The D-League playoff format is going to make things very interesting.
For those who don’t know, the three divisional winners will have home-court advantage for their first round games.
The twist to all this is they also get to pick their first-round opponent out of the four lowest wild-card teams. The divisional champion with the best record will pick first, followed by the champions with the second and third best records, respectively.
Now Erie (26-23) is among those final four wild-card teams along with Dakota (27-23) and Bakersfield (26-24). The fourth team will be determined after Saturday’s games.
So which divisional winner will pick Erie?
First of all, this isn’t going to be as simple as picking the team with the worst record among the wild-card playoff teams. I sense coaches will use some strategy and pick an opponent they best match up with or have had the most success against regardless of record.
In either case, the teams that are chosen will go into that game with a enormous chip on their shoulders.
This is like calling out a guy on the playground and saying you can beat him in a game of 1-on-1. You better be darn sure you can beat that guy or you’re going to wind up losing and feeling embarrassed.
Now with that being said, let’s take a look at how all of this could play out.
1. Southwest champion Colorado (34-15) will have the first pick of divisional winners because it finished the season with the D-League’s best record. The 14ers will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
It seems logical for the 14ers to pick Erie because 1), they’re 2-0 against the BayHawks, 2), they have the high altitude Erie would have to adjust to and 3), the BayHawks would have to travel to Broomfield, Colo.,which is 1,437 miles from Erie, for the game.
However, Colorado is 2-0 against Bakersfield and Dakota so they may chose to face one of those two teams as well. The fourth wild-card team Colorado can pick could be either Idaho, Utah or Austin. All three teams are 31-18.
Uh oh. It’s scenario time.
2. The Idaho Stampede and Utah Flash will play for the West Division title Saturday night. The winner will take the division and pick second. If Erie is available, Idaho and Utah both finished 1-1 vs. the BayHawks.
Idaho and Utah both beat Erie in their respective home games. When Erie beat Utah, it had rookie Darnell Jackson from one of its NBA affiliates, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When Utah beat the BayHawks, the Flash had two players – guard Morris Almond and center Kyrylo Fesenko – from one of their NBA affiliates, the Utah Jazz. With none of those guys in the mix right now, hard to gauge which squad would win.
What about the Utah-Idaho loser?
(Long, extended sigh) Brace yourselves and be patient.
If Idaho loses to Utah and Austin wins, the Toros will get the fourth seed and home-court advantage for the first-round game and the Stampede will wind up being that fourth playoff team available for a divisional champion to pick.
If Idaho and Austin both lose, the Stampede will get the fourth seed and the Toros will become that fourth playoff team available for a division champion to pick. Idaho owns the tiebreaker against Austin.
See, the fourth seed will get home-court advantage and play the remaining team the three divisional winners don’t pick.
I know. Confusing.
Now, if Utah loses to Idaho and Austin wins, of course the Toros will get that fourth seed and home-court advantage for the first-round game and the Flash would become that fourth team available for a divisional winner to pick.
If Utah and Austin both lose, as of right now, the Flash would get the fourth seed and host the first-round playoff game based having a higher winning percentage against teams with a .500 or better record than the Toros, who would become that fourth wild-card team available for a divisional winner to pick.
That could all change after Saturday’s games, but what’s certain is the Idaho-Utah winner will pick second and Central Division champion Iowa will pick third.
3. The Energy (28-22) are 3-4 against Erie, but two of those wins were without D-League MVP, center Courtney Sims. Sims is with the New York Knicks right now so he wouldn’t be available for the first-round game.
So if the BayHawks are still around to get chosen, Iowa would be faced with a decision to either pick Erie or whatever team winds up the fifth seed between Idaho, Utah or Austin.
For the record, Iowa is 0-2 against Austin, 1-1 against Idaho and 2-0 against Utah.
Somebody start the playoffs please so I won’t have to go through this stuff again. They don’t start until Tuesday?
(Longer, more extended sigh). Somebody pray for me.