Dishin’ on the Conference Semifinals: A look at the first round of the WNBA playoffs

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve hopes to add some more hardware this year. Photo: David Sherman NBAE via Getty Images

If you are a WNBA fan you have seen or heard predictions, analysis, breakdowns, and more of the playoffs this week. Since I know I have seen about enough, here are some interesting points to consider while watching your playoff basketball.

As the 2012 WNBA playoffs get under way tonight in Connecticut and California, there are several things worth noting that will help explain how the stories will unfold.

As you watch Connecticut play New York and Minnesota play Seattle, there is a very good chance you will see the WNBA champion; either Connecticut or Minnesota will advance not only here, but through to the WNBA finals, and win it all. You have to go back to 2006, when Sacramento and Detroit met in the finals as number two seeds. That was the last time at least one of the number one seeds did not make the finals. You also have go back that far to see the last time a team won the championship that was not seeded number one coming into the playoffs.

Second, having the Most Valuable Player on your team is not a guarantee of postseason success. It can certainly help, as it did Seattle in 2010 (Lauren Jackson) and Phoenix in 2009 (Diana Taurasi). However in 2011 (Tamika Catchings), 2008 (Candace Parker), 2007 (Lauren Jackson), 2006 (Lisa Leslie) and 2005 (Sheryl Swoopes), the MVP’s team did not even make the finals. Therefore, having the MVP frontrunner Tina Charles, plus being the number one seed, does not mean it is a lock for Connecticut to get through.

Season series do not mean much this year. With injuries, Olympics and the aftermath, how can you really get a feel for a matchup based on the season series? Look at New York versus Connecticut. They played the first two games of the year (the lineups were different for both teams), one game in Connecticut that the Liberty did not have Plenette Pierson, and two games right after the Olympic break when Connecticut did not have Asjha Jones and Charles was jetlagged. I would not use any of those five games to judge this series.

Will experience matter? Connecticut has two players that have won a playoff game, the least amount of any team in the postseason. Others are loaded. The Sparks with DeLisha Milton-Jones, the Lynx’s Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekkah Brunson, the Fever’s Tamika Catchings and Tammy Sutton-Brown plus the Silver Stars with Becky Hammon and Sophia Young. The longest in tooth, however, has to be the Storm combination of Jackson and Sue Bird, plus Katie Smith and Tina Thompson. Does that mean they should win with all that experience?

On the other hand, as the saying goes, youth must be served. Candace Parker, Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Nneka Ogwumike, and Danielle Adams are just a few of the young players in the postseason anxious to gain their first WNBA championship, as Maya Moore did last season. They have all played deep into the NCAA tournament, so they have played in pressure-packed situations, but this is still different. Who can weather the storm best?

There are no coaching weaknesses any longer. Sure, there were some ex-NBA players or less than qualified head coaching talent before, but if you look at this group of head coaches in the WNBA playoffs, the league is loaded with long-time assistants as well as veteran head coaches and general managers. These coaches have the ability and confidence to manage a game and a roster, and there is no doubt we will see some great strategy throughout the playoffs.

Then there’s the biggest hope of all fans; please, do not let the referees influence the outcome of a playoff game. The NFL settled their officiating problem, now let us all hope the players will determine the outcome of the games, not a stray whistle here or there.

Enjoy the conference semifinals, they should be some good basketball games for sure!

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