The basketball state playoff brackets were released yesterday and now the first round is slated for tomorrow night. We've got everything you need to know on
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Hello, and happy Monday.

Usually I write to you on Friday mornings, but today we have a special edition of the HighSchoolOT Newsletter as we get ready for the basketball playoffs to get started. This email will have links to help you follow the playoffs over the next two weeks, answer some of the most common questions I got today on Twitter, and I'm going to take a minute to rant about the playoffs.

Congratulations to all the teams that made the playoffs in this crazy season... and good luck!

We've got all the information you could possible need to follow the state playoffs on HighSchoolOT. If we're missing something, feel free to suggest it to me... I'll do my best to get it added or point you to where you can find it.

First and foremost, if you have not downloaded the HighSchoolOT app on your phone, you need to do it RIGHT NOW! We will have statewide scores, alerts, stories, highlights, photos, interviews, and a whole lot more.
Statewide scores is one of the most important things you'll get on HighSchoolOT during the playoffs. We do our best to get scores posted quickly and accurately.
We also have the brackets ready for you to view. Our interactive brackets will be updated in real-time as scores are reported to us.
And here are some other important links...

The basketball state playoffs begin tomorrow night with the first round games at the higher seed. Game times vary though, so you should check to see what time your game begins. Many of them will be streamed on the NFHS Network.

We are tracking game times for every first round game in the state. This list will be updated throughout the day today as we get more information from athletic directors and coaches. If you know a game time that we are missing, feel free to email me at

Winners of tonight's games will advance to the second round. For the complete schedule for each round of the playoffs, keep scrolling.

Typically, the basketball state playoffs are six rounds over the course of three weeks. However, due to COVID-19, the playoffs have been shortened by one round and one week. The entire playoff will be held over the course of the next two weeks.

Here's the schedule:
  • Feb. 23: First Round @ Higher Seed
  • Feb. 25: Second Round @ Higher Seed
  • Feb. 27: Third Round @ Higher Seed
  • Mar. 2: Regional Championships @ Higher Seed
  • Mar. 6: State Championships @ Wheatmore/Providence Grove
The state championships will be held at Wheatmore High School and Providence Grove High School in Randolph County. Game times have been set, but we don't know which game will be played in which time slot. Games will take place at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 6 p.m.

On Saturday morning, Wakefield's boys basketball program announced it had opted out of the 4A playoffs. We don't know the details, and I won't speculate here, but this has been something that has happened a lot more in basketball than in volleyball. We've seen several teams, such as the McDowell boys basketball team, end their seasons because of going into quarantine. Southern Wayne's girls basketball team did the same. They're not alone. There are issues in Brunswick County too.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: We need to have a central location where cases in high school sports are being reported. No one -- including at the NCHSAA -- knows exactly how many cases there have been in high school sports and how many of those may have been transmitted through sports. That would be good information to know -- and it could be good news or bad news. But the only data being collected by the NCHSAA (and not in a public way) is which games are being postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. Having a dashboard with data about cases, transmission, teams in quarantine, etc would have been very valuable during basketball season and would still be valuable moving forward, and it can be done without violating any privacy laws.

Every year, in every sport, we get lots of questions about the seeding process on Seeding Saturday (or Sunday in this case). It's understandable, the process is fairly complicated, and most people don't have the time (or desire) to get as deep into the weeds as we go. There were are a lot of similar questions over the course of the day on Sunday though, so I wanted to address some of the most common ones here.

How did the Broughton boys get into the playoffs ahead of Middle Creek?
This was a popular one on Twitter on Sunday. First off, let's be clear, neither Broughton nor Middle Creek would have had a chance to make the playoffs if not for Wakefield having to opt out. So the fact that either of them got in was unexpected. But why Broughton? It's quite simple. There were at least three teams involved in the random draw: Broughton, Middle Creek, and South View (I may be missing others, but I don't think so). Those ties cannot be broken with head-to-head competition, so a random draw took place. It's standard. Broughton won the draw.

How did Farmville Central's boys and girls end up on the road with No. 9 seeds?
The best thing to do is to forget that seeds actually exist in these playoff brackets because they're meaningless (more on this below). The technical answer to this is easy too. Every regular season conference champion was put into a hat and drawn at random for each of the top 10 spots in the 2A East bracket. That meant two conference champions had to go on the road in the first round. Farmville Central just happened to be one of the unlikely two.

What made the 3A girls bracket change?
This was the final update to the preliminary brackets on Sunday and it was published minutes before the brackets were declared final. Alexander Central was mistakenly left out of the playoffs when the NCHSAA released the preliminary brackets. Based on its conference winning percentage, Alexander Central was awarded an at-large bid.

How are teams that have better records seeded lower than teams with worse records?
This goes back to the seeding thing I mentioned earlier. Forget them, don't consider them seeds because they're not. The technical answer is the same as the Farmville Central question though. Teams are put into pools based on their conference finish, then drawn at random to go onto spots on the bracket.

[Insert Conference Name Here] was tougher than [Insert Another Conference Name Here], why wasn't that part of the seeding?
Because, again, these aren't real seeds. We're also not using the MaxPreps rankings this year like we have in years past. Strength of Schedule is not a factor in the playoffs this year.

