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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guru's WNBA Musings: Breaking Down the Gridlock Finish in the East

(Guru's note: Don't fret Rob Knox fans. He's cooking up more stuff to come this way, including the final regular season notebook, which will post anytime in the next 24 hours.

Also, on Sunday at the New York final the Guru collected quotes from individuals, including league president Laurel Richie, reacting to Philadelphia Little League pitching sensation Mo'ne Davis of the Taney Dragons and her desire to eventually play in the WNBA.

Those comments were given to the alma mater local major metro here on Monday, which have been held for other great stuff being written by the 13-year-old hurler, who also would like to go to UConn.

If that submission ultimately giets shelved -- it could be at philly.com now, haven't checked the overnight posts yet -- they'll appear here soon.

By Mel Greenberg (@womhoopsguru)

Looking at the final standings and the fact there were only three winning teams among the entire 12 squads in the WNBA appears to be the worst finish in the history of the league since growth beyond the original eight franchises.

Well, what about 2010, when the Seattle Storm won it all and topped the West with the only winning record at 28-6.

Actually, that was closer to a true appearance of parity them this time around, though one could call this a parity of medocrity from a standpoint of the win-loss records.

This is what the finish was four years ago going into the playoffs:

2010 Final Standings
Washington 22-12
New York 22-12
Indiana 21-13
Atlanta 19-15
Connecticut 17-17

Seattle 28-6
Phoenix 15-19
San Antonio 14-20
Los Angeles 13-21
Minnesota 13-21 -- a losing tiebreak that begat Maya Moore
Tulsa 6-28

What happened then was after years of being pushed around from the left coast, the East dominated the West in their two-game home-and-home crossovers per team.

Understand, while the records with only three winning teams this time look bizarre, remove them from the books, and focus on each team which had great moments in 2014.

Tulsa continued to show growth and if a bunch of those narrow setbacks could be reversed, it might have some impact on the entire slate.

As was mentioned on the teleconference Tuesday afternoon as part of the preview for the playoffs, many teams dealt with injuries and missing key personnel, a la Chicago, during large chunks of the season.

The very bottom is always going to lag benhind the rest.

But while you can still see the 2010 finish above, here's the 2014 ending for comparison.

2014 Final Standings
Atlanta 19-15
Indiana 16-18
Washington 16-18
Chicago 15-19
New York 15-19
Connecticut 13-21

Phoenix 29-5 -- WNBA record
Minnesota 25-9
San Antonio 16-18
Los Angeles 16-18
Seattle 12-22
Tulsa 12-22

Beyond the injuries and, of course, beyond that teams in both conferences play some intra-rivals five teams and others four, here are some other quick looks.

The West, obviously, saw the two frontrunners more times than the East, so that conference isn't worth examining much, though the West did outduel the East 44-28 in composite crossover results.

But here are some other facets on what helped teams in the East, not counting Connecticut, which pretty much struggled again but does have an upside for the future that gets enhanced Thursday night at the lottery but how much won't be known until the ping pong balls drop.

Team W-L CFWL NCFWL Home Road
Atlanta 19-15, 11-11, 8-4, 13-4, 6-11
Indiana 16-18, 12-10, 4-8, 7-10, 9-8
Washngtn 16-18, 11-11, 5-7, 10-7, 5-12
Chicago 15-19, 14-8, 1-11, 9-8, 6-11
New York 15-19, 10-12, 5-7, 10-7, 5-12
Connect. 13-21, 8-14, 5-7, 9-8, 4-13

Though Atlanta struggled down the stretch, the Dream played .500 in the conference and went 8-4 against the West and that was enough to to finish on top for the first time.

It will be interesting to see how Atlanta fares as the top dog considering its past trips to the finals came as an underseed.

Indiana was on a roller coaster but could be playing its best ball.

Throw out the Sunday game and the Fever got fat on New York down the stretch instead of vice versa and went a pedestrian 12-10 in conference play.

Washington won at the right place at the right time, albeit being inconsistent.

In the short run looking back at the stretch, the magic bullet was a big win over New York, which the Guru picked the other way, and a win at Indiana.

In the body of work department, 11-11 in the conference and 5-7 against the West, which, in a logjam, was help enough.

Chicago was interesting. Despite the injuries, the Sky dominated the East at 14-8, which could be an omen to perform better as an underdog going into the postseason instead of top dog 12 months ago.

But the West, don't ask. The mark was 1-12.

For New York, the reverse short-run look back was the telling because that rout at Washington two weeks ago might, as mentioned, been the deal maker for both teams.

Of course, the other key stat was Chicago's 4-0 wipeout, which, while being the element to break a tie, that deadlock might be an illusion, considering what teams were doing across the board pulling onto the docks for the wrap up.

Connecticut's 5-7 against the West, including a narrow win at Phoenix before the Mercury soared on the 16-game win streak.

So, those are some of the components produced by the flesh and blood, whose job it is now to fight, especially for Los Angeles and San Antonio, which must face the dynamos of the West and entire league at the outset, beginning Thursday.

Locally Noted

For the regional audience here near Philadelphia in the East, here's who you have to cheer for, geographically speaking, in the postseason.

Three members of the Rutgers 2007 NCAA finalist are alive with Kia Vaughn on Washington, Epiphanny Prince on Chicago, and Matee Ajavon on Atlanta.

Chicago also has in addition to Prince former Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne, the reigning rookie of the year.

Blue Hens fans have two potential options to see her either if Chicago and Washington are in the East final and there's the quick trip to the nation's capital or if Washington is eliminated before the league finals Delle Donne will make a second encore appearance at the Bob Carpenter Fieldhouse as part of the WNBA superstar group meeting in an intrasquad psuedo all-star game attempting to land spots on the USA Basketball Squad that will compete in the World Championship run by FIBA next month in Turkey.

The other encore occured at the beginning of the year when Chicago played Washington in a preseason game at Delaware to a sellout, which could happen again next May.

Temple's all-timer Candice Dupree plays for Phoenix, while Penn State is represented by Nikki Greene on Los Angeles and rookie star Maggie Lucas, a Narberth native and Germantown Academy graduate, from suburban Philadelphia.

On Sunday Lucas helped fill the void while the Fever rested people for the playoffs and her performance was such that coach Lin Dunn suggested it might harder her on out to keep her on the bench from increased minutes.

On the sidelines, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve is a former La Salle star who, if the Lynx don't get to the finals to defend their title, will be with the USA Contingent as an asssistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma.

So will Dawn Staley, now at South Carolina,who is one of the other assistants to Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown.

And the other playoff sideline individual is former Immaculata star Marianne Stanley, who is an assistant to Washington coach Mike Thibault.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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