In an effort to create a more balanced schedule and to get its best teams more nationally-televised exposure, the 12-team WNBA announced some significant changes Thursday.
All are set to kick in for the league’s 20th season.
The changes will see the Lynx playing every other team in the league at least three times, and a new playoff format will be introduced that adds a fourth round to the process.
First, here are the changes to the playoff format:
--The top eight teams in the league based on winning percentage will qualify for the playoffs, and be seeded according to record. The top two teams receive a bye into the league semifinals. Teams seeded three and four get a bye into the second round.
--Teams will be re-seeded after each playoff round.
--The first two rounds will be single elimination. In the first round the No. 5 seed will host the No. 8 seed and the No. 6 seed will host No. 7. In the second round the third seed will host the lowest remaining seed and the fourth seed will host the other surviving team. The winners advance to the league semifinals.
--Both the semifinals and finals will feature best-of-five formats
Every playoff game will be televised by the ESPN network.
“First and foremost, the new postseason format provides an enhanced opportunity to showcase the best teams in the WNBA Finals,” said Mark Tatum, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating Officer. “Coupled with the new regular season structure that creates more competitive balance and additional excitement during the stretch run toward the playoffs, the new postseason format will provide a heightened sense of urgency to the start of the postseason. Add to that the fact that ESPN networks will air every postseason game live and we are talking about increased exposure and increased excitement.”
Under the old system the top four teams from each conference advanced to the playoffs, with both the conference semifinals and finals played in a best-of-three format. The conference champs then met in the best-of-five finals.
Because of the new seeded playoff structure, a balanced regular season was needed. In the past teams played their conference opponent four or five times a season and played the six teams in the other conference twice.
Under the new format each team will play three games against the other 11 league teams. To fill out the 34-game schedule, a fourth game will be played against a conference opponent.