IEL SEASON 9 ACADEMY PLAYOFF PREVIEW

It’s that time of the season again! After eight weeks of League Play, the wait is finally over. This weekend, the 12 best Playoff teams will go at it to crown the Season 9 Academy League Champions.

The Playoff period will be longer than ever. Over the course of the next four weekends, 84 games will be played to find four champions out of 48 total contenders.

The Playoff will take place from Friday (today) to Sunday and will be streamed on our Twitch. Make sure to tune in at 6 PM BST to catch the action!


GROUP A

Override Esports (Seed 2)

Override Esports finished League Play on a 13-3 record and have scored a total of 192 goals, the most out of any team in Academy League. Their initial plans for their roster fell through early on as a couple of their prospective players left the IEL server, never to be seen again. Instead, they got QX5Z, RealSpartax and Deimo63 as their main roster, which is a huge upgrade on what they were previously planning on, and it showed as they went on a 9 game winning streak, only to bizarrely forfeit their final series of League Play against Silverbacks. Their other losses came against Shaman Esports and Ignite Esports, two teams who are also in Playoffs.

They are rewarded for their strong performance in league play with a bye into the second round, where they will face the winner of Zero Mercy vs Shaman Esports. If Override Esports face Shaman Esports, it will be a great opportunity to get revenge on a team that beat them in League Play, but if they face Zero Mercy, it could be very tricky since Zero Mercy have the best defensive record in the entire league. It is most likely that Override Esports will face Zero Mercy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose that series because while they can score for fun, they interestingly have the worst defensive record in the Sigma Conference, and Zero Mercy eat defensively poor teams for breakfast.

Override Esports won Academy League last season, but it will be much tougher for them this time out, and an early exit is more likely than you think.

Predicted Finish: 5th/6th

Ignite Esports (Seed 3)

This team features their AGM, Potter, alongside Mystiful and new recruit, viaable on their main roster. They removed Niels shortly before their week 6 fixtures and took a while to adapt to the new roster, but they finished the season strongly on a 12-4 record and a win rate of 66.13%, with their final game being a 3-1 win against eNightmare on stream. Three of their losses have come against teams that reached playoffs, namely Galamo Esports, Hamburg Sharks, and Zero Mercy. Fortunately for them, only Zero Mercy are in the same group as them so their chances of making it through to the final bracket on Sunday are very high.

Since Ignite Esports are one of the top 4 seeds, they get a bye into the second round of playoffs, where they will face the winner of Fearless Esports vs Zero Fox Gaming, which should be plain sailing. Zero Fox Gaming have been somewhat inconsistent from week 5 onwards, meanwhile, Fearless Esports are one of the weaker teams that achieved a place in playoffs. I fully expect Ignite Esports to beat either of those teams and reach the final bracket as both Fearless Esports and Zero Fox Gaming have had inconsistent finishes to the season.

Predicted Finish: 3rd/4th

Zero Fox Gaming (Seed 6)

Zero Fox Gaming started the season like a house on fire, winning all of their first 8 series, including against Disconnected eSports, who were also unbeaten at the time. From then on they have been inconsistent and out of form, losing 3-1 against Fidelity Esports and getting swept by Dexterity in week 5 threatened to derail their season. They decided to take action by releasing Ginex and signing Vsiky in his place and they got back on track in week 6, but from then on an element of complacency crept in and they finished the season with a 12-4 record and a win rate of 62.07%. Interestingly, since signing Vsiky, who is 3rd in goals per game in Academy League, Zero Fox Gaming have yet to play a series with their full main roster, although I fear that they may have left it too late to start playing with their main roster in playoffs.

Their first opponent will be Fearless Esports, a team they beat 3-1 in league play, and I have to admit, I do not have particularly high hopes for Fearless Esports since their roster on paper is one of the weakest out of all the teams in playoffs. Should they beat Fearless Esports, their next opponents will be Ignite Esports, and the odds will be against Zero Fox Gaming in that match since Ignite Esports finished league play in better form and ensure that they did not get complacent.

Predicted Finish: 7th/8th

Zero Mercy (Seed 7)

Zero Mercy head into the Playoff with a solid record of 11-5 and a win percentage of 65%, identical to RL Ireland in Group B. They finished 4th in the Omicron Conference, amassing 184 goals, the most in their conference, and conceding the least in Academy at 97. They have the best goal difference in the Academy League, and the 3rd best in all of IEL. Their roster consists of Jambon Ron, Bubzzz, Simsy and JustTooSpooky. They are spectacular statistically, with the most goals, points and assists per game. They also have the second-most shots, most stolen boost and spend the most time in the offensive half and third, which is testament to their attacking play style.

