WNBA Betting Tips
by Trevor Whenham
If you're like most people, you probably don't spend much time thinking about the WNBA, never mind betting on it. Maybe you should. I'm not suggesting that it's the world's greatest league or that your world is lacking if you don't watch it. That's obviously not true. It doesn't take much imagination to see, though, that betting on a league with only 13 teams in it is certainly attractive. It's relatively easy to get a feel for which teams are worth backing and which ones are worth betting against. Teams face each other frequently, and face recent common opponents constantly so relative comparisons are straightforward. On a practical level, then, WNBA betting is worth a look. If nothing else, it bridges the gap between the end of the NBA and the start of college football if you aren't a big baseball fan.
Before you decide to make a bet or two, you may need to know the basics of the league. There are 13 teams in two conferences. The East is made up of Indiana, Detroit, New York, Connecticut, Chicago and Washington. Charlotte would have been in that conference as well, but they folded as a franchise in January. Their western rivals include L.A., Phoenix, Sacramento, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston and Minnesota. The season is 34 games long. Teams play either three or four games against teams in their own conference, and two against the opposing conference. The top four teams in each conference make the playoffs, with the first two rounds being best of three, and the final being five games long.
If you're an NBA fan then the rules will largely be familiar. There are a couple of noticeable differences, though. The league uses the FIBA three point line instead of the longer NBA one, and it uses a ball that is one inch smaller in circumference that the NBA. At the start of the 2006 season games were changed from two 20 minute halves to four 10 minute quarters, and the shot clock was shortened from 30 seconds to 24. In 2007 the time to cross half court was reduced from 10 seconds to eight in hopes of speeding up the pace of the game.
A logical argument can be made that that a difference in athleticism makes this game easier to bet on. Before any female readers get completely outraged, let me assure you that I am not saying that women basketball players aren't athletic. The truth, though, is that the WNBA game is not marked by the freakish athletic displays that are fun to watch but difficult to account for in the men's game. You never see slam dunks or alley oops, and players are less likely to show off by going end to end in the WNBA. The absence of the lone wolf mentality means that teams more closely follow form because players more often do what they are supposed to do. That makes statistics more reliable and consistent than they are in the sometimes frustrating NBA, and it makes teams that much more predictable.
Another reason for consistency in the league is that the star players are almost always impressive. At the top of the heap are the two superstars of the league - Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. Each woman has three MVP awards in the last seven seasons. Only Australian Lauren Jackson of Seattle has managed to break their dominance. If you're looking for a simple place to start with WNBA handicapping, looking at the number of stars on each team is a good place to start. Perhaps even more than other leagues, teams with better players win games.
Despite the small league, there is a notable disparity between the best teams in the league and those that struggle. Obviously that can come in handy for quick handicapping. As a general rule, for example, Connecticut and Sacramento have reliably been good teams while Minnesota has not been very good, and the 2006 expansion Chicago Sky have been truly terrible.
If you are going to handicap the league, it probably makes sense to do your handicapping early. Though betting volume on the league is growing, it still is far from a mainstream sport. That means that oddsmakers aren't necessarily as careful setting odds here as they are for the more popular leagues. Making the effort to have your picks ready early, then, can frequently give you the opportunity to take advantage of soft lines that have yet to be corrected by bettors. You don't need to be nearly as sharp to find potential bargains in this league as you do in the NFL or the NBA.
One last interesting reality of the league to get your curiosity going - home underdogs tend to be abnormally strong compared to most leagues. There's always something satisfying about winning on an underdog, so if that gets you excited you should give WNBA betting a consideration.