February 26, 2009

Playoffs: Pinoy style sweep

So we've basically seen how sports leagues everywhere work. Here are the universal truths:
  • If all of the teams have the same strengths of schedule, no postseason is required.
  • If the teams have uneven strengths of schedule (most usually due to teams divided into different leagues, conferences, groups or divisions), a postseason is required to determine the champion.
  • If there is a postseason, the better-seeding team usually has some advantages, like more games are held in their hometowns.
Now let's scrutinize how the Pinoy collegiate leagues conduct their tournaments.

If there things universal about Pinoy collegiate sports, they are:
  • There are special considerations when a team sweeps the tournament.
  • All games are played in neutral venues -- more on this later.
  • Teams have the same strengths of schedule considering there are no interleague games that count.
  • Playoffs take an extraordinarily long amount of time to finish.
  • In a related note, if there ties among the playoff positions, an extra game will be played to break the tie.
Let's further dissect bullet point #1. At least after the 1990 season to 1994 in the UAAP, if the team sweeps the elimination round, the team becomes the automatic champion. In 1990, La Salle swept the elimination round 14-0 but were beaten by UE in Game 1 of the Finals. In the system in place back then, the #1 seed has the twice-to-beat advantage in the finals, and La Salle won Game 2.

In 1994, UST swept the elimination round, and the playoffs were scrapped. No games = no money, so next year, the board instead gave the "sweeper" an automatic finals berth in the best-of-3 finals. The next time the sweep happened, in 2007, UE got an involuntary 21-day vacation and they got so cold they weren't able to stop the red-hot (pun not intended) Green Archers enroute to their undisputed seventh UAAP championship.

Why did UE falter? Aside from their seasonal choking, as stated earlier, UE had a 21-day rest. You can say La Salle must've been winded by their long playoff run (3 games, all against Ateneo), but once you get a resting period of three days or more, your muscles get relaxed and fresh so the playoff run cancels itself. Meanwhile, UE had 21 days of bliss, due to several factors such as Fall Out Boy, Araneta Coliseum being unavailable, Ateneans and Lasallians threatening to picket the UST Campus if they played at PhilSports, two tie-breaker games, and the semifinals needing two games to finish being the most obvious. (Compare in 1990 where there was only playoff game to determine La Salle's finals opponent, and La Salle had a 14-day rest, while UE had a ten-day rest.)

By the time of Game 1, UE was rusty, and La Salle was well-rested, but conditioned enough. If UE was twice-to-beat, as was used in the NCAA before 2008 and in the UAAP before 1994, they would have not needed to win back-to-back against La Salle in the finals and could've won the championship. But then again, it is La Salle that they faced, and they are perennial chokers so you'd have to put that into the equation, plus of course, the magic bigote of Franz Pumaren.

What is the ideal way to conduct the playoffs in an event of a sweep, you say? Conduct no playoffs. Since the teams have the same strengths of schedule, there is no need to conduct a postseason once a team wins all of their games. As stated a few days ago, the playoffs existed for the sole purpose of evening out the strengths of schedules of everybody. If the team won all of their games, and they beat all of the teams of the league the same amount of times, there's no logic for a postseason.

So what if you'd need to have a postseason? The best solution is to give the sweeper the twice-to-beat advantage. This ends the misery quickly and the sweeper is never behind in the finals series. The recent remedy of the UAAP for the 2008 debacle, the so-called "bonus rule" lengthens the already long postseason. The mechanics in its simplest terms is that the sweeper has a 1-0 advantage in a best-of-five series. Yes, best-of-5. In that format, if the sweeper loses the first two games, they are in a 2-1 hole. In the twice-to-beat advantage, the worst that can happen after Game 1 is that the series is tied 1-1. The sweeper never trails in the series.

Why lengthen the postseason? After all, they are student-athletes, and there's a reason why the word "student" came first.

Next, more on the really long post-season.


  1. You failed to include in your bullet points that the Filipino reality of sports (as well as in other fields) has long been that of imitating and copying the models of other countries, actually more of the US model; everything has to be the same lol, unmindful and regardless of whether or not the geographical considerations, logistics, time, etc. as you mentioned will allow the so-called parity in strength of schedule. I'm still trying to relay to these 'subscribers of the postseason' EVEN IN THE EVENT OF A SWEEP, the same idea --- every team started on equal footing, time, length of season, locality, etc. So there's really no need for postseason after the eliminations IF and WHEN a team sweeps. Everyone has the same chances of performing their BEST (nothing is better than finishing the season unbeaten?). If you pass up on that chance, then suck it up and don't hope for another chance in the postseason. And no, they didn't earn it because they lost twice to the same team in the elims.

    Otherwise, 1 loss, then fine, on to postseason --- the usual 1vs4, 2vs3, we go. Then it will be necessary to determine the champion.

    I'm not against the postseason per se. I'm saying I don't subscribe to it WHEN a team sweeps; a concocted stepladder is unnecessary. That's my point.

  2. I guess the whole point of the stepladder is to allow the sweeping team have all the benefits of sweeping, short of being awarded outright the championship, while keeping the other teams hopeful that they can steal the title from the sweeping team.

    It's all on the balancing the fairness between the sweeping team and its opponent in the finals. I believe that if there'll be a postseason, in the stage where the sweeping team will play, that team must have some sort of advantage, while the other team still has a fighting chance of stealing the title.

    The best-of-3 series was unfair to the sweeping team. The bonus rule is unfair to the opponent. The best format is the twice to beat advantage. The sweeping team never trails in the series, and the opponent has a chance of beating the sweeping team. There'll still be money as there'll be as much as two more games being played.


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