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Lynx Tracks: Repeating in WNBA

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***********************   March 2012: Vol. 4, Issue 1************************

Hoops Scoop

By David Zingler

The Lynx 2011 campaign ranks among the most dominant in league history. En route to its first WNBA title, Minnesota won over 80 percent of its games and finished the season with a 34-8 record (27-7 regular season, 7-1 postseason), including a 28-4 run after July 13. When you look at the youth and talent on the Lynx roster, it's easy to see the makings of a dynasty. Repeating in the WNBA however has been difficult lately; it's been a decade since we've had a back-to-back champion.

Entering its 16th season, WNBA history could be divided into two segments: the formative years (1997-2002) and the modern era (2003-present). The league's formative years were dominated by two teams: the Houston Comets and Los Angeles Sparks.

The Comets, led by the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, won the first four league titles from 1997-2000. During the first two years of that stretch however, the WNBA competed with the American Basketball League (ABL) for talent. Players like Teresa Edwards, Yolanda Griffith, Katie Smith, Dawn Staley and even current Lynx center "Mama" Taj McWilliams-Franklin spent time in the ABL.

After losing to the Comets in the 1999 and 2000 conference finals, Los Angeles ended the Houston dynasty and won consecutive titles in 2001 and 2002. Lisa Leslie and Co. ushered in a new era and the league, bolstered by the collapse of the ABL and an infusion of new talent from the collegiate ranks, became more competitive.

In the modern era, Detroit (3), Seattle (2) and Phoenix (2) have won multiple titles, but all non-consecutively. The Sacramento Monarchs came the closest to repeating, falling to Detroit in Game 5 of the 2006 Finals after winning it all in 2005. With little movement of elite players, teams have been able to sustain excellence during the modern era, but so far, winning back-to-back titles has been elusive.

The women's game is evolving at an amazing pace; all you have to do is throw in some game film from the late '90s to see how far we've come since then. Today's players are bigger, stronger, faster and more fundamentally sound. The scouting methods are more advanced and the talent pool is much deeper.

While the Cooper, Swoopes and Thompson Comets measure up favorably in any era, it's difficult to see any team winning four straight titles again, although this version of the Lynx appears set up for a serious run at it. Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen give the Lynx a Cooper/Swoopes/Thompson-like trio and that's not even counting Rebekkah Brunson, an All Star in her own right. The remainder of the roster meanwhile is filled with intriguing youth and talent.

At 41, McWilliams-Franklin is still a force in the middle and she's backed up by the emerging Jessica Adair and Amber Harris, the 4th overall pick in last year's draft. Candice Wiggins (2008 Sixth Woman of the Year), Monica Wright (the No. 2 overall pick in 2010), Charde Houston (2009 All-Star) and the newly signed Erin Thorn give the Lynx unmatched depth. As if that weren't enough, the defending champs own the third-overall pick in April's draft.

Last year at this time the Lynx were an upstart team hoping to end a six-year playoff drought. Just 12 months later, they enter their 14th season heavy favorites to repeat as champions.

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