How is Granville Central the No. 1 team in the 1A East girls playoffs with a 2-10 record?
Granville Central is the top 1A team in the Northern Carolina 1A/2A split conference. That means it is seeded as a conference champion. Granville Central was lucky and drew the top seed when it went into the hat with all the other regular season champions of other 1A East conferences.

If you have other questions, feel free to ask me on Twitter. You can also read my playoff explainer about how the playoff format works this year during the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been a lot of talk on Twitter in the last 24 hours about the playoffs and the NCHSAA. I made it clear during volleyball season, I am not a fan of this playoff format. But it is what it is for this year. Everything is weird because of COVID-19. The simple fact that we are even able to debate the playoff format is a testament to the hard work coaches, athletic directors, and athletes are doing every day to conduct practices and events safely. Giving kids a chance to compete in the playoffs is a great accomplishment in a pandemic, so let's grant a little bit of grace here.

That said, playoff format options for the NCHSAA were limited this year. Teams were only allowed to play a maximum of 14 games. Many did not reach that number. In fact, some only played a handful because they were quarantined at various times, sometimes multiple times. Computer rankings, such as MaxPreps, do not work with small sample sizes. Talk about an awful way to do the playoffs (and I'm a HUGE fan of using the MaxPreps rankings for the playoffs in normal years). Using overall winning percentages wouldn't have been effective for the same reason, plus many teams only played conference opponents so they didn't have any non-conference games (or very few of them). Many districts also limited how much travel teams were allowed to do in the regular season.

What this should show us though is this: We do not want to return to the days of pre-determined brackets. The results of the currently playoff format that so many are turned off by -- the poor seeding for perceived top teams, teams with bad records getting home court advantage, etc -- they are mainstays of pre-determined brackets that so many claim they want. No, this is not a pre-determined bracket that we're looking at this year. A pre-determined bracket has 1st place from Conference A playing 3rd place from Conference B, etc. There are no seeds, there is a conference seeding priority -- so you get home court advantage based on which conference you're in -- the luck of the draw. That's why I said ignore the seeds this year because they're not real seeds. They're taking the place of conference priority, that's it.

Next month, the NCHSAA Board of Directors will vote on a new playoff format. If you're a coach, athletic director, or a principal, you should contact your representatives for your region on the Board of Directors and tell them this isn't the type of playoff format we want. Let's go back to using MaxPreps when sports return to normal, hopefully this fall. Was MaxPreps perfect? No, it wasn't. But it was the best. And too many wanted to dump it over faux outrage at "not knowing the formula." Truth is, we know what goes into the formula, we know what's important. Everyone just doesn't always like the answer. It did the best job of any playoff system we've ever had, and I hope we'll get it back.

On Friday morning, we released some of the data from our high school sports participation survey. Subscribers to this email got exclusive information that no one else has received yet.

On Friday afternoon, we published an article on HighSchoolOT outlining some of our findings. If you missed it, I was on the WRAL 7 PM news on Friday night to discuss our survey.

We will have much more coming on this topic in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Wake County's newest high school named its first athletic director on Friday morning. Mike Dunphy, who has been at Cary High School for 21 years -- including 11 years as the Imps' athletic director -- will head to southern Wake County to open the new school.

I spoke with Dunphy on Friday afternoon about the move, the challenges that come with opening an athletic department in the middle of a pandemic, why he decided to leave Cary after so many years, and what type of program the new students at Willow Spring can expect.

And yes, it is Willow Spring. Not Willow Springs.

ICYMI This Week on HSOT
Nominations needed for all-state basketball teams
We're collecting nominations for the HSOT All-State Basketball Teams. You can submit nominations now for consideration. The teams will be announced sometime after the state championships.
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NCHSAA releases final realignment draft
The Realignment Committee has sent the final version of the realignment plan to the NCHSAA Board of Directors for approval.
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What I'm Watching
This is going to be one really busy week at HighSchoolOT, and I can't wait!

Obviously, the basketball state playoffs will take up a good chunk of our time. We'll be monitoring games statewide and bringing you tons of coverage from across the state. You can count on that.

We're also waiting to hear when Governor Roy Cooper will address the state. When he does, he is expected to release details of a new executive order, which could include easing some restrictions on spectator access to high school sporting events. The current executive order expires on Feb. 28. We will be following this story very carefully.

We've got just three weeks left in the lacrosse and boys soccer seasons too. That means playoff projections could be coming as soon as this weekend (we'll have to see what the results are looking like first since so many games have been rained out this year). Yesterday, we did release new rankings for boys soccer, boys lacrosse, and girls lacrosse though.

And then Friday... it's the first Football Friday of the season. 440 days will have passed since the last NCHSAA football games were played, which was the 2019 state championships. It'll be good to see football teams back on the field.

Buckle up, and download the HighSchoolOT app so you don't miss a thing!

Have a great week.

Nick Stevens

Thank you for reading the HighSchoolOT Newsletter this week. Do you have suggestions, comments, or concerns? You can email me any time at
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