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 19, 2010

WNBA: Week's Schedule Shows Rough Waters Everywhere

By Mel Greenberg

While everyone in the WNBA is in a closing out strong mentality, on Tuesday, the Seattle Storm will be seeking to also tie the former Houston Comets for best start when they visit the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The Storm at 18-2 will also be looking to widen their enormous lead in the West to 10.5 games over the defending champion Phoenix Mercury, which will be idle following Monday's visit to the White House to get the traditional presidential salute for winning a title.

Incidentally, Phoenix star Diana Taurasi, the reigning MVP and former University of Connecticut sensation, ought to have a permament guest room at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue for the number of visits she has made.

There were three trips to the nation's capital following NCAA titles won in 2002-04, two more to celebrate Olympic gold medal efforts in 2004 and 2008, and the two including Monday for winning WNBA titles with Phoenix in 2007 and 2009.

One thing is certain as the season reaches the stretch drive for playoff qualification and seeding, other then when Seattle meets its conference foes, and even then some uncertainty exists, one cannot look at most of these games and say for certain who the winners will be.

Home has been sweet for the Connecticut Sun at 8-1 but in most places the prospect of friendly crowds have not always translated into guaranteed victories.

And with that said, most teams this week will play two crucial games, while New York, San Antonio, Tulaa and Los Angeles will play three. When the dust settles Sunday night, there may be some clues about some teams but not all.

Every game is important, though, no question because looking back can't reverse damage when it occurs.

That's the situation the New York Liberty finds itself going into Tuesday night's trip to the Connecticut Sun -- the Guru is feeling like a commuter -- after missing a chance to beat the Indiana Fever in an overtime loss Sunday at Madison Square Garden in which a 40-point performance by former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter was wasted.

Mired in last place in the rugged Eastern Conference at 9-10 New York begins a three-game road swing that continues Friday at the Chicago Sky and Sunday at the Atlanta Dream.

A sweep could bring the Liberty closer to playoff contention -- New York is 3.5 games out of first but just 2.5 behind the fourth-place Sun.

While Chicago and New York haven't been able to break up the frontrunners, a record worth noting is that the Sky are 6-11 right now in Eastern competition while New York is 6-6, which could become a factor if the second tie-breaker for playoff entry is needed.

Defending Eastern champion Indiana has made it back to the top of the conference by percentage points at the moment with a visit from Los Angeles Thursday and a trip to Washington Saturday on the slate. The Fever are likely to make postseason and a sweep would add fuel to their effort this week.

Atlanta ran away early but has now fallen to the pack with a three-game losing streak. The Dream has a major game Wednesday morning in Washington against the Mystics and then hosts New York Sunday, as previously mentioned.

Washington has squandered a few opportunities to grab first place after the All-Star break and this is one of the biggest weeks in Mystics history at this stage of the season. The other game ahead is Saturday's visit from Indiana.

Connecticut, which had been drifting downward, has reversed direction and with home games Tuesday night against New York and Saturday night against the Los Angeles Sparks, this is a chance for the Sun to bolt toward the top.
The last time Tuesday's opponents met, New York rallied from a huge first-quarter deficit to blitz past the Sun in Madison Square Garden using a tenacious press.

Chicago in a back-to-back set of games hosts New York Friday and then heads to San Antonio Saturday with wins all important right now for the Sky.

Over in the West, Seattle keeps chugging along with Tuesday's game at San Antonio and then a whole week off -- who designed the WNBA schedule anyway? -- before hosting the Tulsa Shock Sunday.

The magic number to clinch the Western regular season title for Seattle appears to be around five. The race for the other three spots mahy go to the wire and maybe not.

This is sounding repetitious but Los Angeles could use a sweep this week. However after Tuesday's game with the Tulsa Shock, the Sparks -- the Candace Parker-less Sparks -- visit Indiana Thursday and Connecticut Saturday. Yeah, there are clear favorites in those two games and none are the visitor.

Los Angeles trails the fourth playoff spot by 2.5 games but the Sparks' West record is 4-9. There are three games with Minnesota that loom large considering the season series with Seattle and Phoenix have already gone the other direction, while the one with San Antonio is a mere loss away. But if the Lynx can continue with its share of wins without Candice Wiggins, the thought of a sweep in those games by Los Angeles over Minnesota may not be worth much.

San Antonio, trying to stay with the also-rans, has the Seattle game Tuesday, a key visit to Minnesota on Thursday and then a visit from Chicago on Saturday.

Phoenix visits Tulsa Thursday and then a showdown at Minnesota Saturday, while the Lynx, looking at the week from their perspective, can solidify themselves with a sweep of San Antonio Thursday and the Phoenix game Saturday.

Tulsa is mathmetically alive but with losses pilling up, Tuesday's game at Los Angeles is a must-win -- ok, they all are -- as is Thursday's game with Phoenix.
As for Sunday's game at Seattle -- yeah that's one that can be said "forgettaboutit."

Here's the matchups on a day-by-day list for the rest of the week with times all being EDT.

Tuesday
Seattle at San Antonio, 12:30 p.m.
Tulsa at Los Angeles, 3 p.m.
New York at Connecticut, 8 p.m.

Wednesday
Atlanta at Washington, 11:30 p.m.

Thursday
Los Angeles at Indiana, 7 p.m.
San Antonio at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Phoenix at Tulsa, 8 p.m.

Friday
New York at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday
Indiana at Washington, 7 p.m.
Los Angeles at Connecticut, 7 p.m.
Phoenix at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Chicago at San Antonio, 8 p.m.

Sunday
New York at Atlanta, 3 p.m.
Tulsa at Seattle, 9 p.m.

-- Mel

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