Statistically, Jambon Ron is their star player, 4th in MVP ranking, 9th in points per game, 7th in goals per game, 4th in assists per game and 6th in shots per game. The attack is led by Jambon Ron and Bubzzz, who has the 5th most goals per game in Academy. Simsy holds down the defence, spending the most time back of the three.

Zero Mercy went 3-3 against Playoff teams in League Play, which means they should be fairly competitive. If they can convert their astounding stats to wins, they can go far. In their first game, they face 10th seed Shaman. If they beat Shaman, they will face the 2nd seed Override who they have a good chance of beating.

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Shaman Esports (Seed 10)

Shaman have had a strong season, finishing 5th in the Sigma conference with a record of 10-6 and a win percentage of 60%. They have consistently shown that they can be a threat to top teams as they went 2-4 against Playoff teams in League Play. Amazingly, they have the third least shots in all of Academy, but the 12th most goals, giving them the best shooting percentage in all of IEL at 44%. They also average the most boost in the tank in Academy.

Nolleren is the standout player statistically, having the most points and saves per game and leading the MVP rating. Nolleren, ecliptus_, Eme and PureSkill, form a robust side that will be tough to break down for any team. Any team that takes their chances like Shaman do is a threat.

In the first round, Shaman face 7th seed Zero Mercy, who are stronger on paper, but they are more than capable of getting a win. If they do so, they will face 2nd seed Override, which will be a much tougher challenge.

Predicted Finish: 9th-12th

Fearless Esports (Seed 11)

Fearless Esports had an indifferent start to the season, winning 3 out of their first 6 series before picking up their form in weeks 4 and 5. After week 5 they curiously decided to release Zyro, and sign PurpleToast to form the main roster alongside Vapidz and KillerGoose. Interestingly, their form after the roster change was similar to what it was in the first 3 weeks of league play, although Fearless Esports’ season was much harder at the end and what it was at the start, as they played Zero Fox Gaming, Disconnected eSports, RL Ireland and Zero Mercy, all of whom qualified for playoffs. While it was an extremely rough run in for them, it will prepare them for what is to come in the playoffs.

Fearless Esports start their playoff journey with a match against Zero Fox Gaming, a team which they lost to 3-1 in league play, although Zero Fox Gaming benefitted from a series of unfortunate disconnects. Not only that, but Fearless Esports were using their sub for that game, and Zero Fox Gaming have become somewhat complacent in the final week or so in league play. That being said, Zero Fox Gaming should be able to concentrate and play to the best of their ability now that they are in the playoffs, and should ultimately prove too much for Fearless Esports.

Predicted Finish: 9th-12th

PREDICTIONS

Predicted by GM667


GROUP B

Disconnected eSports (Seed 1)

After ending the League Play component of the season as the top seed in the Omicron Conference, Disconnected will be feeling ecstatic with their performance this season.  In the first six weeks of League Play, Disconnected only managed to lose a single series, in Game 5 against close rivals Zero Fox Gaming, before Disconnected’s form dipped slightly in the culmination of League Play, losing 3-1 to Aardwolf Esports in Week 7, then being swept by Dexterity in Week 8. After coming out of League Play with the highest win percentage out of all teams, combined with an impressive 13-3 win record, Disconnected have managed to secure themselves the No.1 seed for the playoffs, putting them in the best possible position to contend for the title of Season 9 Academy Champions.

In Round 2 of the playoffs, they’ll face RL Ireland or Hamburg Sharks, and after beating RL Ireland 3-1 in Week 4 of League Play, captain VIIxTobi might be hoping that their side will face RL Ireland for a guaranteed place in Day 3 of the playoffs. Alternatively, Hamburg Sharks were unable to beat Fearless Esports in their cross-conference match in Week 5, and Disconnected were able to scrape past in Game 5 in their series against Fearless in Week 8. With this in mind, Disconnected will feel very optimistic about their chances of going through to Day 3, and also have a strong chance of advancing to the semi-finals as the top seed from Group B.

Predicted Finish: 1st

Dexterity (Seed 4)

After going 6-2 in the first half of the season, only losing to Overture and Fearless Esports, both in a Game 5 scenario, Dexterity convincingly started the season, despite being in 5th place of the Omicron Conference heading into the second half of the season. In their cross-conference series, Dexterity were narrowly edged out once again in Game 5, this time to Override Esports, who would go on to take the No.1 seed from the Sigma Conference. Following this, the boys in black and green dusted themselves off and went on a six series win streak, the highlight being a 3-0 sweep of top seed Disconnected Esports in Week 8 to secure Top 2 in the standings, despite being swept 3-0 in their final series of LEague Play by RL Ireland. 

