WNBA championship is open for the taking

The WNBA weighed in today on possible champions, analyzing the top two seeds in each conference.

Three reasons why the Minnesota Lynx will win the WNBA title: Maya Moore, perseverance, and depth.

Three reasons why the New York Liberty will win the WNBA title: strong defensive identity, Tina Charles, and combined playoff experience.

Three reasons why the Mercury will win the WNBA title: star power, defense, and the X-factors.

Three reasons why the Chicago Sky will win the WNBA title: they have the MVP frontrunner, they have the league’s best offense, and they’ve been here before.

I’ve not seen the WNBA with this kind of playoffs preview before, but that’s probably because the league hasn’t seen a season like this before. There is no clear favorite, or even two clear finalists. The trophy could go to anyone.

The West’s top-seeded Lynx were picked to take it all and to dominate the entire season, with an all-star roster. But after a strong start, they stumbled inexplicably in August, going 6-6. Then Olympians Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen were injured, and Minnesota lost four of their last seven games. They have been a model of inconsistency.

The first-place-in-the-East Liberty own the league’s best record, and have been clicking all season long with great chemistry. But losing three of their last five games was uncharacteristic, and it begs the question as to whether or not they will be playoff-ready.

The Mercury pulled themselves out of an early-season rut after the return of center Brittney Griner, but they have been up and down with wins and losses, showing no clear pattern to their streaks and slumps. The Sky have been similarly erratic – in some cases winning handily and then getting blown out the next game.

There are two teams who could possibly pull upsets: the Indiana Fever and the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Fever were scorching hot mid-season, going 10-1 before cooling off in late August and dropping some games. But they have three great factors going for them: Tamika Catchings, great team chemistry and the fact that all players on the roster have played substantial minutes this season. Catchings is the leader of the team, and pushed the Fever to the 2012 title. Together, they may rise again.

The Sparks go through Candace Parker, who lead them to 11 wins after her July 29 return. Parker has played passionate, inspired basketball reminiscent of her college and early pro years, and it seems to have been contagious for her teammates. Los Angeles may have come late to the party, but they have developed great team chemistry of their own the last few weeks, and their momentum is surging. They could take advantage of the hesitance of the Lynx.

I don’t do predictions. But Lynx-Sparks could go either way, and as for Mercury-Shock, I’ll have to give the nod to Phoenix, as they’re healthy with a motivation to repeat their title.

In the East, it’s the Sky-Fever match up that’s too close to call. I’m betting the Liberty will take care of the Mystics.

Regardless of who wins, I hope for exciting, close games until the very last buzzer sounds. (I don’t want to see a repeat of last year’s college season, which was parity-ville all the way until the blowout title match up).

Three more days.

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