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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Seattle Heads East Anything But Sleepless

(Guru's note: Since the Guru got a bigger reaction than anticipated, those looking for his Title IX impact on women's basketball retrospective written in the middle of the night for Sunday, can find it under this post.

If you got here via a melgreenberg.com link, click mel's blog on the left panel to get back to the full archive in blogspot. If the Guru skips town to go to Washington Tuesday night, there will still be a Philadelphia/Suburban Women's NCAA Summer League roundup by Wednesday morning off Tuesday's action, which the Guru will attend if he didn't head South.).


By Mel Greenberg

Two teams stabilized in an upward direction in the West while in the East the Atlanta Dream stopped the bleeding at the expense of the New York Liberty, which took an additional hit being overrun Thursday at the WNBA defending champion Minnesota Lynx.

The Seattle Storm, after a dreadful start, or delightful for those draft lottery fans in the Emerald City, mounted a four-game win streak highlighted by the home upset of Minnesota, halting the Lynx's WNBA-record 10-0 start.

That game technically was on the back end of the previous week.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Silver Stars shook off a Friday loss to Seattle by getting their second straight win over the current Western runnerups Los Angeles Sparks in the standings, a win that has coach Dan Hughes' squad more on a playoff-bound tilt.

The Washington Mystics went 0-for-the-West in their three-game road trip, highlighted by a come-from-ahead loss to the Phoenix Mercury in a game between two teams that are more on course for the grand draft lottery sweepstakes.

The Chicago Sky played their first and only game since the foot injury to former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince sidelined her until after the Olympics break but coach Pokey Chatman's group were underdogs either way at Minnesota, which made it two straight after the loss at Seattle.

This week will be more of a measuring stick for Chicago as to the state of things, which the Guru will address in his weekly conference-by-conference, team-by-team preview of the storylines between now and Sunday.

After that, just two more weeks and it will be time to rest for a month, except for those WNBA stars who will either be competing for the USA's gold medal asiprations or those of their respective countries foreign to American shores.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Connecticut Sun (9-3) -- By winning at home in the first of a two-game set against the Indiana Fever before being blasted two nights later by the same team in Indianapolis, coach Mike Thibault's bunch took care of the agenda on the week.

The Sun, who won't see the Fever again until the last week of the season, can do no worse than tie in the four-game series with the Indiana group who finished tied with Connecticut at the top of the East a year ago but got the overall No. 1 conference seed by winning the series with the Sun.

Only two games are on tap for Connecticut this week, a visit to Washington Friday and then a trip back home to the casino on Sunday for a visit from the Seattle Storm.

Technically, though a sweep is possible, the Washington visit is the more critical game because it is a chance to get close to locking up another season-series and add to the fat number of East wins Connecticut has already compiled.

The Sun, who have already gotten as rich as possible through previous drafts, have just one focus in their suitcase in shooting for the best in the East and then going on from there.

There will be two more games against Washington before the break after this week so getting the Mystics while they continue to struggle is a priority.

As for the Seattle visit, the Storm could arrive at Mohegan with a six-game streak and building momentum during this season's annual homecoming trip by former UConn star Sue Bird.

Connecticut is 0-2 against the top guns of the West in Minnesota and Los Angeles in competitive home losses to the Lynx and Sparks.

Considering that the next time the two meet in Seattle in the closing weeks of the season Australian superstar Lauren Jackson will have returned to the Storm from her Olympics hiatus and the race for No. 1 in the East could still be open, this is a worthwhile win that still has significant importance.

To sum it up, 2-0 and the Sun continue to shine, 1-1, depends on which way the 1-1 goes, and 0-2 gives Connecticut's Eastern challengers hope the Sun can be overcome.

Chicago Sky (7-3) -- The week is a tough one, especially without Prince. Had she been uninjured and on board, the Sky would have had one more weapon to make a concept of potentially going 3-0 realistic.

The Chicago menu calls for visits from Indiana, whom the Sky are 0-2 against, on Wednesday, a visit from the Phoenix Mercury on Friday and a visit from Atlanta on Sunday.

Though still loaded with talent, a 3-0 week for the Sky doesn't seem likely, but if it does happen Chatman will be in the hunt for WNBA coach of the year through the rest of the season.

Considering Chicago's battling with Indiana for Eastern positioning, a win over the Fever seems imperative to at least stop the Midwest neighbors from locking up a season series with the Sky.

The only help will be that Indiana will be coming in to the Allstate arena in the suburbs of the Windy City via the back-to-back route after visiting Atlanta on Tuesday.

Phoenix is attainable while Atlanta is a tossup. So in total, going 1-2 isn't terrible, 2-1 is a plus, and 0-3 is a danger signal for a team seeking its first playoffs in seven tries.

But New York, currently out of a playoff spot, trails Chicago by 4.5 games so it would take a balancing Sky-dive and Liberty torch to change both teams fortunes at the same time.

Indiana Fever (7-4) -- In two games with Connecticut, the Fever wanted a sweep but got enough leverage out of a split to stay in contention as defending Eastern regular-seas0n co-champions.

The back-to-back mentioned in the Chicago report is all that's on the Fever's slate so a sweep will be dandy, a split won't be terrible, but even if the week results at going 0-2, Indiana still has a four-game lead over New York in the hunt for one of the four playoff spots.

