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WNBA 2022 betting guide: Odds, picks for champion, MVP and more

(Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images)

If you’ve followed our WNBA coverage over the last eight months, you know we’ve added betting analysis as one way to help grow the game. We kicked it off with our primer heading into last year’s playoffs, which is a great place to start if you’re new to the betting scene.

This year, for the first time, we’ll be rolling out betting coverage right from the beginning of the season.

We aren’t likely to have game lines until the regular season tips off on Friday, but we do have championship futures and trends from last year. So, let’s go ahead and break those down as we count down the hours until the season openers.

Futures

Championship

Several books have had these posted for months, and they have been continuously adjusting throughout the offseason as league news has affected the landscape.

For example, the Mystics were listed at around +3000 in most places before the draft lottery, but after they landed the No. 1 pick (which they later traded), those odds dropped to +2000 or even +1800 at some books.

Likewise, teams like the Sparks and the Mercury, who added big names such as Liz Cambage and Tina Charles during free agency, saw their odds move. Kudos to you if you were able to snag any of those bets at the previous odds.

At this point, the next event to affect the odds will probably be the games themselves. For now, here are where the odds stand at a few of the biggest books.

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FanDuel
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DraftKings
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BetMGM

There should be more value in a couple of weeks (more on that later), but as it stands, the Liberty at +3000 on FanDuel and the Sun at +400 on DraftKings may be solid bets.

In New York’s case, the roster didn’t change a whole lot from last season’s playoff team, but the coaching staff did. Sandy Brondello is a proven winner who should know how to get the most out of the talent on this team.

The one big change was the Liberty’s addition of Stefanie Dolson. It may not have been as splashy as the Cambage or Charles signings, but Dolson is a two-time All-Star in the prime of her career who brings championship experience at the college, WNBA and EuroLeague levels. Her screening ability was one key reason Courtney Vandersloot was able to do so much damage in the pick-and-roll over the last several seasons. Sabrina Ionescu could see similar success in that department.

Connecticut, meanwhile, upgraded its roster by virtue of health. Yes, Alyssa Thomas returned at the end of last season, but having her back from the start will make a huge difference next to Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner. This will be the first year that those three will get to play together all season, despite it being the third season that they are all under contract for the Sun.

And we can’t forget about the return of Courtney Williams. Bringing her back into the mix means the only difference between this year’s starting lineup and the one that pushed the Mystics to the brink in the 2019 Finals will be Bonner (in place of Shekinna Stricklen).

Not only is Williams an upgrade, but the absences of Jones and Thomas over the last couple of years have allowed players like Brionna Jones to step in and gain valuable experience, which should make this team deeper than that 2019 squad was.

MVP

FanDuel is the only book with MVP odds at the moment, but more and more should pop up in the next week or two. Here are FanDuel’s MVP odds.

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There is a pretty clear “big three” this year, although a few others have a path to that top tier at some point. If Tina Charles or Sylvia Fowles can carry their respective teams in the absence of Brittner Griner and Napheesa Collier, their stock could rise. Elena Delle Donne’s could as well if she can stay healthy for the first time since 2019.

As far as the current top tier, Breanna Stewart seems like the best bet. Jonquel Jones is coming off of a remarkable season, but she’ll lose a little bit of scoring volume to Alyssa Thomas, and voter fatigue generally makes it tough to repeat for any award in any sport.

A’ja Wilson should take off in Becky Hammon’s new system without Liz Cambage stealing paint touches, so she deserves to be the favorite. The gap between her odds and Stewart’s is enough that the latter may be a slightly better value though.

Trends to watch out for

Early breakouts

Last year, the first few weeks of the season provided tons of value in terms of futures betting. Both championship odds and MVP odds stayed relatively stagnant while we started to gain information about teams and players through the first handful of games.

There was a window of time to bet on breakout stars like Betnijah Laney for MVP or upstart teams like the Sun (whose odds were in the middle of the pack early on as everyone overestimated the impact of losing Alyssa Thomas to injury). While Laney didn’t win the MVP and the Sun didn’t win the title, both looked much more likely to do so a month into the season than they did on opening day. Naturally, those bets had good value, and at sportsbooks that allow midseason cashouts, it was possible to still profit from that value.

