Commentary on the first actual application of the D-value
The first fourteen bids (plus the automatic to Lamar-Orange) cannot be questioned. Looking at the teams with values 15th-26th, only nine of them can qualify. None below this region, with the possible exception of Coffeyville, have a solid argument that they were deserving of a bid, with Coffeyville having a raw score of 136.
The top Alabama block (four teams adjusted to 161) illustrates one potential concern for the D-value. After the preliminaries*, Gadsden did not play any further games, and their performance caused the D-values of teams above them to be raised. However, all of those teams likely deserved a bid anyway, and in a 4-year SCT, Gadsden would in fact have played later games, so this is not a big problem. Put all four of those teams in the field. Also put NE Alabama B in. This leaves us with 7 teams for 4 spots.
The ensuing situation is, as was warned, the classic S-value dilemma. Gulf Coast had better statistics than Lake Sumter, North Florida, or South Georgia, but worse stats than Manatee. Meanwhile, Lake Sumter was not just above Manatee, but in a higher playoff bracket.# While the new rules mathematically prevent any team with a lower record advancing before a team with a higher record at the same site, the previous rules permitted such lapping, but not when the passing team was in a lower bracket than the passed team. If Manatee is to qualify (and they had a higher raw D-value than any of the Alabama teams previously under consideration), Lake Sumter must go in, leaving only two more spots available.
Even though SC-M put up much better stats against a similar schedule to NFla A and SGeo, it would be hard under the old system and not possible under the new system to not qualify those other two, but each of them was ahead of SC-M on the basis of a ten-point win (South Georgia's even appears to have been in overtime).
One potential concern I have is if Pasco's raw D-value fell from 138 to 128, that would damage the adjusted D-values of several teams above them. I'm not quite sure how to fix this.
Gulf Coast had a better raw value than Sumter, NFla A and SGeo, as well as the just-missed Pasco A, but they lost twice to a statistically weaker team and that appears to be what put them out.
I do wonder: Under the old S-value, where passing was possible, would Gulf Coast have qualified at North Florida or South Georgia's expense, while Manatee would still have qualified? Would Pasco be the last team in?
By my figuring, there would be a handful of teams on the bubble with two spots left: NFla A and SGeo (with SC-M behind them already in) and Pasco (also behind those teams); Pensacola and Gulf Coast (the latter with better stats); Cowley and Coffeyville (the latter with better stats, but also behind another weaker team).
*-The Alabama format appears to be a 2x7 RR where you play a team from the opposite pool on your bye, followed by the top four from each group crossing over. The bottom three teams from each group did not compete in playoffs.
#-The South Florida format appears to have been a 2x8 RR followed by a split into 1st-3rd (crossover), 4th-6th (crossover), 7th-8th (full RR) for three more games. Thus 1-6 in the final standings were in the top playoff group, with 7-12 in the next group.
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