Atlanta Dream (5-7) -- Forcing New York to cough up the ball on Sunday, except when the Liberty weren't using the unforced variety of turnovers, got the Dream even on the season series with the Liberty at 2-2 and a little more distance for the fourth playoff spot.

It is not impossible for the two-time defending Eastern playoff champions to dream of a 3-0 week that includes Indiana's daytime visit to Georgia on Tuesday, a trip to Tulsa to meet the Shock on Friday and a visit to Chicago on Sunday.

All those games could go either way, Tulsa's 1-11 record notwithstanding.

But considering the stakes, 3-0 for the Dream would be spectacular and 2-1 holds serve. However, going 1-2 is not helpful, and 0-3 is worse besides giving New York , except for its fans cheering for the lottery, hope for a return to the playoffs.

New York Liberty (4-9) -- Just one game is on tap, a visit from Seattle on Saturday. Once again the Liberty, as has been the case in every game but the Washington visit, are the underdogs.

Considering the state of things, a win avoids a deepening hole from continuing for the moment, though a loss, as mentioned, could help ultimately help make the long-range future secure off the price of a painful present.

Washington Mystics (2-8) -- The good news is that despite everything going wrong, the Mystics are still just two games off a playoff spot, though if Atlanta has a big week, toss that item out the window.

But then, there does remain off a Washington team with the second worst record in the WNBA, that Mystics' fans vision of another Baylor star gracing the nation's capital, but this time in women's basketball, is still attainable.

It's another tough week for the Mystics with Seattle visiting Tuesday, Connecticut visiting Friday and Phoenix visiting Sunday.

Playoff-wise, the Mystics could use a 3-0 or 2-1 week, though the Connecticut visit is the only conference game. More than likely, it will be 1-2 or 0-3, giving rise to the prospects of a winter-summer, Griffin-Griner show, in which RGIII visits the WNBA Verizon Center while Brittney, winner of the Honda College Cup as the female athlete of the year, likewise becomes an NFL Redskins fan.

And if not Griner, then transportation officials along I-95 need to be establishing an HOV lane between Delaware and D.C. to allow Elena Delle Donne's family, friends, and fans, in general, a quicker trip between the lands of the Blue Hens and Mystics.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Minnesota Lynx (12-1) -- A mixed week with Phoenix visiting Wednesday and a trip to San Antonio on Sunday. A sweep keeps the domination going while a split won't be the worst thing, though apparently the host Silver Stars won't easily succumb to the Minneapolis powerhouse.

And if it's 0-2, well, it it's 0-2 the Guru will spend more time next week talking about this week in terms of the Lynx.

Los Angeles Sparks (10-4) -- Well, it will be interesting, maybe, or just a 2-0 attempt to keep pace with Minnesota or gain some ground on the Lynx.

There's a visit to Tulsa on Tuesday and then a trip to San Antonio on Thursday.

The host Shock did suffer a buzzer-beating loss against Los Angeles earlier this season so let's not entirely write Tulsa off.

But then comes a trip to San Antonio, where the Silver Stars have a two-game win streak against the Sparks, including Sunday's decisive win.

Going 1-1 is not likely to be anything worth celebrating, but the thought of 0-2 is unthinkable, isn't it? Maybe that's a question that will need revisiting late Tuesday night.

San Antonio Silver Stars (5-7) -- It's a big one with two challenges to avoid slipping back to the lottery hunt, though Texas fans wouldn't cry if their Baylor star becomes a resident in the Alamo City.

Los Angeles visits Thursday, looking for revenge, and there's a trip to Minnesota Sunday. In terms of the standings, 0-2 won't be outrageous, though on the other end 2-0 might have Hughes in the coach of the year hunt.

Actually, to kill time, perhaps we'll give out half-year awards during the Olympics to offer something besides ongoing wipeouts by the WNBA/USA All-Stars/UConn alumni club in London.

As to the other possible record for the week ahead for the Silver Stars, 1-1 holds serve nicely in the West.

Seattle Storm (5-7) -- The Storm are surging and now comes an Eastern road trip where Tuesday's visit to Washington, Saturday's visit to New York, and Sunday's visit to Connecticut makes a potential 3-0 attainable, though 2-1 with the one being a loss to the Sun still keeps things upbeat.

Anything less, however, and it might be time to go back to lottery speculation again.

Phoenix Mercury (3-8) -- Well, lottery fans in the desert could suffer some disappointment because it is possible that the Mercury could go 2-1 with the one being Wednesday when Phoenix visits Minnesota.

But in light of the Sky injuries, Phoenix has a chance in Chicago Friday and in an even-up lottery special again, the Mercury has a strong shot at topping Washington Sunday in the nation's capital.

This might be a good weekend for the Delle Donne family to window shop in Newark, N.J., on Saturday (where New York is playing here for two more seasons) and Washington on Sunday.

Tulsa Shock (1-11) -- On paper, it looks like an 0-2 week with Los Angeles visiting Tuesday and Atlanta on Friday. So anything more is a plus, though 2-0 would be stunning.

But if not, in terms of the lottery race for best chance at the ping pong balls for delivering the overall No. 1 pick, that two-game lead on Washington for overall worst record could grow.

And that's it for now. Depending on the Guru's morning, he may be in Washington for Tuesday night's tilt, but will make at least one visit there, anyway, on the weekend.

The pressure is off Tuesday for the Guru to motor down to D.C., considering the thought of not being able to dine with Jayda at Old Ebbitt's for postgame repast (and raw bar) is unbearable (wink).

-- Mel

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