While earlier in the week I took a look at who might be at the Crucible in 2016, as is tradition, it is also the time of year when I take a first look at how the draw for the final stages of the Betfred World Championship is shaping up, with five counting events to go prior to the all-important seedings cut-off in April.
For those not familiar with the draw structure for the Betfred World Championship, as is tradition, the top 16 seeded players at the Crucible are placed in the draw in a very specific manner.
For example, the top seed is always scheduled to meet the 16th seed in the second round, the second seed is always poised to meet the 15th seed and so on.
With the final cut-off prior to the Betfred World Championship due fall after the China Open on 4th April 2016, if the draw were to be made today under the latest in-running projected seedings list, it would look like this:
Provisional 2016 World Championship Draw
Stuart Bingham (1) / Qualifier
Stephen Maguire (16) / Qualifier
Joe Perry (9) / Qualifier
Mark Allen (8) / Qualifier
Shaun Murphy (5) / Qualifier
Martin Gould (12) / Qualifier
Mark Williams (13) / Qualifier
Judd Trump (4) / Qualifier
Neil Robertson (3) / Qualifier
Marco Fu (14) / Qualifier
Barry Hawkins (11) / Qualifier
John Higgins (6) / Qualifier
Ronnie O’Sullivan (7) / Qualifier
Ricky Walden (10) / Qualifier
Michael White (15) / Qualifier
Mark Selby (2) / Qualifier
Although he has a comfortable lead at the top of the world rankings at present, Mark Selby will of course not be top seeded for the Crucible in 2016, with defending champion Stuart Bingham guaranteed to head the draw.
Normally this would mean that Bingham would be due to have an ‘easier’ second round draw by facing the 16th seed if both are able to win their openers. With former UK Championship winner Stephen Maguire currently occupying 16th in the latest provisional list however, there is nothing easy about that potential match-up for the defending champion.
Elsewhere, a potential quarter-final between former world champions Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan immediately stands out at the bottom of the draw, with Michael White and Ricky Walden also present in that section.
The second quarter as it stands would be full of attacking talent, with Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump on course for a repeat of their epic quarter-final back in 2013, while Mark Williams and newly crowned German Masters champion Martin Gould are also present.
The third meanwhile would also not be one that any qualifier would want to be drawn in, with two former world champions in John Higgins and Neil Robertson, as well as two other players with Crucible pedigree in Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu.
Of course with so much prize money to be won between now and the final seedings revision following the China Open in early April, the above list will almost certainly change, however it is always interesting to consider what might be possible at this stage.
One notable absentee from the above list of course is Ding Junhui, who at the time of writing faces the possibility of having to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 2007, but will be hoping to change that with five events to go…
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