Ranking the Most Interesting Postseasons in Sports

Matt RContributor IJanuary 18, 2011

Ranking the Most Interesting Postseasons in Sports

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    Every playoff season is highly anticipated, but some playoff formats allow for more interesting, as well as satisfying, final results.  

    From the NBA to the WNBA, from the NFL to the NHL, we will countdown the most interesting playoffs to watch and discuss why.  

    With that being said, let's begin our countdown.

No. 11: WNBA Playoffs

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    There's not much to say about the WNBA playoffs. The playoff format consists of a four best-of-three conference semi-finals series, two best-of-three conference finals series, and a best-of-five Championship series.  

    Lack of media coverage completely extinguishes any potential excitement that the WNBA may have conjured up. Short playoffs causes most casual, inattentive fans to find themselves unaware that the playoffs are going on or had even happened.

    To add insult to injury, the WNBA is the only professional league to take a backseat to its college counterpart.

No. 10: Woman's College Basketball

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    As of late, woman's college basketball has given fans one good reason to watch: the undefeated streak of the UConn Huskies Woman's Basketball Team.

    After their loss to Stanford; however, media coverage of the sport has been all but completely diminished.  

    The only reason to watch the Woman's College Basketball tournament is to see if the over-hyped, over-praised top team finally gets taken down. This usually never happens due to the disparity between the top team and all other teams. 

    Last year, cheering for or against UConn was what kept the tournament media coverage afloat. If they lost, not only would they lose their undefeated streak, but they would also be denied a championship, which somehow would seem like more of a consolation prize than anything.

    This year speculation will surround three main teams: Stanford, Baylor and UConn. Though none will garner the speculation or media coverage that last year's UConn team did.

    Ideas to improve: None, the playoff format is perfect for fans, the disparity just causes for too many blowouts.

No. 9: MLS Cup Playoffs

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    The MLS features a larger fanbase than most casual fans are aware of. However, winning the MLS playoff championship is largely considered a consolation prize behind winning the season championship.  

    Yeah, the MLS Cup Champion gets to declare itself as league champions, but the season champions go on to pursue a more coveted prize, being able to participate in the CONCACAF Champions League.

    Format: Two top teams from each conference receive automatic berth, while other six seeds are determined by highest point total regardless of conference.  

    Conference semifinals are played in two games, aggregate goal format, where the team who scores the most goals in the two games advances. If both teams score equal amount, penalty shots are taken.

    Conference championship and MLS Cup games are played in one game, winner takes all formats

    Ideas to Improve: Winner of the playoffs receives CONCACAF Champions League berth, giving the playoffs added significance.

No. 8: College Football BCS System

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    For all intensive purposes, this is not to be considered a playoff system. Two teams can finish a season undefeated, but because of the opinions of a small group of sports writers, one team can become "National Champion" and one cannot.

    34 bowl games were played this season, with teams who epitomized averageness squaring off against one another. The "Bowl Season" is overextended, boring and, for the most part, unrewarding toward deserving teams.  

    For example, this season a Nevada Wolfpack team who was ranked 15th and a winner against No. 4 Boise State (at the time) were faced off against an average 7-5 Boston College team. Someone explain to me how that POSTSEASON matchup is created for a 12-1 team.

    Let's face it, save 2-3 games and the rest of the Bowl season is pointless and for the most part boring. 

    Format:  Two teams are chosen for a National Championship, while the 6 BCS Conference Champions play in other coveted games. Four other at-large teams are chosen to fill in the rest of the vacant BCS game slots. Winners do not advance.

    Ideas for Improvement: Playoff system. Allow the top ten teams to fill the BCS slots, regardless of conference.  

    For example:

    Rose Bowl: No.1 Auburn vs. No. 10 Boise State

    Orange Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 9 Michigan State

    Cotton Bowl: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 8 Arkansas

    Fiesta Bowl:  No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

    Other named Bowl: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Ohio State


No. 7: NBA Playoffs

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    The NBA playoffs finds itself ahead of the BCS because nobody ever disputes who deserves to be champion. However, too many teams are granted a playoff berth.  

    As of late, the East has featured two or more playoff teams with .500 or losing records playing in the playoffs. In a league where talent disparity is unsettlingly obvious, that is just a pointless series.

    With the few exceptions, such as the Latrell Sprewell New York Knicks, the Dikembe Mutombo Denver Nuggets and the Baron Davis Golden State Warriors, the No. 1 vs No. 8 series is a practice matchup; a boring joke.  

    The main factor holding down the NBA Playoffs in these postseason rankings are the lack of true upsets. Too many series are played with the fans knowing who will win. The highest level of excitement is provided by how long the series will be extended. That is just not good. 

    Format: Seven-game first round series, Seven-game conference semis series, Seven-game conference finals series, Seven-game championship.

    Ideas for improvement: Invite only six teams per conference to participate, adopting a NFL playoff format, giving the top two teams for each conference first-round byes.

No. 6: World Cup Soccer

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    The World Cup ranks number six due to the National Pride it inspires. Yet, does not rank higher for the lack of excitement the games cause. The hype around the World Cup is tremendous, only to be extinguished (for those who are sober and American) when the game begins.  

    Nevertheless, when the final result is about to be revealed, you find yourself holding your breathe, praying your nation comes out on top.

    Another plus for the World Cup is the fact that though a loss doesn't end your hopes, it almost cripples a team's chances at success.

