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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WNBA: Seattle-Phoenix Highlights Six-Pack Tuesday

By Mel Greenberg

Unlike other situations, the WNBA has chosen Monday, the first day of the week, as a time for rest for all 12 of its teams, though one can say it is well earned coming out of the weekend.

It has also enabled the Guru to look back and then look ahead to the next six days of the schedule to provide a guide to the competition which has featured a logjam of success in the Eastern Conference and a logjam of mediocrity behind the Seattle Storm in the West.

However, since the Tuesday games ahead are so plentiful and Wednesday will offer another day of rest, the setup enables the Guru to highlight the league's first Six-Pack setup of the season, which will be a day when all 12 teams will be at the office.

Though the headline here focuses on Seattle, the reality is almost any of the games being played are worthy of being the top attraction.

But Seattle-Phoenix is special among specials in several ways.

Little did the schedule-maker dream that this matchup on this particular night would be so meaningful between the team with the best overall record this season in the Storm (20-2), which will be at home, and the visiting Mercury (10-12), who are the defending WNBA champions and the first second-place team in the history of the league to have a losing record to date.

The irony of this setup is that a Seattle win -- the Storm have a 10-game lead -- will clinch the West regular season title, the earliest a WNBA team will have clinched top seed in its conference for the playoffs.

Phoenix had the best overall record from both conferences a year ago, which became important when the Mercury were able to recover and play the fifth and deciding game at home in the championship series to beat the Indiana Fever for the title.

A Seattle win takes care of the tie-break for the West title because the Storm would be 3-0 over Phoenix. However, when the two teams last met earlier this month in the desert, the Mercury, who have been lighting up the scoreboard in their last two outings, took the Storm to the wire before Seattle prevailed.

The Storm, who romped over last-place Tulsa (4-19) Sunday night, have won 12 straight and are seeking to equal or top the former Houston Comets start of 23-2 in 1998 on the way to their second title in the WNBA's second season.

While Seattle has owned the West, there will be another reason to keep going after wins -- several teams in the East could catch the Storm off a slump to gain the overall best record and home court advantage in the championship series.

Of course, if Seattle got upset early in the conference series, teams in the East not holding a potential playoff berth, such as fifth-place New York (11-11) and sixth-place Chicago (12-12), if they make it to the postseason, might have the best record if they were to advance to the championship series.

Meanwhile, the other five contributing games to Six-Pack Tuesday also have special attractions.

San Antonio (8-14) will be in New York for a cross-conference matchup in Madison Square Garden. The visiting Silver Stars, third in the West, need to stay ahead of fifth-place Los Angeles (7-16), which despite the Sparks' awful record, are only a game out of the last playoff spot.

New York, which blew an opportunity Sunday with a loss at the Atlanta Dream, will have another shot Tuesday night to tie the Connecticut Sun for fourth if the Washington Mystics help out. The Liberty hold a 2-1 edge in the five-game season series with Connecticut.

As said, the Sun (12-10), three games behind first-place Indianapolis (13-7), will host third-place Washington (13-8), which is 1.5 games behind Indiana and 1.5 games in front of Connecticut.

The Sun has lost five-of-seven, including a home loss Saturday night to Los Angeles when the Sparks nailed 15 three-pointers.

So each teams needs the win to stay with the frontrunners and to avoid being caught by New York or Chicago (12-12) if the Sky make a run.

Indiana will be hosting Chicago and again, the Fever needs the win to stay ahead in the East -- the Fever have a one-game lead over Atlanta -- while Chicago can't afford much further slippage though only a game behind fourth-place Connecticut at the moment.

In a tie-break with the Sun, Chicago would have the advantage, but not with New York. Also, the Sky has a dismal East record, which becomes a factor if a second tie-breaker is needed.

Los Angeles is at the fourth-place Minnesota Lynx (7-14), and could tie the home team for fourth with a win while the Lynx, smarting off of Sunday's WNBA highest-combined scoring ever 127-123 home loss to Phoenix, needs to win to keep the Sparks closer to drafting UConn's Maya Moore than making the postseason.

Tulsa is at Atlanta in the other game. The host Dream, obviously need a win with a shot to catch Indy at the top of the East if the Fever lose to Chicago. On the other hand, a loss would drop the Dream behind Washington if the Mystics win and if it became the start of another slide the postseason becomes imperiled.

As for the Shock, the former once-proud Detroit franchise that won three WNBA titles, they are four games off a playoff spot in the West but at the present pace will have the best mathematical opportunity with ping pong balls to land the No. 1 draft pick, which will undoubtedly be Moore no matter who eventually lands the rights.

That said, we'll be back from either New York or Connecticut Tuesday to round this all up and then early Thursday on the overnight, we'll look at the rest of the week that is equally filled with the offerings of Six-Pack Tuesday.

-- Mel

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