The following article was a contribution by Groger Ranks member Arjun Nageswaran
This article will act as much of an analysis article as a disclaimer for our rankings. As you may know, there are several criteria that must be met in order to be considered for rankings (the criteria being at least 18 adjust PPB or 18 flat ppb on the set in question, having the set being non novice – which excludes A sets, MSNCT, and SCOP Novice, needing powers per game stats, and needing PPB stats). The first two ensures that only relevant statistics are being used in order to rank the team while the latter two relate to essential components of our formula to rank teams. However, these same criteria that strengthen our rankings can also lead to teams in certain regions being systematically underranked due to quirks in state format that prevent them from achieving rankable performances at various tournaments.
The three regions in particular that we are talking about are Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama. That is not to say other regions are not being underranked. Quite the opposite. The same logic that could lead us to say that one region is systematically underranked in our Groger Ranks can easily be applied to another region if the conditions that we discuss are the same.
The first region that is systematically underranked is Georgia. This may come as a shock as there are several Georgia teams in the top tier of rankings, such as Chattahoochee High School. However, this just underscores the impressive strength of these teams that they are able to break through in spite of the hurdles they have to face. The major obstacle for Georgia teams that leads to them being underranked is the presence of bouncebacks at many Georgia teams. This in itself is not a disqualifying factor: several Illinois teams following the standard IHSSBCA format use bouncebacks. However, in statistics from Georgia as opposed to Illinois, rather than the bouncebacks being separated from the normal PPB, they are combined together. This leads to an obviously inflated PPB rendering it as a whole unusable, preventing from that performance being rankable. We in fact addressed this in one of our first forum posts about Groger Ranks, mentioning how Chattahoochee A’s performance at this tournament: http://hsquizbowl.org/db/tournaments/5276/stats/2018_gtmbb_full_stats/ (whose stats were rendered unusable due to the presence of bouncebacks), with their actual PPB being 24.6 (information sent to us by a member of the team), would have led to them being first in the rankings at that point in time. It is thus no stretch to suggest that similarly other Georgia teams would be higher than where they are now if all the statistics were usable for us.
The next region to look at is Missouri. Now, just blanket saying Missouri would be pretty ignorant of me, as Missouri is a large state with strong teams dispersed across the state rather than a single unified circuit. However, in many tournaments, there is a strong trend of tournaments that have proper PPB, yet are unrankable due to not having power stats, such as this tournament: http://hsquizbowl.org/db/tournaments/5423/stats/competitive_division/. This tournament was run on IS 179, and by the merits of their PPB, Thayer A and Kickapoo A would’ve had rankable performances. However, the lack of powers per game prevented either team from having their performances “count” for Groger Ranks. Being unranked is by definition being underranked, through no fault of these teams. Meanwhile the tournament Kickapoo A ended up playing that reported powers per game, http://hsquizbowl.org/db/tournaments/5684/stats/combined/, was unrankable as well as it was run on an A-set. Until these teams play on the relevant sets with usable stats, they will remain systematically underranked by the nature of Groger Ranks.
The final region we will take a look at is Alabama. In our latest rankings, Hoover A finished 152nd. This placement led to a couple of people scratching their heads, us included. Hoover A was the third ranked Alabama team, finishing behind Vestavia Hills (30th) and Altamont (73rd). However, at the recent ASCA State Tournament last month, Hoover won, with Vestavia Hills and Altamont finishing behind. This is not to say tournament placement should indicate rankings. Several streaky wins can always occur and relying on head to head performance to discredit specific rankings of one team over another can be a slippery slope. However, one would expect that at least the gap would be less than 100+ places. While their PPB at ASCA state, https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/standings.jsp?tournament_id=9658, was still less than Vestavia Hills and Altamont, it was still close enough to merit them being at least somewhat closer to the other two teams. Nevertheless, the lack of powers prevented this from being usable for the sake of our rankings. There have been other tournaments with power-less stats, like in Missouri, which is understandable due to the presumed state format dictating that, however from a ranker’s perspective is frustrating as these very good teams do not get the rank they deserve.
There are several other factors that would lead to teams being underranked that aren’t necessarily region-specific. The most obvious is strict school/state regulations that limit the amount of tournaments a school might play. For example, IHSA in Illinois forbids high school teams from playing without school approved adult, against middle schoolers or college players, or under a pseudonym. MSHSAA limits the amount of out of state tournaments a team can play. Another is a simple lack of available tournaments for a team to play. This one is obviously in most new regions, such as the Pacific Northwest. At this tournament: https://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament/standings.jsp?tournament_id=9753, Lakeside’s PPB was incredible as was its powers per game, and other teams like Westview put up good numbers as well. However the tournament was on an A set and Lakeside has as of yet not played a proper IS set this year. Even when teams play tournaments, tournament directors may take a long time to release stats or not release stats entirely. For several of our tournaments in certain regions (we won’t reveal which ones for obvious reasons), we had to obtain the final statistics from inside sources who had access to the SQBS reports but were not allowed to post the statistics to the HSQB database.
A similar article on overranked teams would probably not go over well. However, it should not be controversial that regions like Illinois, where the IHSSBCA format does not include negs, would obviously have inflated scores. Several top teams in the rankings, such as IMSA, Stevenson, Auburn, and University Lab, have played in IHSSBCA tournaments where proper PPB and power stats were posted, however negs were not recorded, meaning their score was still able to be counted without being complete pictures and were therefore inflated. Teams in other regions who traditionally play without negs would likely have their scores be over-inflated as well.
This is all to say, while we pride ourselves on our rankings and methodology, there are definite holes. These holes can prevent the full picture from being seen, and we want to be as transparent about it as possible. At the end, however, the only ranking that will ultimately matter is the final standings at the end of HSNCT and PACE NSC.
Happy studying for nationals!
Arjun Nageswaran is currently a sophomore at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois
One thought on “Systematically Underranked Teams: An Analysis”
One additional reason for Alabama rankings being so wonky this year was that Hoover only played with their full A team at two events- Snead State and the ASCA state championships. In both cases, there were no powers and no negs, and state uses bouncebacks. The large gap between the top 5 teams and the rest of the state also resulted in some monstrously lopsided matches that really only show how you play in isolation. Until Alabama teams play more frequently and/or out of state, ranking them will remain challenging.