The WNBA announced its schedule for its 2016 season today while also launching their Ad campaign celebrating the 20th season of the league. Along with the schedule came some changes that will shake up the format of the WNBA in remarkable ways.
Firstly, only the eight teams with the best record, regardless of conference will make the playoffs. This paves the way of possible matches between conference powers for the championship.
In prior years, Conference Finals matches between the likes of Phoenix and Minnesota were considered to be more competitive and more of a rivalry than the eventual Finals matchup. With this change that matchup, or others like it could happen on the league's biggest stage.
In addition, the other significant change is the formatting of playoff competition. The number of playoff rounds will increase from the previous three rounds to four with the top two seeds receiving a bye in the first round. Each of the first two rounds will be single elimination contests. Making the playoffs more intriguing is that if the lower seed upsets, the higher seed in the first round matchup, the seeding moving forward changes.
In the Semifinal and Final rounds, a best of five series will determine the winner. In the semi-finals, the number 1 seed will face the lowest remaining seed and the number two seed will face the other remaining team.
This change makes it more likely that the two best teams in the league will compete against each other in the finals. A good move for increasing viewership and interest in the finals and the WNBA as a whole.
The regular season format also sees changes with a rise in cross-conference competition. Starting in 2016 each team will play teams in their own conference as follows:
*Four games against one team (two home and two away)
*Three games apiece against the four remaining teams (two home and one away versus two teams; one home and two away versus the other two teams)
*Each team’s opponent breakdown was selected at random and will be rotated annually to ensure a fair balance of the schedule.
Every team will also play each team in their opposing conference three times. Up from two in each previous season.
The combination of these changes leads to fans having the opportunity to see their favorite teams match up against opponents more often, increases rivalries in the playoffs and should help boost interest in the WNBA especially come playoff time.
What are your thoughts on these changes?