clemson split 1-1, and Miami ended last at 0-2.

2011 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament
This year, with 12 games remaining in the regular season, there is a tight race for the top seed. Duke, Florida State, and Miami all have only two losses at 10-2, although Florida State visits Miami on Thursday, guaranteeing a third loss for one of the two. (It also guarantees an 11th win, and since North Carolina, at 8-4, can only win 10, they're now eliminated from the top seed and regular season championship!) If Duke wins out, and the winner of Florida State/Miami wins out, Duke has the tiebreaker edge over both teams, due to beating both teams, head to head. Lurking on Duke's schedule, though, is North Carolina, with four losses and the win over Duke in the first game. Should Duke lose to both Virginia and North Carolina, and North Carolina beats Georgia Tech, North Carolina would win the tiebreaker by virtue of being 2-0 over Duke.

One curious result is already apparent. Even though Duke is favored over Miami and Florida State for the top seed, and Florida State has already won their first game with Miami, both Duke and Florida State could end up in fourth place with two losses, yet Miami can't finish in fourth. The reason is simple: At 10-4, the only way the teams could end up in fourth is by tying the winner of Georgia Tech vs North Carolina. Miami has the tiebreaker advantage over both, winning the sole game head-to-head. But North Carolina has the tiebreaker over Duke and Florida State, so if they tie, North Carolina slips up to third place. There's also the possible sets of three-way ties at 10-4 with Duke, the loser of Florida State and Miami, and the winner of Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Miami would always split, finishing third.

Already, the ACC Women's season is completely deterministic -- there is no chance of a hat draw or other random selection for seeds, everything can be resolved by the head-to-head or the ladder.

The women's seeds are tracked at www.accwbbseeds.info and are updated nightly, just after 6:30 AM EST, the day after games are played. At the start of the season, the site shows the current standings with ties resolved by the tiebreaker rules. When 12 games are left, all the possible results are listed with the resultant seeds. You'll know when a team has clinched a seed, and how different results affect the final seeds. When listing possibilities, the previous results are on the site and can be stepped through to see the exact date when the opportunities for a team changed.

Editor's Notes: The ACC will expand to a 16 game women's basketball schedule in 2011-12. Men's seeding projections for the ACC and other conferences are available via the accseeds.info website.

Devils Carve Hokies, 90-40
Player by Player
Previewing Duke at Virginia

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