The WNBA playoffs are set to begin on Tuesday night with the bottom-four seeds of the eight-team tournament playing in single-elimination games. If that seems strange to you, it’s because the WNBA has a new playoff format that is only three years old. With the success of the past two years of playoffs, fans should be excited that the new rules are here to stay.
Players had some apprehension heading into the first year of changes , especially given the new structure of the single-elimination rounds. But the new format gave the WNBA one of its most memorable Finals ever, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the changes.
This season, virtually any team in the playoffs has a chance to win and that could make for one of the greatest WNBA postseasons we’ve ever seen. The WNBA played one of its most competitive season ever in 2018 and these playoffs will prove that. In the first round, we’ll have the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx, the past two champions, squaring off in a first round single-elimination game.
As for the rest? Here is how the playoff race finished.
(1) Seattle Storm (26-8)
(2) Atlanta Dream (23-11)
(3) Washington Mystics (22-12)
(4) Connecticut Sun (21-13)
(5) Phoenix Mercury (20-14)
(6) LA Sparks (19-15)
(7) Minnesota Lynx (18-16)
(8) Dallas Wings (15-19)
Here’s everything you need to know about how the next month of playoff basketball is about to go down.
The eight best teams made the playoffs regardless of conference.
Rather than taking four teams each from the East and West conferences, the WNBA took the eight teams with the best records to make the playoffs. In this year’s case, Liz Cambage and Wings make it in due to this rule, and the Chicago Sky are out.
Wait, that sucks for the Sky.
It does, but the fans are getting better competition because of the rule change. The Wings are turning into one of the most exciting teams in the WNBA, led by Cambage and Skylar-Diggins Smith. Cambage set the single-game scoring record this season dropping 53 points in July, and just dropped 43 in a game against the Aces which secured their playoff spot. She’s must see basketball and this format gives us that.
The first and second rounds are single-elimination
The first round of the tournament will feature the Wings at the Mercury and the Lynx at the Sparks. The two higher seeds earned home-court rights.
The second round will feature the winners of the first round against the No. 3 seed Liberty or No. 4 seed Sun. The matchups are determined by seed order with the highest-seeded winner taking on the Sun, leaving the Liberty with the lower seed.
Single elimination? A whole season comes down to one game? This stinks!
Well, it kind of does. Players voiced their distaste for the win-or-go-home opening rounds ahead of last season’s playoffs, but this provides for more entertaining basketball. Everything is on the line!
The Storm and Dream get a double bye.
Fans won’t see Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird until Sunday because of a perk given to the top two teams. In the past, this has allowed the top teams a clear path to the Finals, giving WNBA fans the best possible matchup.
In the semifinals, they’ll play a best-of-five series. The top-seeded Storm play the lowest remaining seed, while the Dream play the highest.
Ugh, that’s almost whole week.
Yep, but it’s worth it. The league’s stars get to rest while the rest of the league battles to earn the privilege of (likely) losing to them. The rest is well-deserved as most of these athletes are competing year-round, including international play.
This postseason is set to be wild. This has been a crazy competitive season and with the amount of single-elimination games, we really could see anything. The one thing for sure si that we won’t get another Lynx-Sparks Finals rematch, but don’t count out one of those teams making a wild run.
Don’t sleep on teams like the Storm and Mystics, though. Breanna Stewart is the clear favorite MVP and Elena Delle Donne has been playing her best basketball yet. It’s sure to be a fantastic post season.