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.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Bottom's Up For New York After Rout By Connecticut

By Mel Greenberg

It was Friday Night Lights Out for the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks on the road in the WNBA while the Washington Mystics avoided being dimmed at the finish by the Indiana Fever.

Meanwhile the Seattle Storm fed off the winless team in the Tulsa Shock that has kept the normal Western Conference powerhouse from being likewise.

And then there are the Minnesota Lynx, the defending league champions who are now a WNBA best-start-ever 10-0 following the win in Phoenix.

It seems like only two years ago, which it was, that the Midwesterners were among a four-team treadmill fighting for three playoff spots in the Western Conference behind a then-runaway Seattle contingent.

As has been told many times here and elsewhere, the 2010 regular season featured a key game in the conference near the end in which the Lynx took a lead over Los Angeles with seconds remaining only to see the Sparks get the ball down court to veteran Tina Thompson, now on Seattle, who nailed the shot.

When all was said and done that slim result put the Hollywood women into the postseason and Minnesota was relegated to the draft lottery, which offered the prize of former UConn sensation Maya Moore to whomever got the right bounce of the ping pong balls to win the overall No. 1 pick.

Tulsa had the best odds of the four teams in the hunt but Lady Luck turned in Minnesota's direction and the rest is history, though past No. 1 lottery results and a few key deals have also added to the motherlode of talent thriving in the Twin Cities -- on the Minneapolis side of the combo.

All of that brings us to the discussion of the present competition where besides the break for the Olympics just weeks away there is rapidly developing two different races as the Connecticut Sun 97-55 wipeout of the Liberty illustrated.

Los Angeles, despite its rout by the host Atlanta Dream, and Minnesota are clearly more in the hunt for playoff spots in the West than their past time spent collecting lottery picks -- though the Sparks have had stellar seasons along the way.

Connecticut, the transformed Chicago Sky, and most likely the Indiana Fever are likewise in the Eastern Conference.

Two of the rest of the teams in the Western group have to participate in the playoffs under league rules. The San Antonio Silver Stars are more in than out but are closer to the crowd behind them than the crowd in front.

Atlanta would seem likely to be in the same shape as the Texans.

But for the fans of the others there is the bright prospect, as it was that year in the NBA when Patrick Ewing was the prize, that the worse their team plays the more likely that franchise will have a shot at one of three collegiate superstar seniors in Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Some would say, which is better at this point for New York or, for that matter the WNBA. considering the market where the Liberty dwells? -- edging someone else to make the playoffs and get ousted 2-0 zip -- or to get into the future talent fiesta.

New York already has one bad experience several seasons ago, a result that was up close and personal in the Liberty's face Friday night.

That would be one Tina Charles, the former UConn star and New York City homegirl who became the overall No. 1 pick in 2010 of the Sun, acquired in a trade with Minnesota, but the original owner of the pick was the Liberty.

Of course when New York made the trade in 2009 few conceived at the time that the Liberty weren't going to be a playoff team so the organization couldn't be totally faulted, not the return was anything near the value of the native of New York.

So the time has come to watch the 2012 lottery chase evolvement of the cellar dwellers, which may be in a league of their own.

Ultimately, the ping pong balls will have to bounce the right way to bring smiles to winners of the rights to the prizes of next April's draft and there are more candidates than slots right now.

Then, of course, teams must finish in a way to have the opportunity to beat the odds that will favor the worst team -- as Los Angeles did last season to pick Stanford star Nneka Oguwmike as the overall No. 1 in April while Tulsa, which was a WNBA worst-ever 3-3,1 even failed at ping pong luck, landing the No. 4 pick.

It is early and much will change, but somewhere in a pile of close results may be the one or two that enables someone to duplicate the good fortune of Minnesota that seemed something much worse when the Lynx suffered that last-second loss to Los Angeles.

So, to give everyone in the WNBA something to cheer for, even when that doesn't seem the thing to do, here is the first look at the lottery horse race.

Again, there will be alterations and by the Olympic break, the tracker may have to be changed.

There are also variables, Olympic preparations for the foreigners who reside in the WNBA have deprived Seattle of Lauren Jackson, Tulsa of Liz Cambage, Atlanta of Erika de Souza, for example, while injuries to Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi have impacted the performance of Phoenix.

In this first outlook, seven teams are being listed but understand that only four can be in the hunt and despite the overall ranking only two each out of each conference can land in the lottery.

San Antonio and Atlanta, at this early hour, are more likely to be in the playoffs, but since they are not far above the lower group they are included now for comparison's sake.

Indiana is conceded to be playoff bound, but all it takes is unforeseen problems or a long slide to cause a realignment of the chase.

The focus here, as they say for amusement purposes, are the narrow results that will shape the final outcome, though if teams play consistently bad overall, the close games may be a moot point.

Six-point differentials are the cutoff, for now, and there are games that are close with two minutes to go and then become blowouts but everything can't be factored.

So here is the first chart and at the end of the month there will be an update. The order is bottom-side up so the worst is on top. The first three teams are all in the West so one will eventually be eliminated by default but how that happens remains to be seem.

As much as the discussion has been focused on New York, there are those fans in Washington that wouldn't have cried Friday night if Indiana had rallied successfully with its last shots to win over the Mystics.

Also, since reverse tiebreakers may come into play in the final standings in September, as they did when Los Angeles overtook Minnesota in 2007 at the finish and ultimately was able to win the lottery and pick Tennessee sensation Candace Parker, the records of the lottery chasers against each other in this group will also be listed, but, for now, only in terms of the close games.

Team Overall W-L Narrow W-L Vs. All Vs. East Vs. West

1. Tulsa 0-9 0-3 0-2 0-1 0-1
2. Seattle 2-7 0-2 0-0 0-0 0-0
3. Phoenix 2-6 1-0 1-0 0-0 1-0
4. Wash. 2-5 2-2 1-1 0-1 1-0
5. New York 3-7 2-1 2-0 2-0 0-0
6. San Ant. 3-4 0-3 0-1 0-1 0-0
7. Atlanta 4-5 1-2 1-1 0-1 1-0

Notes: Tulsa has a two-point loss to Phoenix and three-point loss to Wash.
Seattle has two narrow losses to Los Angeles.
Phoenix has a narrow win over Tulsa.
Washington holds off Tulsa and Indiana and has narrow losses to New York and Minnesota (on a Lindsay Whalen shot).
New York loses narrowly to Connecticut and holds off Washington and Atlanta.
San Antonio loses narrowly to Connecticut, Minnesota and Atlanta.
Atlanta loses narrowly to New York and Chicago and edges San Antonio.

That's it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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