Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

WNBA: Sun Could Still Shine on Second

By Mel Greenberg

Just 24 hours after a tough loss in Washington to the Mystics, the Connecticut Sun recovered to down the Indiana Fever, 77-74, in Indianapolis and rekindle their shot at gaining the second seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round.

Indiana (19-13) still leads the Sun (18-14) by a game in the standings, but the Sun could catch Indiana Friday night if Connecticut beats the New York Liberty in Madison Square Garden and Indiana loses at the San Antonio Silver Stars.

If both teams win or lose, they go to the wire Sunday when Connecticut would need to beat the Washington at home in Uncasville and Indiana to lose at home to the Detroit Shock, who have already gained all the playoff perks and will be in tuneup mode.

Washington could become the final playoff participant on Thursday night by eliminating New York head on at the Verizon Center. That would then give Connecticut two straight opponents who have nothing left riding on the outcomes.

Of course, a New York win Thursday night to keep the Liberty holding on to some playoff oxygen changes the opponent intensity scenario for the Sun, who then could do Washington a favor by eliminating New York from the playoffs Friday night.

Indiana, meanwhile, will be facing a San Antonio team that will still be in the hunt for for first or second place in the West despite Wednesday night's 81-74 loss at the Sacramento Monarchs.

Had the Silver Stars won, they would own at least second place and first-round home-court advantage.

The West Still Tight and Undetermined

There's nothing at stake Thursday night, except that, well, the Minnesota Lynx could clinch the worst record in the WNBA with a loss to Detroit in Minneapolis. That would make the Lynx the frontrunner in the lotto ball race for the No. 1 pick for next April's lucractive draft.

It will also raise a question as to how many No. 1 picks is Minnesota allowed without leaving the basement. Two years ago, the Lynx picked up former LSU star Seimone Augustus with the No. 1 pick.

After last season, Minnesota had the worst record, but lost the pick in the lotto to the Phoenix Mercury. Not to worry, after former Duke star Lindsey Harding was selected, the Mercury traded her to Phoenix, but misfortune struck in July when she suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

Meanwhile at the high end of the West, Phoenix, currently holding a one-game-lead over San Antonio and a two-game lead over Sacramento, has a home-and-home Friday and Sunday with Sacramento.

A Mercury win Friday night clinches the No. 1 seed in the conference and Phoenix could also be in position to be gain home-court advantage in the finals if the Mercury win the West and someone upsets Detroit in the East.

Phoenix has the tie-breaker with San Antonio on season series and would have a tie-break on conference record with Sacramento if the Monarchs sweep.

Sacramento and San Antonio tied the season series and could tie on season conference record so let's wait for further until Friday to further break it down to the next tie breaker, which would be best record against all WNBA teams better than .500.

For those of you working ahead of the Guru, unlike a year ago when the lineup of better than .500 teams was in flux, meaning a contender could have lost an advantage with a change, the plus .500 teams are locked into place. They are Detroit, Indiana and Connecticut in the East and the three that are in this discussion in the West.

Oh yeah, Seattle will be the fourth seed no matter what.

Meanwhile, a three-way deadlock for No. 1 could still happen, which would cause the WNBA budget for Western Conference regular season champs apparel and the like could take a serious fnancial hit. Oh yeah, they only do that in college.

If Sacramento sweeps Phoenix, they tie at 21-13. And if San Antonio splits its final two games with Indiana and at Minnesota, Sunday, it becomes a three-way finish.

Phoenix then emerges with the best overall against the other two and then depending how San Antonio splits would create the conference record or plus .500 tie breakers.

And, yes, in that same permutation, the Silver Stars could still win the West outright if they sweep and Sacramento sweeps Phoenix. Then Phoenix would be the second seed on conference record tie-breaker with Sacramento.

All this is also impacting the voting for postseason awards with many persons holding ballots waiting for the dust to settle this weekend to help determine their choices in very tight competition.

We learned this how-far-do-they-advance-trick from our friends in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association who have used that reference in explaining some controversial collegiate all-American picks in the past.

MVP, for example, could put Diana Taurasi over the top with a Phoenix No. 1 seed, depending how Seattle's Lauren Jackson is viewed in term of best talent vs. team performance. Or Becky Hammon, acquired in a draft-day trade with New York, could gain extra support with a first-place or second-place finish for San Antonio.

Bill Laimbeer says his Detroit team has a lot of weapons in dominating the league, which is why some of his stars get lost in the shuffle. But Cheryl Ford is injured, although Deanna Nolan is one of the best clutch shooters in the league, unless we're talking about best clutch shooter against Connecticut.

The Sun's Katie Douglas remains on the table for deliberation.

Coach of the year could also go Phoenix coach Paul Westhead's way ahead of San Antonio's Dan Hughes or vice versa depending on the weekend's results. There is also sentiment for Chicago Sky first-year coach Bo Overton off of the improvement from its expansion season a year ago.

And the mix also includes Sacramento's Jenny Boucek, who took over the Monarchs and kept the two-time Western Conference defending champions in contention. Washington's Tree Rollins has also been mentioned after bringing the Mystics back from a 1-8 start when he took over for Richie Adubato.

Yeah, before Shock media spokesman John Maxwell blasts me awake after sunrise if he has time to read this, toss in Bill Laimbeer's name, although the Shock didn't do anything extra than Laimbeer promised they would do.

-- Mel

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