The Titans and the tiebreaker
Marty Jaggers couldn’t have known it at the time, but adding an out-of-state team to Mercer County’s schedule at the last minute has apparently made the difference in the Titans making the playoffs.
After losing to South Laurel on Friday, Mercer is locked in a three-way tie with South Laurel and Southwestern for the last two playoff spots in Class 5-A, District 7. Few could have pictured the Titans in such a fix before the season, but how they’ll get out of it might be even more improbable.
Three-way ties in which no one team has beaten the other two are decided by a system in which each team receives one point for each win by a team it has beaten (except for games between the tied teams). That includes out-of-state teams, so Mercer stands to gain from a win over Greeneville (Tenn.) that was very nearly an open date.
The Titans were staring at a hole in their schedule after a proposed game with Somerset fell through this spring, but they picked up a game with Greeneville a short time before the season started. Good thing, too, because Greeneville is having a pretty good season at 6-2 despite its 14-9 loss to Mercer on Aug. 31.
Greeneville’s six wins are more than any other team Mercer can use in its tiebreaker formula, and they mean that the Titans are assured a spot in the playoffs.
Here’s how the tiebreaker breaks down for each of the teams that finished 1-3 in this district. Keep in mind that the point totals will change over the last two weeks of the season; these are only the current totals. I’ve listed each team that can count in the formula with their current win totals, and the teams’ future opponents and their current win totals are in parentheses:
- South Laurel, 11 points: Valley 6, North Laurel 0, Knox Central 5. (Future opponents: Middlesboro 6, East Jessamine 5.)
- Mercer County, 10 points: Russell County 2, Greeneville (Tenn.) 6, Boyle County 2. (Future opponents: Rockcastle County 4, open in week 11.)
- Southwestern, 3 points: Paul Dunbar 3. (Future opponents: Boyle County 2, George Rogers Clark 1.)
The future math gets a little fuzzy, but it doesn’t look good for Southwestern. If the Warriors win their last two games, it looks like the best they can do is nine points, and that’s if Dunbar somehow beats Trinity this week. (It also works against them that Dunbar and Boyle play each other in week 11, because that could cost them a point.)
Nine points leaves Southwestern below the other teams’ current standing, so it’s safe to say that Mercer and South Laurel will make the playoffs and Southwestern will not. It’s also likely that Mercer will have to settle for the No. 4 seed based on the teams’ potential points and the fact that the Titans have an open date in two weeks.
If Mercer is seeded fourth, it will play its first-round game at Lincoln County. South Laurel would play at Pulaski County in the district’s other first-round game.
We’ll keep you updated on the tiebreaker standings as the season progresses. Meanwhile, here are the playoff pairings for the Nov. 9 first-round games in all of the districts with area teams:
- Class 2-A, District 4: No. 4 Fort Knox at No. 1 Danville; No. 3 Washington County at No. 2 Bardstown.
- Class 3-A, District 5: No. 4 Taylor County at No. 1 Somerset; No. 3 Garrard County at No. 2 Wayne County.
- Class 4-A, District 6: No. 4 West Jessamine at No. 1 Lexington Catholic; No. 3 East Jessamine at No. 2 Boyle County.
- Class 5-A, District 7: No. 4 Mercer County or South Laurel at No. 1 Lincoln County; No. 3 Mercer County or South Laurel at No. 2 Pulaski County.