A primer for new fans
Despite its relative youth, having been established just 23 years ago, the WNBA has become the undisputed league of choice for the game’s elite. Top players from all over the world gather to tussle for the championship crown, driving an unprecedented level of competitiveness among the participating teams.
The WNBA season generally occurs from May to October, during the traditional off-season for basketball, making it an ideal avenue for hoops-starved fans to get their fix. The league has expanded from its original eight teams to a total of twelve, evenly split into the Eastern and Western Conferences, and follows a similar regular season and playoffs format as the NBA.
At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs, as opposed to the top four teams from each conference. The teams are seeded according to their win-loss record, with the playoffs being structured by a rather unique concept.
The first and second rounds of the playoffs are single-elimination rounds. The first round involves the 5th to 8th seeds and subsequently the winners go on to play the 3rd and 4th seeds. The 1st and 2nd seeds advance directly to the semifinals, which are best-of-five series, just like the finals.
This innovative format maximizes the excitement factor in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while adequately rewarding the top teams for their win-loss records. The Seattle Storm claimed the most recent edition of the title under the lead of MVP and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, after an eight-year drought.
The 24-year-old Stewart has continued a remarkable winning tradition in just her third WNBA season, dating back to four consecutive collegiate national titles with the UConn Huskies with four straight Most Outstanding Player awards, and it will be interesting to see which teams step up in the new 2019 season to challenge for the championship crown.