So when is 4-3 better than 5-2?
When you're stuck in Pool D at the Springfest boys volleyball tournament at Glenbard East.
Glenbard North and previously unbeaten Glenbard West and St. Francis all found themselves in Pool D at Saturday's Springfest tournament. Seedings are based on the previous year's finish (oddly, all three could have ended up in the same pool next year, but that story comes later).
As fate would have it, Glenbard West beat Glenbard North 27-25, 26-24, Glenbard North beat St. Francis 22-25, 25-12. 15-10, and St. Francis beat Glenbard West, 15-25, 25-15, 16-14, rallying from a 14-12 deficit in Game 3 after blowing a 12-8 lead.
All three teams finished with a 2-1 record in pool play. At many tournaments, the first tiebreaker among tied teams in a pool is the number of games won and the second is point differential. Glenbard West and St. Francis were 5-2. Glenbard North finished 4-3.
However, at Springfest, the first tiebreaker is point differential. That gave first place in the pool to Glenbard North, which had a 42-point differential after amassing 31 points in a 25-9, 25-10 whipping of Elgin Larkin, beating St. Francis by 15 and losing to Glenbard West by four.
Glenbard West's point differential was 33 (built primarily on a 25-7, 25-12 win over Larkin), and St. Francis' was 12.
So despite winning more games than Glenbard North, Glenbard West was relegated to the Silver bracket (where the Toppers lost to Benet 25-21, 25-22 in the fifth-place match. Benet had lost in pool play to eventual champion Neuqua Valley) and St. Francis was sent to the Bronze.
The situation raised an important ethical question. Since the number of games won did not matter, Glenbard West would have been better served tanking one of its two games against Glenbard North and going to a third game, where it could have built up its point differential.
After all, by beating the Panthers in two games by a total of four points, the Hilltoppers ultimately hurt their chances of winning the pool. Had they lost a game by two points, they could have played a third, tried to win by at least nine points, and overcome the point differential.
It's complicated, but here is how it works:
Glenbard North's point differential was 42 after losing both games to Glenbard West by two points. Had the Panthers won a game against Glenbard West by two instead of losing, their point differential would have been 46 heading into Game 3. Glenbard West would have been sitting at 29 instead of 33.
To make up the 17 point difference (46-29=17), Glenbard West would have to win 15-6 in Game 3 (the third game in pool play was played to only 15). That would give them nine more points (29+9=38) and taken nine points away from Glenbard North (46-9=37).
That would have given first place in the pool to Glenbard West, 38-37. Of course, how could anyone have predicted the need to play the math game since the teams met in the second match of the day?
Glenbard West thought it was doing the best thing for itself by winning in two games. How wrong the Toppers were. Of course, the entire debate would be moot had Glenbard West held on to beat St. Francis.
So how could all three teams have found themselves in the same pool next year?
Glenbard North finished fourth, losing in the championship semifinals to Downers Grove South and in the third-place game to Glenbard East. Glenbard West finished sixth, losing to Benet in the fifth-place game. St. Francis finished 11th, beating West Aurora in its finale.
Had Glenbard West beat Benet and St. Francis lost to West Aurora, the three teams would have finished fourth, fifth and 12th and found themselves in the same pool in 2014.
Accountants, calculators and Tylenol® would have been mandatory.
And unless the tournament rules are changed to make the first tiebreaker in a pool the number of games won instead of point differential, they might be anyway.