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Lynx Tracks: 2012 WNBA Season Preview

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***********************    June 2012: Vol. 4, Issue 3************************

Hoops Scoop

2012 Season Preview

By David Zingler

The Lynx ran away with the West last year, finishing six games ahead of second place Seattle. Out East things were much more competitive; just two games separated the top four seeds. Expect more of the same this year.

Western Conference
1. Minnesota
Barring an injury-related catastrophe, it's hard to see the Lynx not finishing at the top of the conference. Lindsay Whalen is in her prime, Maya Moore's experience will only make her better and Seimone Augustus is arguably the best player on the planet. All three have shown an outstanding work ethic and won't rest on last year's laurels. They also have some pretty talented teammates like Rebekkah Brunson and Candice Wiggins.

2. Los Angeles
Here's the team that should scare the Lynx the most, but only if Candace Parker remains healthy and regains her old form. The addition of Nnemkadi Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft, and former Lynx Nicky Anosike gives the Sparks a formidable front line, while their X-factor could be Alana Beard, who returns to the league after a two-year, injury-related absence.

3. Seattle
For over a decade, the Storm have been led by Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, the greatest inside-outside combo in league history. Jackson however, won't join the team until after the Olympics. Bird will have some help with veteran Tina Thompson and rookie Shekinna Stricklen joining the mix. That should be enough to keep Seattle in the race until Jackson's return.

4. Phoenix
Penny Taylor's absence to prepare for the Olympics will hurt and a lot will be expected of rookie point guard Samantha Prahalis. Diana Taurasi meanwhile will score, score and score some more. If Prahalis can keep Taurasi happy, the Mercury should be printing playoff tickets this fall.

5. San Antonio
The Silver Stars squeaked into the playoffs last year and handed the Lynx their only postseason defeat before bowing out in a tough, 3-game series. Becky Hammon is now 35 and you'd expect her to slow a bit, but counting out the feisty veteran has always been a mistake in the past. The organization wasn't able to address their front court needs in the draft, but they did add high-scoring guard Shenise Johnson who will be fun to watch.

6. Tulsa
The Shock is 9-59 since moving to Tulsa from Detroit before the 2010 season. The good news is they surely have to improve from last year's three-win campaign. Temeka Johnson has been brought in to run the point, but All-Star Liz Cambage will miss two months preparing for the Olympics. A double digit win total isn't out of the question, but a playoff berth is.

Eastern Conference
1. Connecticut
The Sun may end up being the biggest roadblock to a Lynx dynasty. Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles are the new Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, Mike Thibault provides great coaching and Asjha Jones a productive, veteran leader. The rest of the East could be looking up at Connecticut for a long time.

2. New York
Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell, Plenette Peirson and the improving Kia Vaughn lead the potent Liberty attack. The team will open the year back at Madison Square Garden, but will play the rest of the season at the Prudential Center in Newark while MSG is being renovated. In a competitive conference, they are a threat to reach the Finals.

3. Atlanta
The two-time defending conference champs figure to be in the mix again. Angel McCoughtry and Lindsey Harding are back to lead the way, but center Erika De Souza is another Olympic casualty. A third straight Finals appearance will be difficult.

4. Chicago
Is this the year the Sky finally take the next step and reach the playoffs? They already have the league's best center and defensive force in Sylvia Fowles. Epiphanny Prince is emerging as a star and the acquisition of veteran Swin Cash could put them over the top. After 8 seasons, the Sky may finally have something to celebrate.

5. Indiana
The Fever finished atop the conference in the regular season in 2011, but were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by New York. Reigning MVP Tameka Catchings and Katie Douglas will keep the squad competitive, but they may struggle keeping up with the conference's younger teams.

6. Washington
Like Tulsa in the West, the Mystics should improve on their dismal 6-28 2011 season, but it probably won't be enough to get them out of the cellar in a deep conference. The team lacks a true superstar and their roster is loaded with career journeywomen who have failed in other spots.

MVP: Seimone Augustus, Minnesota
Rookie of the Year: Shenise Johnson, San Antonio
Coach of the Year: Pokey Chatman, Chicago
WNBA Finals: Minnesota over Connecticut

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