The WNBA playoffs open Wednesday night with a pair of games showcasing the league's revamped playoff format. First up will be the single-elimination games as fifth-seeded Indiana hosts No. 8 Phoenix and seventh-seed Seattle is at No. 6 Atlanta. Sports Commentator Art Thiel says the new "one-and-done" format could actually be a boon for the Seattle Storm.
"The WNBA introduced this new format where the first two rounds are both one-and-done. For the Storm, it’s probably going to work out pretty well because they’re a lower seed … They’re a big underdog," Thiel said.
He says the game between the Storm and Atlanta Dream should be an "entertaining" one.
"They had a great coming together. Finished the season seven and three to qualify for the seven spot. That was really a big rally,” he said.
Thiel points out this will actually be Sue Bird's first playoff appearance since 2012. He calls that "a big deal."
"She's having a renaissance season," he said.
The second round begins Saturday with New York and Chicago waiting — and it will also be single elimination.
The eight teams with the best record qualified for the playoffs, regardless of conference affiliation. And they were seeded according to their record.
Ahead of the playoffs, the Associated Press named the WNBA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Those honors went to Los Angeles' Nneka Ogwumike and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, respectively.
The awards were chosen by the 14-member media panel that votes for the weekly power poll. Stewart finished third all-time for points by a rookie and broke Lisa Leslie's WNBA record for defensive rebounds in a season.