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WNBA betting guide: Washington Mystics’ title odds trending up

Alysha Clark made her Mystics debut on Friday after missing last season with an injury. (Scott Taetsch for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Just over a week into the season, unpredictability already abounds in the WNBA. The Lynx are 0-4 and seem to have a revolving door for a bench, the Dream are tied for first in the league at 3-1, and previously under-the-radar rookies — from the undrafted players to the 30-somethings — have come out of nowhere to have an early impact for their teams.

Building off of our guide to the 2022 season, we break down what you need to know in the WNBA this week from a betting perspective.

Team trends

One aspect of the chaos is the fact that somehow every team has already won and lost at least once against the spread (ATS). That also holds true for the over/unders, with the exception of the Sun, who have yet to hit an over in their two games.

With so much parity in terms of the small-sample records, we can dig a bit deeper and look at average points above/below the spread or total to tell the story so far. Here are the best and worst teams by each measure.

Best ATS: Washington (+5.5)

Even after losing to Dallas as 7.5-point favorites in their last game, the Mystics have covered by an average of 5.5 points over their four games. The scariest part? They have yet to play a game with their full complement of players.

Alysha Clark made her Mystics debut last week after missing just over a year due to injury, and Natasha Cloud looks set to return this Friday after clearing protocols. Once Elizabeth Williams is back, which may also be on Friday, this starting lineup will finally be whole — at least in games in which Elena Delle Donne suits up.

Worst ATS: New York (-10.6)

The Liberty looked primed to build off of last year’s momentum after bringing in Sandy Brondello and Stefanie Dolson, and a season-opening victory over Connecticut did nothing to change that.

In the week since, New York has fallen off a cliff. A 33-point beatdown in Chicago followed by home losses to the Fever and Wings have not exactly inspired confidence in this team’s ability to take the next step. It doesn’t get any easier tonight in a rematch against the Sun, who look to have Courtney Williams back for this one.

Best for Overs: Indiana (+3.6)

It’s hard to believe for a franchise that’s been around for over two decades, but Indiana has only finished in the top half of the league in pace one time: 2015. If its first five games of 2022 are any indication, however, that may not be the case by season’s end.

The Fever, with a roster full of players who were taking college classes mere weeks ago, lead the league in pace with a whopping 86.5 possessions per 40 minutes. In fact, if that number held throughout the season, they would set a new mark for the fastest team in WNBA history. When you operate at that speed, the overs will be in play whether the offense shows up or not.

Best for Unders: Connecticut (-11.5)

The Sun have played only two games thus far, but is anyone really shocked to see them once again cashing out those unders?

It was mildly surprising to see Connecticut let an opponent break 80 in its opener after returning nearly every starter from a historically good defensive unit in 2021. It didn’t take long for that unit to get back on track though — the Sparks managed a meager 60 points against the Sun in the next game.

In theory, sportsbooks should know by now how much the Sun like to grind out games, but models often regress to the mean early on in a season. If books have regressed more than the Sun have, then Connecticut may continue to hit those unders.

League trends

Aside from the team extremes, there are also always some trends worth watching across the league, a couple of which we covered in our season primer. Let’s check in on those and take a look at a new trend that may be emerging.

Back-to-back unders

Last season, unders hit over 55 percent of the time in the second leg of back-to-backs. We’ve had only one opportunity for this through 11 days, but so far, so good.

Phoenix poured it on Seattle 97-77 on Wednesday after Breanna Stewart was ruled out due to COVID-19 protocol and cleared the 162.5-point line by double figures. In the nationally-televised rematch on Saturday, the teams combined for just 133 points, a decrease of over 40 points from the first total.

If you’re interested in riding this trend, the next chance comes your way Tuesday night in the Atlanta vs. Indiana game.

Fourth-quarter unders

This trend has not held up in the same way, to say the least. Fourth-quarter unders are 10-12 after hitting over 60 percent of the time last year.

The first instinct may be to assume sportsbooks have just adjusted, but it gets curious when you look at league numbers for all four quarters. Over at least the last four seasons, average scoring has gone down in each quarter throughout a game. This season, that trend is almost completely reversed.

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Historically, this has corresponded with a decline in pace quarter by quarter, and that decline is mostly still there (third quarters have been slightly faster than second quarters, but the overall downward trend still applies).

Instead, it appears that much of this is being driven by hot second-half shooting. Teams have shot a combined 32.7 percent from 3 in the first half and 38.8 percent in the second. This feels unsustainable, but it’s good to be aware of the trend if you’re planning on betting halves or quarters.

Live second-quarter unders

Fourth quarters may have let us down so far, but another quarter has been coming through for us. Second-quarter unders overall are 14-8 (63.6 percent), but when the first quarter has gone over, the proceeding second quarter has gone under all seven times. In other words, teams that light up the scoreboard in the first quarter have consistently come back down to earth in the next frame.

Obviously you won’t be able to bet on this trend before knowing how the first quarter shakes out, but if you are watching a game and interested in betting it live, consider taking a swing at the second quarter under after the first quarter surpasses its line.

Futures update

As books continue to pay more attention to women’s basketball, and thus update their odds more often, teams on hot or cold streaks are seeing more and more movement in their championship odds. Here are the biggest movers on FanDuel.

Stock up: Washington (+2000 preseason to +750 current)

The Mystics were already one of the biggest risers of the offseason after opening at +3000. The 1000-point shift in odds has been more than duplicated in the first four games of the regular season for a lot of the reasons mentioned above.

Another thing benefitting Washington this year is the new playoff format. Resting Delle Donne for certain games won’t hurt them as much this season as it would have under the old format, where seeding was so critical and the regular season standings played a huge part in playoff success.

Stock down: Minnesota (+1000 preseason to +3500 current)

Starting 0-4 and cutting players left and right has a way of doing that to a team’s championship odds. It remains to be seen whether the Lynx are headed for the Aliyah Boston sweepstakes or for becoming this year’s version of the 2021 Sky, but they certainly aren’t in a good spot for the time being.

Like the Mystics, Minnesota may be another team aided by the new playoff format. With the May losses piling up, even a great run in July or August probably wouldn’t be enough to land a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but this year that matters a whole lot less. With no more single-elimination games or byes, as long as teams can sneak into the No. 8 spot, they have a shot.

Best bets tonight

Connecticut/New York under 158.5

We talked about Connecticut’s penchant for playing slow, low-scoring games as well as New York’s struggles over the last week. Bet on both of those to continue Tuesday night.

Atlanta/Indiana under 158.5

We mentioned the success of back-to-back unders as well, and despite the blazing pace at which Indiana has been playing, this line is still high enough to have value on the under.

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.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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