Keep an eye on the odds during May: If there’s a 2022 version of Laney or a Connecticut to bet on this year, those who pay the closest attention will have a leg up on beating the books to those bets.

Special unders

For a lot of people, betting unders isn’t as fun as betting overs. The average fan doesn’t usually enjoy a game filled with bricks.

If you want to take advantage of a couple of areas that have been misjudged by sportsbooks, however, consider back-to-back unders and fourth-quarter unders.

Back-to-back unders come into play during the second of consecutive matchups between the same two teams. Last season, this happened 47 times, and the under hit in 26 of those (55.3 percent). Since you only need to win around 53 percent of your over/under bets to be profitable, you would have come out ahead simply by betting the under in every single second leg of a back-to-back.

Part of this is simply a matter of rest. Almost all of those back-to-backs were played with just one off day in between, leaving players a little more tired and less likely to push the pace in the second game.

Of course, that would be true of any game in which the teams were playing on short rest, but there’s an added component at work when the short-rest games are between teams that just met two days prior: scouting report familiarity. Put those two factors together, and you have a recipe for a game that was lower-scoring than the first matchup.

The other type of under bet that’s worth monitoring was even more profitable last season. Fourth-quarter unders went 119-72 with one push in 2021, cashing out well over 60 percent of the time.

Basketball games at almost any level tend to slow down a little bit as the game goes on — legs aren’t as fresh 35 minutes in as they were at the tip. This leads to lower-average scores in each successive quarter. While free throws at the end of close games do sometimes drive the fourth quarter scores up, the effect isn’t large enough to buck the overall trend; fourth quarters have still been historically the slowest and lowest-scoring quarters of the game.

For whatever reason, sportsbooks haven’t seemed to figure that out yet. These lines vary, but often you can find a fourth-quarter over/under that’s at one-fourth of the game over/under or even slightly higher. For instance, in a game that has an over/under set at 160, a fourth-quarter line of 40 or 41 may be worth taking the under on.

The more people bet on a sport, the more people watch the sport, and the more the sport grows. As part of our efforts to grow the WNBA, we’ll be keeping you updated on the betting trends and futures odds with regular analysis throughout the year, so stay tuned all season long.

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.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

Cameron Brink Suffers Season-Ending ACL Tear

la sparks rookie cameron brink being helped off the court after an injury
Brink had to be helped off the court after taking a fall during the Sparks' loss to Connecticut on Tuesday. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sparks rookie Cameron Brink will miss the remainder of the WNBA season after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee during Tuesday’s game against Connecticut. 

Brink will also miss the Paris Olympics after having been named to the USA Basketball's 3×3 Olympic roster earlier this month. 

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, Brink started in all 15 games for the Sparks this season. She entered Tuesday averaging 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks, while her blocks ranked her third in the league behind Seattle's Ezi Magbegor and Las Vegas's A’ja Wilson.

During Tuesday’s game, Brink appeared to slip on the hardwood while driving to the basket. After standing up with assistance, she then had to be helped off the court before being carried back to the locker room

"You never think it will happen to you," Brink wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. "And despite all the hard work sometimes it does. This is hard to fathom but I know it will only make me stronger. I will not be derailed and I will continue to love this life — I'm not defined by basketball, but it is something that I love deeply and I will work everyday to get back to it. It's not goodbye basketball it's just a see you later. I'm always so thankful for your thoughts and prayers."

In a statement, USA Basketball wished Brink a "speedy recovery" and noted that they will be looking for someone to fill her spot on the 3×3 team. Brink's 3×3 teammate Rhyne Howard also took a knock on Wednesday, although the severity of that injury has yet to be announced. 

After the confirmation, Brink's fellow rookies took to social media to offer up words of support, with Angel Reese writing “\"prayers for my sweet girl!" Aaliyah Edwards also sent prayers, as well as "positive thoughts your way, Cam."

"It just breaks your heart," Caitlin Clark told reporters Wednesday.

"You don’t want to see anybody deal with any sort of injury, obviously an injury of that magnitude," she continued. "I know she’s the type of person that will be able to get through it and come through it stronger."

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