Playoff formats make little sense

By Kevin Rothbauer

The playoff situation for Canada West volleyball and basketball presents a cloudy picture. In men’s and women’s basketball, six of the seven teams advance to the playoffs. In volleyball, three of the five teams move on. The bizarre formats in the two sports leave some competitive teams in the cold, while including teams with terrible records.

The worst case is in women’s basketball. The Trinity Western University Spartans put forth a valiant effort in their first season of Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union play, but finished the season with a 3-17 record. The laughable University of Lethbridge Pronghorns’ record of 1-19 is the only reason the Spartans saw the post season.

Meanwhile, in men’s volleyball, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds missed the playoffs, despite finishing 12-10 in a tight race.

From the University of Calgary, the men’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams are strong and have been guaranteed playoff spots virtually from the beginning of the year. Their rebuilding counterparts, though, have been fringe teams and were affected by the formats. The women’s volleyball team finished fourth in their conference and missed the playoffs by two games. The men’s basketball team finished sixth in the conference and made the playoffs with a three-game lead over Trinity Western. I hesitate to say whether or not either team deserved a playoff berth, but inconsistencies between the playoff formats, not the abilities of the teams, have determined who advances.

I realize that volleyball and basketball are different sports, governed by different bodies within the CIAU, but playoffs are playoffs, and if a team sucks, it doesn’t belong there.

It’s impossible to guarantee that every team that makes the playoffs has a respectable record, or to guarantee that every team with a respectable record makes the playoffs. The format would have to change at the end of every season in order for that to happen.

I’m sure much debate arose when the playoff formats were devised, and it’s next to impossible to come up with a system that pleases everyone, but having the top four teams advance virtually guarantees competitive and exciting playoff series.


Leave a comment