    Format: Round robin opening round, two top teams from each of eight groupings advance, and play 16 team, one loss elimination bracket.

    Ideas for improvement: Less time in between games, eliminate ties and tweak the rules to allow for more goals and more exciting in-game action.

No. 5: MLB Playoffs

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    The MLB Playoffs are considered by many to be exciting, but have much greater potential than what they are currently displaying.  

    Not enough teams are invited to participate in the postseason, even though many are deserving. Since 2001, 26 teams have won 88 or more games and missed out on the postseason, including 10 teams who won 90 or more games.

    The ten teams who won 90 or more and missed out were the 2010 Padres (90), 2006 White Sox (90), 2005 Indians (93), 2004 Athletics (91), 2004 Giants (91), 2003 Mariners (93), 2002 Red Sox (93), 2002 Mariners (93), 2002 Dodgers (92) and the 2001 Giants (90).

    I found that two things listed above blew my mind. One was that the Seattle Mariners finished with 93 wins two seasons in a row and missed the playoffs both times.

    If a team is that good, two years straight, you don't think they have a chance to win the championship?

    The answer is no, they do not, because they were not even given a chance. Three teams in 2002 had 92+ wins, yet were left out of the postseason.

    Format: Five-game league semifinals series, Seven-game league championship series and a Seven-game World Series.

    Ideas for Improvement: Allow more teams to own a playoff berth and extend the first round from a five-game series to a seven-game series. Also, adopting the MLS format of using aggregation (adding up total runs in the series, the team with more advancing) would allow for every game to be interesting.

    Whether it's a blowout or a close game for the entire game!

No. 4: Olympic Hockey

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    Olympic Hockey is ranked number four because of the pride it induces out of Americans. This is the sport where we are home to the best hockey league in the world, yet are almost always considered long shots to win the Olympics.

    That kind of irony drives Americans crazy and makes success that much more coveted, that much more great. National pride also accounts for Olympic Hockey's high ranking. 

    Format: 12 National teams are divided into three groups.

    Round robin play then follows. Three group winners and one group runner-up advance and receive a bye, while the remaining teams play in a one-game elimination round.

    Winners advance and play one-game elimination throughout the rest of the tournament until one team is remaining. Winner of championship game receives gold, loser of championship game is awarded silver. Losers of semifinal games play each other in a consolation game for bronze medal.

    Ideas for Improvement: None

No. 3: NFL Playoffs

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    The NFL Playoffs have few flaws and much upside. The only two downsides to it is the lengthy time in between each game and the fact that many Super Bowls end in blowouts, leaving fans with more to desire.

    Upsets are not uncommon as of late, as many six seeds have been advancing deep into the playoffs.

    Format: Six teams from each conference make playoffs, with top-two teams getting byes. Top-four seeds are awarded to division winners regardless of record. One game elimination.

    Ideas for Improvement: Maybe add two more teams to playoff field.

No. 2: Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    If you dispute the NHL playoffs being ahead of the NFL playoffs, you have obviously never seriously paid attention to the NHL playoffs.

    No team is safe in the NHL playoffs, regardless of seed. Since 2006 alone, three eighth seeded teams have bounced top ranked teams out of the tournament, including last years Montreal Canadiens (88 regular season points) knocking out the top seed Capitals and Alex Ovechkin (129 regulars season points).

    They then proceeded to knock out Sidney Crosby and the fourth ranked Pittsburgh Penguins.

    If you are unsure of how strong an accomplishment that is, it would be the equivalent of an eight seed team in the NBA knocking out a Magic Johnson led team followed by a Larry Bird led team in their primes.

    In 2006, the five, six, seven and eight seeds all advanced to the second round trouncing the one, two, three and four seeds. That year's Conference Finals featured the No. 8 Edmonton Oilers defeat the No. 6 Mighty Ducks to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Where they took the No. 2 seed Carolina Hurricanes to seven games before bowing out.

    In 2010, the Eastern Conference semifinals included the No. 4 Penguins, No. 6 Boston Bruins, No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers and the No. 8 Montreal Canadiens. The No. 7 Flyers and No. 8 Canadiens advanced, where the Flyers then beat the Canadiens to face the No. 2 Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Since 2003, four teams seeded sixth or lower in their own conferences have advanced to the Cup Finals. Although none of them have won, three of the series required all seven games and the remaining needed six.

    No other pro sport has the upset expectancy of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

    Format: Seven-game series from First Round to Stanley Cup Finals, eight teams per conference make the playoffs.

    Ideas for Improvement: Absolutely none.

No. 1: NCAA Basketball Men's March Madness

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    No other postseason matches the excitement of NCAA March Madness.

    The brackets, the upsets of teams laden with future NBA all-stars and the heartbreak; it's all just sports magic. There's not much to say about it except that it is amazing.

    Fifth-seed Butler advanced all the way to the championship game as a mid-major team who were widely being written off by "Experts" throughout the country. Even I had them losing in the first round to UTEP.  

    Northern Iowa's upset of Kansas was also a highlight of last season's tourney, but nothing compares to George Mason's Cinderella Final Four run during the 2005-2006 season. That year, GMU upset Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State (a higher ranked Cinderella team) and UConn before losing to eventual champion Florida.

    Magic. Perfect tournament. 

    Format: 64-team, one loss elimination tournament. Divided into four different divisions, winner of each division meets fellow winner in Final Four.

    Ideas for Improvement: Nothing.

    Created by Matthew Rago.