All that parity on display during the women’s college basketball season appears to have flowed into the WNBA. As the season hits the one-month mark, it has become apparent that any team can take down any opponent on any game night.
Take last week as an example. On Tuesday, the struggling Chicago Sky kept things close with the Los Angeles Sparks for a while before L.A. pulled out a close win, 79–70. Several days later, on Friday, the Sparks lost to the Dallas Wings, 90–96, though, while the Indiana Fever barely edged the Seattle Storm, 83–80. On Saturday, the Connecticut Sun beat all odds and crushed the Atlanta Dream, 104–71. The tight games and unpredictability are making for a fun year so far.
Two of these teams, the Wings and the Sun, are clearly better than their record indicates—and it’s likely no coincidence that they are also two of the youngest squads. The Wings (4-6) are improving with each game, and Friday’s takedown of the reigning champion Sparks was only indicative of things to come. Dallas plays with energy and fearlessness and has just ramped up its defense. Four of the team’s six losses have been by only 6 points or less. And when injured center Courtney Paris returns, Dallas will probably find its way closer to the top of the league standings.
Similarly, while the Sun (3-5) are missing some of their key pieces, including injured forward Chiney Ogwumike and Alex Bentley, who is playing abroad in the Eurobasket league, Jonquel Jones, Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams have done admirable jobs of taking up the slack and playing exciting basketball. Look for this team to continue making steady gains.
If Dallas and Connecticut are poised to be the upset queens, the Phoenix Mercury, who have been inconsistent, and the Dream and Storm, who are each in a bit of a free fall after strong starts, seem to be the most likely to be upset. But in a season of tight contests, these roles could switch quickly.
In this week’s WNBA Mock Win Monday, we take a shot at guessing the winners. But don’t blame us if we turn out to be wrong.
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Ogwumike: 28 PTS. Parker: 25 PTS. Johnson: 24 PTS. pic.twitter.com/nEhTE7OgpV
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 10, 2017
Dallas Wings vs. Los Angeles Sparks (Tuesday)
To see this rematch so soon after the Wings toppled the Sparks should make for some intensity on the hardwood. Last Friday, Dallas beat the Sparks because of its stifling defensive presence, meaning L.A. coach Brian Agler, who has led two WNBA championship teams, will likely make some adjustments. The Sparks have the advantage in the post, although Wings forward Glory Johnson stepped up against L.A. last week and scored a season high. Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray has been playing out of her mind, but the team has also got to contend with Dallas guard Karima Christmas-Kelly. All in all, it could be an explosive game.
Our bet to win: The Sparks should win, as their veteran core will readily adopt the necessary adjustments after last week’s loss to the Wings.
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New York Liberty vs. Connecticut Sun (Wednesday)
These may be the two most exciting teams to watch in the league right now, one reason being that they both play true team ball. While the Sun’s starters have better overall stats, which are more balanced, the Liberty have a veteran core that includes center Tina Charles, who can take over a game. New York also seems to have sufficiently recouped after losing point guard Brittany Boyd, who tore her Achilles last month, for the season. Still, you can’t count out Connecticut to pull off the upset.
Our bet to win: The Liberty will likely take this win.
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 11, 2017
Dallas Wings vs. New York Liberty (Friday)
The Liberty have the advantage in the paint, but the Wings have been attacking the paint. Dallas has a stronger guard presence, but New York has star guards Sugar Rodgers and Shavonte Zellous, who is playing like a outtake from Wonder Women. Expect this to be a hard-fought, physical game.
Our pick to win: The Liberty should win this one, as they have more experience.
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) June 11, 2017
Phoenix Mercury vs. Los Angeles Sparks (Sunday)
This past Saturday, in their first meeting of the season, the Sparks just barely edged out their longtime rivals, 89–87, in the game’s final seconds. After that tough loss, Phoenix will be seeking revenge while L.A. will be looking to repeat the result, only with a stronger performance. The two teams aren’t that fond of one another, so it should be another physical game that showcases two of the league’s best—Sparks’ Candace Parker and Mercury’s Diana Taurasi—going head to head.
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LA_Sparks) June 11, 2017
Our pick to win: Both teams have been inconsistent so far this season, so it’s hard to call. We’ll go with the Sparks. No wait, the Mercury. No wait… Yep, it will be that kind of game.