Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Play-In Round: A Recipe for Madness

As we all know, the tournament format of World Cup VII will be significantly different from the format of World Cup VI. The tournament field has expanded to 80 teams, separated into 16 pools. The 20 team increase to the World Cup field has been a hot topic all season and has especially generated fiery discussion recently due to World Cup bids being deferred and claimed by weaker teams. However, when teams take the field on the morning of April 5th, spectators and players will barely notice that there are 20 extra teams.

I'm here to talk about the other major change to the World Cup VII tournament format. To accomodate the 4 additional pools, the number of teams that advance to bracket play is increasing from 36 to 48. At World Cup VI, the play-in round was a series of matchups between teams ranked 28-36 in order to narrow the field down to a nice, even, 32. In North Myrtle Beach, the "play-in" round will feature all teams ranked 17-48. That's 32 team playing in 16 games across 9 fields during only two timeslots! 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Day One of the World Cup is normally pretty predictable. The three teams projected to advance to bracket play from each pool usually get by Pot 4 and 5 teams with ease. If there are huge upsets like Kansas defeating Baylor, the community has a few hours to recover before another David slays another Goliath. And even so, the Goliath typically advances to bracket play despite losing to David. The top five teams efforts to destroy lower pot teams for high point differentials can be the most exciting storylines to follow. Last year, I left a Austin-Tindall Park yearning for more big surprises after pool play.

In North Myrtle Beach, thanks to the play-in round, we're going to get that craziness very quickly on Sunday. The first two time slots on the morning of Sunday, April 6th are going to shake up everything we thought we knew about quidditch. While some of the games will probably be blowouts (17 vs. 48), the majority (20s vs. 30s) are going to be matchups of teams separated by a few points in average point differential.  Some teams will be relegated to a "lower" seed due to a tough pool, creating the potential for many upsets. There will be games that sound more like Sweet Sixteen matchups rather than games in the play-in round.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
The addition of a larger play-in round also increases the importance of going 4-0 on Saturday and winning the pool. Pot One teams are going to want to avoid the madness of the play-in round at all costs. For a favored, cocky team that unexpectedly drops a game on Saturday, facing the play-in round might push the team over the edge. For the teams ranked 17-48 after pool play, the play-in round will be a true test of character and skill.

Last season, three out of the four play-in games were decided by a snitch catch. Tufts fell to VCU, Villanova, the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional Champion, lost to Arizona State and BGSU barely escaped Tennessee Tech. 

I'm prepared to guess that again, 75% of games in the play-in round will be decided by a snitch catch. 12 out of the 16 games will be so even, that the result of the game will be up to seekers, seeker beating and the skill of the snitch. I predict that 4 out of the 12 snitch range games will go into overtime. Teams with big aspirations are going to be bounced from bracket play before it even starts, according the misleading name, the "play-in" round. 
As a fact of any sport, some teams will leave North Myrtle Beach upset and feeling unfulfilled. The IQA will understandably want the play-in round to move quickly so that games can stay on schedule and the championship game doesn't get delayed multiple hours. Marathon games will be prevented by snitch handicaps. The reffing corps will be stretched thin. Last year, the Round of 32 had several reffing/snitching controversies. Hopefully, the play-in round can be free of controversy, but in a young sport like quidditch, I highly doubt it will be.

Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
The point I'm trying to make is that the play-in round is a part of bracket play and a lot of unexpected things are going to happen. It's going to be chaotic, mind-blowing madness. If the World Cup format sticks for the next several years, the play-in round will become a defining part of the World Cup much like the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. 

And then, after the play-in round, we get to do it all again with 32 teams playing 16 games across 9 fields during two timeslots. Get excited folks. World Cup is in six days!

1 comment:

  1. Greetings-

    I'm a podcast host based out of Indianapolis, IN. On the show, we watch movies, and provide an alternate commentary track for the film. We will be focusing the attention of 8 of our episodes on the "Harry Potter" series. I've conducted interviews in previous episodes and I'd like to continue the trend with someone knowledgable and passionate about quidditch. It would be a phone-in interview that would last approximately 15 minutes. We will also be conducting interviews with Pagans to discuss the differences in real magic practitioners and those we see in the films, and hopefully a "Harry Potter" fan fiction author. It'll be interesting to have differenst aspets of the movie represented by their real-life counterparts. If you are interested in helping, please message me here or email me: Any help would be greatly appreciated and I thank you for taking time to read my post.

    Sincerely, Zach