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WNBA playoffs guide: How to bet on the 2022 postseason

Chelsea Gray and the Las Vegas Aces enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA’s new playoff format means more games, more action, and yes, more betting options in the opening week. If you’ve been following the league but haven’t bet on it before, now is a great time to start. Be sure to check out our primer from last season to get caught up on the basics.

For those of you ready to jump in as Round 1 gets underway Wednesday, let’s break down all the ways you can get involved when it comes to betting on the WNBA playoffs.

Standard bets on games

The easiest way is still to place your typical bets on the results of a single game. Just like in the regular season, you’ll be able to bet on which team will win the game (moneyline), which team will cover the spread and how many total points will be scored.

You’ll also have what are called “derivative markets,” which are the same type of bets, just on a specific quarter or half rather than the full game. Think the Aces will get out to a hot start, but not sure you want to bet on them for the full game in case they rest their starters in the final minutes? Take them to cover the spread in the first quarter or first half instead.

All of these bets are still available during the game, with the odds updating live. There can be real value in them if you’re plugged into what’s happening on the court, so it’s a great reason to watch the games. Star player heads to the bench with foul trouble? Maybe it’s time to bet on the other team.

The best bets will change as the playoffs go on, but in the opening games, keep an eye on Dallas +10.5. The Wings have covered the spread in 20 of 28 games as road underdogs the last two seasons, and they seem to have found a groove since Arike Ogunbowale went down with an injury.

Another bet worth looking at is the over in Game 1 of the Washington-Seattle series. Sitting at 158.5 or 159 in most books, this is a number that may have made more sense a few weeks ago. With the way the Storm offense has dominated the last several games, they should be able to get this game into the 160s, even against the Mystics’ staunch defense. In addition, totals below 160 have hit the over more than 60 percent of the time this season.

Series bets

Betting on the result of a series, rather than one game, can be one of the most fun ways to bet on the playoffs. There are a few sportsbooks with these lines already posted, and more should continue to add them as we go.

The best place to find the most options is generally going to be FanDuel. As of now, FanDuel allows you to bet on each series in three different ways.

You can bet on the winner of the series, which is pretty straightforward. You can bet on the correct score of the series, so if you’re confident enough in the Sky winning that you believe they’ll win 2-0, you can place a more specific bet on that result.

You can also even bet on the exact order of the games. So, for example, not only can you bet on the Sun to beat the Wings 2-1, but you can bet on the Sun winning Games 1 and 3 while the Wings win Game 2, or you can bet on the Wings stealing Game 1 and the Sun winning Games 2 and 3.

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This is also an area where Dallas may be a good bet. While the Wings’ penchant for playing well as underdogs on the road may not be enough to win the series, it might be worth a shot to bet on the 2-1 Sun result and hope that Dallas can pull off at least one upset win.

The Mystics-Storm series is another intriguing one to bet on. As the most evenly-matched series by far, there’s a good chance it gives us a Game 3. It could be worthwhile to bet on Seattle 2-1 and/or Washington 2-1.

Futures

Futures bets on who will win the championship have been available since before the season even began, but for those who are too impatient to place a bet that won’t be decided for several months, the playoffs present another opportunity.

There are a lot of factors to consider when placing these bets beyond simply who the best team is. Which team has the best odds? Are there any injuries that will come into play? Does one team have an easier path?

All of these questions need to be considered when betting on a champion. In this year’s playoffs, the injury to Dearica Hamby could loom large. The Aces are slim title favorites, and they should be able to get past an even more shorthanded Phoenix squad in the first round. But if Hamby remains out beyond Round 1, Las Vegas’ lack of depth could present a problem. During the regular season, the Aces were outscored in the minutes when at least one bench player was on the court.

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Jonquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun could be the best championship bet. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

A better place to look might be Connecticut, who led the league in margin per game and margin per 100 possessions. While part of the reason for that was head coach Curt Miller’s tendency to play his starters longer than most, the Sun still deserve to be in the title conversation alongside the Aces and the Sky. Considering sportsbooks are giving us much better odds on them than they are on either Las Vegas or Chicago, the Sun look like the best bet.

The other fun futures bet during the playoffs is on the Finals MVP. We don’t have odds on this yet, but we will get them when the Finals matchup is set at the very latest. A lot of sportsbooks have been posting other types of bets earlier and earlier, so it’s possible we see Finals MVP odds while the semifinals are still going on.

Betting on the Finals MVP is always tough, because the winner essentially always comes from the championship team. That means you have to account for two different factors at the same time: the chance that the player’s team wins the title, and the chance that the player is the top performer on that team during the series.

Player props

The 2022 season was the first in which sportsbooks offered WNBA player props, and you can expect these options to continue to expand. So far, only BetRivers, Unibet, Bet365 and Fanduel have posted them. Some books have had them more consistently than others, so it remains to be seen how many will be offered for the playoffs, but FanDuel, BetRivers, and Unibet have already posted some for Wednesday’s games. Keep your eye out, as there are sure to be more coming soon.

Player props are bets on a player to go over or under a certain number for a certain stat. For example, you might bet on A’ja Wilson to have over 9.5 rebounds. So far, points, rebounds and assists have been the three stats offered.

These are the bets with perhaps the most value, as they are the lines that are the most difficult for sportsbooks to properly set. So much needs to be factored in beyond a player’s average in that stat: the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, recent lineup or rotation changes, a player’s history in that matchup, etc. If you can find something that the sportsbooks didn’t account for, you can find an edge.

For instance, when Connecticut was set to take on Las Vegas on July 17, Jonquel Jones was ruled out due to health and safety protocols. Jones’ absence naturally led to more scoring and rebounding opportunities for players like DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones, but sportsbooks didn’t increase their lines on those props until a few hours after the news was released. Betting on those overs would have been profitable that day.

FanDuel also has rolled out some brand new player prop bets just in time for the playoffs. The first, a bet on a player to score 20+ points, is simply an alternate way to bet on a player’s scoring total if you think they are in store for a big game.

The other is a bet on which player will score the first basket. This can be one of the most exciting bets, as you don’t even have to wait a full quarter for it to be decided. If you don’t want to sweat out a bet for days or even hours or minutes, you can give this a shot and you’ll probably know the result within the opening minute of the game.

When betting on first basket props, keep in mind that the team that wins the jump ball is more likely to score first. This makes players on Connecticut more valuable. Jonquel Jones is the best jump-ball winner of the centers in the playoffs, winning over two-thirds of her tips over the last three seasons, and the Sun tied for the league lead this year with 22 games in which they scored first.

With all of the growing options, there’s bound to be something for everyone who’s looking to bet on the WNBA. And with more and more states continuing to join the movement, fans in over two-thirds of the country can now get in on the action.

Whether you bet or not, make sure to tune in all postseason long. With as many as five legitimate title contenders and no runaway favorite, the next month promises to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats, CBS SportsLine and FiveThirtyEight. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

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