In Round 2 of the playoffs, Dexterity will face the winner of Galamo Esports vs Shadow Esports, two teams unknown to the roster captained by dylanb, and so they’ll be watching closely to see who comes out of that series on top. Dexterity should feel confident about their chances in their first series, due to having the higher seed, and will be looking at the other side of the bracket intensely to see who they might get to face for a guaranteed place in the semi-finals of the playoffs.

Predicted Finish: 3rd/4th

Galamo Esports (Seed 5)

Galamo come into the playoffs as the 6th seed, having missed out on a Top 2 spot in the Sigma Conference by 1.51%, after sharing the same win-loss record as Ignite Esports, although having a slightly less favourable win percentage. Their season started off extremely positive, winning their first seven series in succession before losing to Fidelity Esports in Game 5 to end their streak. A dismal 0-2 Week 5 followed, featuring a 3-2 loss to cross-conference rivals Disconnected Esports, as well as an unlikely sweep from Zero-G Esports. However, after having the strongest defence out of all of the teams in the Academy division, conceding 1.51 goals per game, Galamo were able to finish the season strongly, winning five of their last six series, with their only defeat falling in the hands of Override Esports, the No.1 seed from the Sigma Conference. 

In Round 1 of the playoffs, Galamo will face Shadow Esports, a team which they were able to sweep 3-0 back in Week 2, which could fill them with confidence heading into this series. In that series, captain Zayuf managed to achieve an impressive 471 points per game, and they’ll be wanting to replicate that performance if they are wanting to advance to face Dexterity in the second round.

Predicted Finish: 7th/8th

Hamburg Sharks (Seed 8)

Hamburg Sharks have not disappointed this season in Academy. They finished 4th in the Sigma conference with a record of 10-6 and a win percentage of 60.94%, which grants them 8th seed. They went 2-4 against Playoff teams, which isn’t great, but it shows they can compete. They hold the second-worst goal difference in the Playoff. They have the 3rd most saves and spend the 2nd most time in their own half, which means they sit deep.

Their roster consists of manuel1988, Niklas, CriMeZ. and Samxy_. None of the players are in the Top 45 of MVP rating, and they appear to be a rather even roster statistically.

In their first game, they face 9th seed RL Ireland, which will be a challenging game, but not insurmountable. If they manage to defeat the Irishmen, they will meet the 1st seed Disconnected Esports, which will be much more difficult.

Predicted Finish: 9th-12th

RL Ireland (Seed 9)

With an impressive record of 11-5, 9th seed RL Ireland finished 5th in their conference with a win percentage of 65%. Throughout League Play, they struggled against the best, going 1-4 against Playoff teams. They are a strong attacking force, placing 8th in most goals per game in Academy. They appear to be an attacking side, spending the 8th most time in the offensive third.

Dave Forehead and CK are the two standout players statistically, placing within the Top 20 in most of the individual stats. Dave Forehead is also 17th in the MVP Ranking.

Despite their weak record against Playoff teams, RL Ireland must do their best to reach as far as possible. It is well within their reach to win a few games, but it will be a tough battle. In their first game, they face Hamburg Sharks, which will be an interesting game, taking the contrasting playstyles into account. If they defeat Hamburg Sharks, they will face the 1st seed Disconnected, which would be quite the challenge.

Predicted Finish: 5th/6th

Shadow Esports (Seed 12)

Coming into the playoffs as the lowest isn’t an easy feat by any means, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to win the playoffs from this stage. Take RL Ireland Master in Season 6 for example, after a disappointing 9-7 finish in League Play, they were able to charge through the entirety of the lower bracket to take the title of Season 6 Master Champions. Whilst the format has changed since then, Shadow Esports may feel as if they have the potential to pull off the same achievement. A rocky start to the season saw Shadow find themselves at 4-4 at the halfway stage in the season, however, after pulling together a few crucial wins over teams such as Fidelity Esports and Valor Esports, Shadow Esports finished their season strongly, with six wins and two losses in the second half of the season, to put them through to the playoffs as the twelfth seed.

With their momentum from recent weeks, Shadow may be able to make their rematch against Galamo Esports in Round 1 of the playoffs slightly less one-sided than their series in Week 2, where Galamo were able to walk away with a 3-0 sweep. Captain Revised Niel will be looking to rejuvenate their side heading into this matchup, as Shadow look to cause some upsets throughout their stay during the playoffs.

Predicted Finish: 9th-12th

PREDICTIONS

Predicted by GM667


FINAL BRACKET PREDICTIONS

Predicted by GM667

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