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The Campus Lantern

Opinion: The Inter-Ac should have playoffs

Tobey Schwartz ’27

The “win or go home” nature of playoff games provides an immense sense of excitement and an unmatched level of competition to any sport. Faced with elimination, players often give their all on every play, every possession, and in every moment because they don’t know whether this play will be their last chance.
Which is why it might surprise you – like it surprised me – to learn that the Inter-Ac doesn’t have some form of playoff format for its basketball teams. I mean, it seems like a layup (pun intended). You’ve got some of the state’s best talent centralized in the conference, and rivalries that have spanned decades and centuries in some cases. You also have a fan base with a voracious appetite for winning. And yet, despite all that, the Inter-Ac favors to name it’s champion based off of record and some odd tiebreakers. Sometimes, there isn’t even a tiebreaker, and we get split championships, which we can all agree nobody really wants.
So, how do we fix that? How can we make the Inter-Ac even better, even more competitive, and most importantly, even more satisfying a conference for winners? That’s easy – just give us playoffs.
I know this would create a lot of questions, such as “how would you implement that?”, or “can you make it fair?” , which are natural questions to ask. So let me break down how the Inter-Ac could take a bit of advice from the NBA and NCAA to develop a hypothetical playoff system. The Format: Let’s start with how we might structure the playoffs. Our conference has six teams: Penn Charter, Germantown Academy, Haverford School, Episcopal Academy, Malvern Prep, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. These six teams might make you think there is little room for actual formatting; however, if we adopt a setup from the NCAA’s March Madness tournament and make all games single elimination, it can work. There won’t be divisions, so seeding will take place in a straight 1-4 rating, allowing the best teams in to compete. You might’ve noticed I said 1-4, and not 1-6 as you may have expected. We’re keeping the best level of talent in this tournament and making sure it’s “do or die” to reach these playoffs. The bottom two teams at the regular season’s end will be eliminated from the playoffs and sent home packing. This gives teams something to strive for if they are on the bubble, and also a sense of fairness that the top talent is in the playoffs. After the bottom two teams are gone, the remaining four would be able to play on. After this, it’s really not too complicated. I’m sure you can guess how the format will look: #1 seed plays #4 seed, and #2 seed plays #3 seed, with the winners of that game advancing to the championship. At that stage, its winner takes all. So, that’s it, right? That’s the entire setup, and all it took was making a four team playoff. I’m sure a few of you are saying to yourself: Really, that’s it? That’s all you’ve got? Well yes, that’s really all it would take for this league to do a playoff format. But I DO have more: What if we made the playoffs even more exciting?
This model just barely scratches the surface. And while this basic format gives us a definitive Inter-Ac winner from the best talent, there are other ways to do this that bring even more drama to the series. Let me propose two that could increase the likelihood of playoff pandemonium. The Play-In Series We’re taking a bit of inspiration from the NBA in this one by using the NBA’s “Play-In” setup to determine seeding. This addition has the added bonus of providing a “reward” for teams that get that important #1 seed. In this format, all six teams advance to the playoffs and are seeded by their record. #1 and #2 seeded teams get a bye week while #3 plays #6 and #4 plays #5. Once the winners of both of our “Play-In” games are set, the lowest seed plays #1 and the higher seed plays #2. The winner of those games goes to the championship, plays in one last do-or-die matchup, and a champion is crowned.
I can already hear some of you saying “but that means some 0-10 team can be a 6 seed AND make it all the way to the championship, and that’s not fair.” Trust me, I hear you and I get it! While this format gives low seeds something to strive for and the top seeds the gift of rest and possibly easier teams to beat, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a team with no regular season wins should not have a chance to be league champion. Which is why I am proposing a third option: The Championship Series This is the definition of winner-takes-all high intensity, fast paced basketball. In the Championship Series, only the two highest ranked teams would advance, effectively throwing them into a final showdown. But it’s called the Championship Series for a reason. Instead of one final, grandiose game, the two top teams will compete in a “best of three championship.” This could include at least one game at each school, and if a third game is needed, the game should take place at the higher-seeded team’s court (again, providing a proper reward for finishing high). A format like this keeps the energy and anticipation high while leaving room for a team to have an off-night and still emerge victorious. And best of all? Getting rid of play-in games or lower seeded games means we get straight to the action with two teams that have earned our attention all season. Of course, there are other options the Inter-Ac could adopt for a playoff model beyond what I’ve shared. My personal choice would have to be for the Championship Series, as I think a top-two showdown would be the most entertaining. And if they do nothing else, the Inter-Ac should at LEAST save a one-game championship option in the event of a tiebreaker situation. Ultimately, I think we can all agree the most important factor for choosing a playoff format should be whether fans would enjoy watching.
So, if you have critiques of my ideas (or suggestions for different playoff formats of your own), leave a comment and let me know. Perhaps sometime in the future we can get another version, maybe even for a different sport.

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About the Contributors
Roman Bostick
Roman Bostick, Broadcast Reporter
Broadcast Reporter
Tobey Schwartz ’27
Tobey Schwartz ’27, Photographer
Tobey Schwartz loves sports photography more than life itself. When he is not taking pictures, you can find him on the ice rink, stopping pucks, dressed up in goalie gear. Tobey is a funny and caring person with a huge personality.
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