The 2016 WNBA playoffs are upon us and this year brings new changes to the postseason format. Only the top eight teams make it into the playoffs based on record regardless of their conference. So far only three teams have clinched a berth, the Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Lynx and the New York Liberty. This leaves five spots up for grabs and a handful of hopefuls.
The new playoff format has made for a tight race at the end of the season. There is just one game of separation between each seed from 4th to 10th place and just 4.5 games separate the 4th place Chicago Sky and the 10th place Connecticut Sun. That means seven teams have a legitimate shot at making it into one of the five remaining playoff spots.
With six or fewer games left in the regular season, every one of them counts for teams that have yet to clinch a playoff berth. Bubble teams, seeds 7-10, are trying to win outright to lock in a spot as a seventh or eighth seed. Middle of the pack teams, seeds 4-6, will likely make it into the playoffs barring complete collapses, but must stay sharp because seating is far from determined.
Because the playoff picture is still being painted, there will be a heightened intensity in the last few games of the season. Hopefully, the raised level of competition will translate to the postseason as league officials intended with the format changes.
ESPN will air all of the WNBA playoff games in 2016 which will kick off with single-elimination matches for the first two rounds. The no.1 and no.2 seeds will receive a bye until the semifinal round which will be a best of five, a 2-2-1 format. The WNBA Finals will also follow the 2-2-1 format.
With only two weeks until the playoffs begin on Sept. 21, WNBA fans will be in for an exciting finish to the league’s 20th regular season as teams battle for a trip to the postseason.