Everyone has annual traditions, right? Holidays, the Super Bowl, your birthday, whatever. So now is about the time of year that I make a valiant attempt to explain the latest WFA playoff structure. A very merry spreadsheet to you all! Let us begin.
Let’s start with groupings of teams. The regular standings page on the WFA website lists teams as follows: Conference -> Region -> Division. That looks like this:
So the Renegades are in the National Conference, the Northeast Region, and the Colonial Division1. Pac Warriors are in the American Conference, the Pacific Region, and the Pacific South Division. Pretty straightforward. And also completely irrelevant to pretty much anything.
The only one of those three categorizations that means anything is Conference, of which there are two: American and National. That’s fine.
The Region categorization has some meaning for the American Conference teams but none at all for the National, and thus is useless for our purposes (which are, since I’m starting to forget already, to figure out how the hell teams get into the playoffs and who they play).
Then what the standings page calls Divisions (North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Great Plains, Colonial, etc.) literally have no meaning for anything at all. I have absolutely no idea why they’re even there. This year there is no such thing as in-division record, since all seeding is being done strictly by Massey Rating. So all of that is just malarkey that does nothing other than make things really confusing because, as it turns out, there really ARE divisions that are meaningful but ha ha, sucker! These aren’t them.
So let’s talk about what’s actually relevant. The first thing, which is new and huge and totally not on that default standings page at all, is that for the first time the WFA is straight-up using a tier system (as opposed to earlier years, where they grouped teams into categories which then had different playoff implications but they just kinda hoped no one would notice). They are calling these three different tiers “Divisions”, which I assume is meant to invoke the NCAA’s Div I – Div III model. And this would be fine IF they weren’t already using that word to describe something completely extraneous. So that’s stupid, and I’m going to call them Tiers. And you’ll know what I mean.
Here are the three groups, in alphabetical order:
Central Cal War Angels
Portland Fighting Fillies
Derby City Dynamite
Detroit Dark Angels
Jacksonville Dixie Blues
Mile High Blaze
Sin City Trojans
St. Louis Slam
Tampa Bay Inferno
W. Michigan Mayhem
West Coast Lightning
Richmond Black Widows
Southern Oregon Lady Gades
Tri Cities Thunder
Right now I’m not going to get into which teams are where for what reason, and frankly there are people who can probably explain that better than I can (and have, I think – I’ll post links when I have a minute to go find them). But there are your big fat overarching tiers. The WFA homepage does link to a page called National Rankings which separates the teams by tier, but it’s just as useless since it has no indication of the subdivisions (conference, etc.) that the actual bracket is based on. I kinda think it’s just there to instigate online arguments between people who think it’s worth getting all worked up over whether Central Cal is really better than Chicago right now. Useless data is useless, people, and for our purposes, this is useless data if you don’t break it down any further. So let’s keep going! This is fun, right? RIGHT?
The next relevant grouping is Conference, which is exactly what it sounds like and aligns with what the WFA has on their standings page, thank God for small favors.
Then the final real, meaningful set of groups is what I *am* going to call “Divisions”, because those actually are the groups within which your ranking matters. You want to be the highest ranked team in your division, as that will give you the best playoff spot. In both Tier I and Tier II, all National Conference teams are in the same division and are all competing for six playoff spots; the top two get a bye for the first round. In the American Conference, teams are divided into two separate divisions: Midwest and Pacific. The top three teams from each of those divisions make the playoffs; the #1 team in each gets a first-round bye. (It’s worth noting that this structure is different from the one I was shown a few weeks ago; the changes make very little sense to me at all but that’s something I’ll have to get into later because apparently I have a job and kids and stuff and can’t spend the whole day writing this. Meh.) Also, Tier III is pretty much going to be based on who wants to play and can get to another city, I think.
So here are the real divisions for Tier I & Tier II (again, alphabetical order):
Within each of those divisions, teams are ranked according to their current Massey Rating, and THAT’S what will determine their place – if any – on this bracket. (Here’s the WFA version of the bracket in case you want to check that out too; I find it more difficult to read.)
So maybe you processed all of that and maybe you didn’t. Maybe you just want to know where the hell your team is in all of this crap. Well, I’m here for you, friend:Check out the current, actual,
no-bullshit WFA standings.
(Please note that Tier II Midwest has three playoff spots but only two teams. Awesome! This is largely because the Minnesota Machine did not field a team this season, and my guess is that STL and Houston will both get a bye and start in the second round. But that is totally conjecture on my part.)
Hopefully this is somewhat helpful; as ever, please let me know if you see something inaccurate or if you have any questions about any of it. Can’t promise I’ll have answers, of course, but I’ll do what I can.
Also, I think I need to get myself some better annual traditions.
1: Colonial? Seriously?