Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WFTDA's new playoff structure

Let me open by saying like like like like like.  I really like the idea of 4 1st round playoff tournaments, rather than regions.  Some of the regions are weaker than others, and it makes sense to take the top 40 worldwide, rather than the top 10 from some geographical and uneven regions.

What did they mean by S-Curve seeding?

Well, simple seeding's easy to conceive of, but a 40 team tournament makes things complex.  The theory is that the total rank of each "branch" of the tournament be equal, and to do this one fills in the chart below in an S-curve type manner.  Each team is represented by its rank, which becomes its "seed."  Follow the counting numbers in order, and you'll see.

1 2 3 4
8 7 6 5
9 10 11 12
16 15 14 13
17 18 19 20
24 23 22 21
25 26 27 28
32 31 30 29
33 34 35 36
40 39 38 37
205 205 205 205

So this way, each of the four 1st round tornaments have a total seeding strength of 205.  Thus, the four tournaments have been seeded equally and there is no bonus to being in any one in terms of ease of reaching the final.

So it's more fair in theory, but what are the risks?

--First off, rankings are a bit questionable.  Glasgow have a 40% chance of beating LRG, and Montreal are one of several teams in the East Regional who were not as highly favoured.

European teams are undervalued, as teams vote for rankings.  With the exception of LRG, only Euro teams watch other Euro teams play, and thus they are less likely to be highly voted by North American voters.

This effect is not so great when considering only one region at a time.  Voters outside the East region need not concern themselves with Europe.  However, when all leagues are grouped together in one ranking, this effect will manifest itself much more strongly.  

This, to me, suggests either the computer poll or the DNN power rankings.  The first, like the one I run, has no problem ranking large numbers of teams who play unbalanced schedules.  The second is totally done by human intuition, but by the intuition of "professional pickers," those who are focussed solely on determining which teams are ranked where.  These pickers see every result publicly listed, which are the only ones that should ever count, and thus should have no bias towards one continent or another.  Either one eliminates the bias of having open voting.

--Second off, there is a likelihood bordering on a guarantee that some teams will have to travel much further to their 1st round tournament.  Right now, a similar structure is used by the NCAA basketball tournament in the USA, where the top ranked teams are assigned to the location nearest them, and teams seeded further down must play where their rankings assign them.

This system would work in derby, but so would an adjustment to what's been discussed above.  If a human poll were used to determine the rankings, everyone would acknowledge that there is some uncertainty between who's picked at 8 versus 9, etc.  Thus, a selection committee could "fudge" the seeding a little bit to ensure that LRG don't play in California, for example, or Rat City in London.

Another answer would be to choose the four locations spread throughout the USA.  Let's say the tournaments are in four cities: Charlotte, NC; Little Rock, AR; Indianapolis, IN; and Portland, OR.  The four tournaments are then seeded according to A, B, C, and D in the chart above.  After the four tournaments are seeded, they're connected with the four locations, using an algorithm to minimise total mileage travelled.  Thus, LRG would likely play in Charlotte, unless they were in the same tournament with Victoria.

And those that weren't selected?

This is one of my favourite parts of the announcement!  Instead of simply calling their season over, they'll be introducing a Division II tournament so there'll be more silverware.  I'm not the only person who's been suggesting that the WFTDA institute tiered structure like the football league, and now that seems like a more distinct possibility.  I'd like to see it expand to 40 if successful, but it's a great move for the WFTDA.

Final verdict?

Very yes.  There are still questions which require answering, but this (and the impending rule change) is an opportunity for the WFTDA to make a massive step forward towards making the whole system run more smoothly, evenly, and fairly.  I hope, hope, hope that they take the bull by the horns here and help organised derby live up to its expectations.

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