The 25th WNBA regular season has come to an end, and the postseason looms large over a historic season. For this landmark season, the upcoming postseason could be monumental for the league.
The Connecticut Sun franchise has never won a WNBA title. The team last made the WNBA Finals in 2019, losing to the Washington Mystics three games to two. However, after clinching the No. 1 seed in this year’s playoffs, this could be Connecticut’s year. With a win against the New York Liberty to finish off their regular season, the Sun finished the season winners of 13 straight games – a franchise record. This season, the Sun have been guided by Jonquel Jones, a current MVP frontrunner who opted out of the 2020 WNBA season due to COVID-19 concerns. The 6’6” forward leads the league in rebounds per game and is fourth league-wide in points per game. Jones, alongside most-improved-player-candidate Brionna Jones, could lead the Sun to WNBA Finals glory if they play their cards right. Lucky for them, they have a free trip to the semifinals.
The WNBA playoff format is very unique. A team’s regular-season ranking is important: the top two teams receive a bye to the semifinal round, while the third and fourth-ranked teams receive a bye to the second round. The first and second rounds are single elimination, while the semifinal and final rounds feature a best-of-five format.
Since this playoff format was adopted in 2016, only once did the two teams that made the best-of-five finals differ from the two top teams at the end of the regular season. In 2018, the Washington Mystics (ranked third) defeated the No. 2 Atlanta Dream to qualify for the WNBA Finals. The Mystics then lost in the Finals 3-0 to the top-ranked Seattle Storm.
The Storm are hoping to defend their 2020 WNBA title this season, but after some late-season struggles, going 5-6 in their games following the Tokyo Olympics, they were only able to clinch the fourth seed in this year’s postseason. Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn claimed that fatigue could be playing a role in the team’s late season decline. Five Storm players competed in Tokyo: Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd represented the United States, while Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot played for Australia. Stewart, the 2020 WNBA Finals MVP, sat out of the Storm’s final two regular-season games with a foot injury.
Even with the Olympic break, this WNBA season has energy around it that the league has never seen. Viewership is up on all platforms and fan attendance is up around most of the league. In its 25th season, the WNBA is on the way up, and it is not coming down any time soon.