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, June 17, 2010

WNBA Weekend: Thrive Or Survive

By Mel Greenberg

(Updating to reflect the Indiana win over Seattle on Thursday night)

The headline spotlighting the rest of the WNBA schedule this week through Sunday pretty much tells the storyline of competition.

Teams off the competitive starts, such as Eastern Conference leader Atlanta and Western Conference runaway-at-the-moment Seattle, have a chance to add to their successes to date.

Teams trailing at the bottom of each conference need a quick jump start before starting to fall away from the pack. In the case of the West, which at the moment is the Seattle Storm and the five others, though Thursday night the Indiana Fever became the second team in the East to short-circuit the folks from the Northwest., the one upside to the mediocrity of the moment is teams may continue to play bad but because four spots must be filled in the two rounds of conference play in the postseason, the teams that play less bad will still be in the hunt.

Rather than do a day-by-day, which the Guru has been offering on idle Mondays, let's look at the view through each team's windshield at the stops and hosting just ahead.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlanta (9-3) -- The Dream, which maintained forward progress with a win Tuesday night over the Chicago Sky, has a chance to open some space at the top if the teams right behind stumble, which is a possibility.
Coach Marynell Meadors' squad has chance to take care of some of its own business visiting the defending Eastern champion Indiana Fever on Saturday night.

Connecticut (6-3) -- On a variation of a traditional theme at the moment, the Sun video could be called the home to the playoffs.
Coach Mike Thisbault with an excellent blend of youthful talent and experienced veterans is 6-0 at home. The bad news is the winless road mark at 0-3.
So a test is just ahead with the Sun visiting the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night and then to the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.
A split is mandatory to keep pace behind Atlanta, though the Sun could return to its previous brief moment in first place last weekend with a sweep and an Atlanta loss to Indiana.
With Los Angeles struggling at the moment, Connecticut could be playing with house change by winning at Staples.

Indiana (7-4) -- The Fever in the one game Thursday night on the WNBA schedule stopped Seattle as coach Lin Dunn's troops looked impressive with a win that continued the recent recovery from a wobbly start.
Then comes a visit from Atlanta Saturday so it's a big week. From the Fever perspective, a split that includes a competitive loss to the Dream will be a good enough statement for now though a sweep will mean so much more.

Washington (6-4) -- The Mystics, on a bit of a roll at the moment, hosts the Chicago Sky Saturday night in a game the Guru will attend at the Verizon Center after traveling to New York Friday night in Madison Square Garden.
A must win is in the cards, not from any long-range life-or-death situation, in terms of staying in front of the Liberty, especially if New York upsets Seattle Friday night.
Besides, with a heavy home schedule this month, Washington needs to capitalize -- no pun intended -- after letting Atlanta off the hook earlier this month.

New York (4-5) -- The Liberty has one game but that is value enough when Seattle visits Friday night coming directly from Thursday night's visit to Indiana looking to get back in the win column after the loss to the Fever.
A win keeps pace with the pack tightly grouped in front. A loss isn't terrible, but with a chance to make some headlines at home, why waste the chance.

Chicago (4-7) -- After a four-game win streak, the Sky has been trending downward and needs a win at Washington to keep the talk more about playoffs than the future draft lottery pick featuring UConn's Maya Moore. Of course, some would argue that in the long range, landing that prize may be worth a dismal summer. But it's way too early to think like that, especially when trying to increase the fan base in the Windy City.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Seattle (9-2) -- The Storm, having been stopped in the Midwest sector of the East again -- this time Thursday night by Indiana -- continue a back-to-back road swing with a visit to the New York Liberty Friday night in Madison Square Garden . The San Antonio Silver Stars visit Sunday.
A 2-1 week would not be terrible though a 1-2 would be a bit sour if the next loss is to San Antonio without regard to an impending result in New York.

Phoenix (5-5) -- The Mercury host San Antonio Friday night and then Connecticut on Sunday. A sweep would be helpful in the conference race for first if Seattle cools down. Beating the Silver Stars would be considered a necessity while getting the Sun at home would be good insurance for a series split with a return game still to play in Casinoland.

San Antonio (3-6) -- Now we're in Survival Land the rest of the way in the Western standings. The Silver Stars have two toughies, visiting Phoenix Friday night and then Seattle Sunday. While a sweep would be wonderful, for now a split could be satisfactory, especially if San Antonio can catch Seattle off guard Sunday night on the Storm's return from its Midwest-East swing.

Tulsa (3-6) -- Someone making the league schedule must have got their eyesight stuck on the Shock and Minnesota Lynx continuously meeting each other.
It's a home-and-home this weekend with a visit to Minnesota Friday and a return trip from the Lynx Saturday.
The good news for both teams is their five-game series will actually be over and the next time they'll meet is either in the playoffs or next season unless the two teams are passing through the same airport.
The Shock, the former once-proud three-time WNBA champion Detroit Shock, has been reduce to a roster resembling expansion team material. The good news for Tulsa is the domination to date of Minnesota has kept Nolan Richardson's squad potentially alive for a playoff berth. The last night needed from Tulsa's perspective is Minnesota suddenly living up to the promise of the preseason.

Los Angeles (3-7) -- The Sparks are perhaps the disappointment to date in the WNBA, not counting the views of fans living in the Twin Cities metropolis in Minnesota.
If the Sparks can take advantage of Connecticut's road stumbles Friday night, it's a start, for the moment, to stay in the playoff race, though, as mentioned at the top of this post, surviving over the long haul may be good enough.

Minnesota (2-9) -- Ground control to the Lynx, are you there. Injuries and an inept offense has soured a promise before the launch of the season. But the two wins are over Tulsa in Oklahoma on opening night, and a home win over Phoenix. Basically, from a psychological standpoint, a sweep is mandatory. But all is not lost yet, due to other struggles in the West. However, two more losses and people will soon be uttering some phrases from the old Steve Miller Band song, time is slipping, slipping, slipping ...

The Guru will be back with the New York game Friday night and also doing the usual game stuff at http://twitter.com/womhoopsguru

-- Mel

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