It’s become part of the prep athletics fabric in Nevada.
Total confusion when it comes to busting deadlocks in final standings.
No league title chase down the stretch is complete without coaches, players and fans trying to describe why their team in fact holds the tiebreaker over the team that shares a record with theirs. Media members are not exempt, either.
There’s no denying it. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association tiebreaker rule is complicated.
Let’s simplify it.
The first part of the rule puts the emphasis on head-to-head matchups. So if the two tied teams played each other just once (like football or wrestling), problem solved. The winner of that contest wins the tiebreaker.
But many times, ties persist in sports that teams play each other twice in the regular season (volleyball, boys soccer, girls soccer, baseball, softball, and most notably, boys and girls basketball). If the two teams split their regular-season contests, then what?
This is where a piece of scratch paper and basic arithmetic skills come in handy. Buckle up.
Teams are awarded points for the number of wins by their defeated opponents. Teams get one point for each win a defeated league opponent has and a half point for each win a defeated crossover opponent has. The team with the most points, obviously, then gets the tiebreaker nod.
Simply, a win over a league opponent (High Desert League vs. High Desert League or Sierra League vs. Sierra League) is worth twice as much than a win over a crossover opponent (HDL vs. SL), depending on the opponent’s number of wins.
So the sweep of a league team can be much more valuable than a crossover win against a playoff team at the start of the season.
That’s the position the Spanish Springs boys team may find itself in. The Cougars (9-3) are two games back of Huskies (11-1) for first place in the HDL. A problem for the Cougs is that they lost to Bishop Manogue while Reno bested the Miners. The Miners sit in second in the Sierra League at 8-4.
That’s four points (half the Miners’ number of wins) for the Huskies that the Cougars don’t have.
Reno also beat Spanish Springs earlier this year, giving the Huskies another nine points (Cougs have nine DI North wins) Spanish Springs doesn’t have. Even if Spanish Springs beats Reno Tuesday night, it will still have one more loss than the Huskies and remain four points back due to the Manogue loss.
Enter McQueen (8-4).
Spanish Springs can likely claim control of the HDL (via tiebreaker), if it wins out (with victories over Reno and McQueen) and the Huskies fall to the Lancers in the regular season finale.
The Cougs, who have already beaten the Lancers once, would gain eight points on the Huskies because the Huskies would have just the one win against their rivals.
Thus, for Spanish Springs, the significance of sweeping McQueen (eight points, twice) would far outweigh that of the loss to Bishop Manogue (four points).
The exact point value of each win will change because two weeks remain in the regular season, but the principle will hold.
Is your head spinning yet? If so, don’t be ashamed. Many heads have done a revolution of two before you. And many will continue to spin after.
The current system is designed to reward wins over good teams, especially in the same league. Still, few would accuse it of being simple.
Whether you love the system or hate it, whether you want to keep it or change it, you can’t argue this: More times than not, the team that wins the most league games is going to win the tiebreaker.
That’s how league titles should be chosen when 16 DI North games aren’t enough.
If the season ended today, here’s how the tiebreaker points would look:
Reno (11-1) 39 pts
Spanish Springs (9-3) 26 pts
McQueen (8-4) 18.5 pts
North Valleys (3-9) 3.5 pts
Reed (3-9) 2 pts
Hug (0-12) 0 pts
Reno (11-1) 47 pts
McQueen (9-3) 27 pts
North Valleys (7-5) 17.5 pts
-Panthers hold head-to-head tiebreaker over Raiders
Reed (7-5) 19.5 pts
Spanish Springs (4-8) 1.5 pts
Hug (0-12) 0 pts
Sierra League boys:
Carson (12-0) 46 pts
Bishop Manogue (8-4) 25.5 pts
Galena (7-5) 22 pts
Douglas (7-5) 12 pts
Damonte Ranch (3-9) 2.5 pts
Wooster (1-11) 0 pts
Sierra League girls:
Bishop Manogue (12-0) 43 pts
Damonte Ranch (9-3) 26 pts
Douglas (6-6) 10 pts
Carson (4-8) 5 pts
Galena (2-10) 1 pt
Wooster (1-11) 0 pts