We are now less than one month away from the 2022 WNBA Playoffs. Now is a good time to provide a refresher on the playoff format.
Since 2016, the WNBA Playoffs have featured four rounds in a 1-1-5-5 format. This means that the first two rounds were single elimination, while the last two were best-of-five series. To make this format possible, the two top seeded teams got automatic bids into the semifinals.
After a little over half a decade, this format is gone. Fans will no longer be watching No. 5 seed vs No. 8 seed, and No. 6 seed vs No. 7 seed matchups in the first round.
Times are changin’
For the 2022 season, the W has reconstructed the playoffs to only feature three rounds in a 3-5-5 format. Instead of kicking off the postseason with two single elimination rounds like during the previous six seasons, there will now only be one round in a best-of-three format before the semifinals.
The best-of-three series’ will feature the higher seed hosting Games 1 and 2, while the lower seed hosts Game 3. The best-of-five series’ will remain unchanged, with the higher seed hosting Games 1, 2, and 5 and the lower seed hosting Games 3 and 4. No teams will receive a bye and all eight playoff squads will get to play a best-of-three series.
Matchups will be as follows:
No. 1 seed vs No. 8 seed (winner plays winner of No. 4 vs No. 5 series)
No. 2 seed vs No. 7 seed (winner plays winner of No. 3 vs No. 6 series)
No. 3 seed vs No. 6 seed (winner plays winner of No. 2 vs No. 7 series)
No. 4 seed vs No. 5 seed (winner plays winner of No. 1 vs No. 8 series)
If every series goes the distance, the new format will give us a chance to watch eight more games than with the previous format. The maximum amount of playoff games is 27, while the old format had a max of only 19.
Is the new format better?
Any time we get the opportunity to watch more W games is a positive, and the new format allows just that. Because of this, I say the change is beneficial for the league.
With the elimination of byes, we will no longer have to wait to watch the top teams play. Yes, these top teams might not get the extra rest they would’ve in previous years, but they won’t have to play teams with tons of momentum. As recently as last year, we saw that the extra rest may actually have more negatives than positives. None of the four teams with a bye won a series in the 2021 WNBA Playoffs.
Note that the WNBA Finals last year featured two teams who were not granted a bye (No. 6 Chicago Sky defeated No. 5 Phoenix Mercury in four games to win the title).
Current playoff picture
As of the early afternoon on Friday, July 22nd, these are what the first round playoff matchups look like
No. 1 Chicago Sky vs No. 8 Dallas Wings (winner plays winner of No. 4 Seattle Storm vs No. 5 Washington Mystics series)
No. 2 Las Vegas Aces vs No. 7 Atlanta Dream (winner plays winner of No. 3 Connecticut Sun vs No. 6 LA Sparks series)
No. 3 Connecticut Sun vs No. 6 LA Sparks (winner plays winner of No. 2 Las Vegas Aces vs No. 7 Atlanta Dream series)
No. 4 Seattle Storm vs No. 5 Washington Mystics (winner plays winner of No. 1 Chicago Sky vs No. 8 Dallas Wings series)
Want to be up to date on the WNBA standings? We have you covered.