August 6, 2011

Tragedy! Ginebra failed to make to the Finals!

Ah yes. That time of the year where we ponder if the PBA can even make it next year -- no one's watching, no one is caring, and more people want to know the result of a Adamson-NU game. Seriously.

Sarcasm aside, the PBA has spoiled its fans by holding the one-game playoff -- holding an extra game to break a tie in the standings. Interestingly, this year, the PBA has stopped playing such games, instead going through the wrongly named quotient system, which should really be called the "differential" system as the numbers cited are differences, not quotients.
Curiously, the PBA is not the first league in the Philippines. In 2009, the UAAP has ditched these extra playoff games that lengthened seasons except for the #2 and #4 seeds. Elsewhere, the NBA had stopped playing such games in 1957, and FIBA doesn't hold such games either; the NBA has relied mostly on game results (wins/losses) while FIBA used the quotient on games among tied teams.

So, if you're a PBA fan, you'd expect that there'll be a playoff game if there are 2, much less 3, teams tied for the final Finals berth. But it hasn't, and they used the quotient (differential) system. Is this is fair tradeoff?

Normally, the PBA is more of a moneymaking enterprise than a sports league, so naturally, it is on their interest to play more games. I don't know what Chito Salud was smoking when he proposed this system to the PBA Board of Governors, but this makes perfect sense, if you're into the sporting side of the business.

However, the PBA's tiebreaking process has interesting quirk: unlike the NBA and FIBA that uses game results, the PBA uses the winning margin. There are many ways in breaking ties, and some will produce different results than the others; for example, in NCAA Season 84, 4 teams were tied for #2, and instead of having the two best teams play for #2 and the two worst teams play for #4, it had all 4 teams play for #2; in what was an almost sure Final 4 appearance for San Sebastian turned to naught when they lost all games. Compare this to the 2005-06 PBA Fiesta Conference: Four teams tied at #2, but the two teams with the best quotients played for the #2 seed, not all four. (As you can see, the PBA has also applied this quotient system before, but they still played playoff games).

So, for Ginebra fans, is this all fair? The answer is yes. When resolving ties in tournaments, you don't normally play a playoff unless all remedies are exhausted (all tie-breakers are still tied). We've just all been spoiled by the PBA when it comes to playoff games.

Still, it is for a Finals berth, so could a playoff game still had been held. The answer is "probably." It all depends on how the tournament has been set up. In American football parlance, you don't move the goal posts at the middle of the game -- in this case, you don't change how ties are broken. The commissioner could've allowed a playoff, but only if all three teams agreed (actually, all teams, including Talk 'N Text, and Powerade which was denied of a semifinals berth due to the same system).

As stated earlier, there are several tiebreaking procedures: the PBA relies on point differential, first on games among the tied teams, then for all games, then finally on a coin toss (see the PBAologist's article on interAKTV). In soccer (football), generally, the first tiebreaker is the overall goal difference (point differential). If we'd use that to break the tie of Petron, Alaska and Ginebra, here are the results:

Ginebra +29
Alaska +16
Petron -25

Would you look at that, Ginebra would've won the tiebreaker if the PBA used overall point differential instead of only games among the tied teams. If the PBA used FIBA's method (g results), the results are:

Petron 3-1
Alaska 2-2
Ginebra 1-3

Essentially, identical to the PBA tiebreaker.

Philosophically, the best way to break a tie is play another game; however, there had been several ways in which ties can be broken. The PBA has used these and, for the most part, without incident.

And oh, the incident was Talk 'N Text is very bad in tanking games. Air21 is much better in this regard, you wouldn't notice it.

You may like reading this: Tiebreak

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