Why this year's WNBA Finals are must-see TV

 
 
Posted9/30/2017 1:00 AM
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  • Los Angeles Sparks and former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, left, holds the ball at arm's length as Minnesota Lynx's Lindsay Whalen, right, defends during the second half of Game 2 in the WNBA basketball finals Tuesday in Minneapolis. The Lynx won 70-68.

    Los Angeles Sparks and former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, left, holds the ball at arm's length as Minnesota Lynx's Lindsay Whalen, right, defends during the second half of Game 2 in the WNBA basketball finals Tuesday in Minneapolis. The Lynx won 70-68. Associated Press

Looks like ESPN is carrying the rest of the WNBA Finals.

Good. That means we'll probably get to see each game from start to finish, unlike Game 1 last Sunday, which was carried by ABC but was pre-empted in Chicago almost in its entirety by Channel 7 for a regular season Cubs game.

Yes, I get it. It's the Cubs. World Series champs. At the time, fighting to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

But it was a shame, irritating even, that such a good WNBA Finals game between two of the best teams in league history was given the shaft. Can you imagine the NBA Finals being pre-empted?

Yes, Channel 7, there are WNBA fans in Chicago.

This rematch Finals series between the Los Angeles Sparks, last year's champion, and the Minnesota Lynx, last year's runner-up, is another doozy. Game 1 in the best-of-five series ended with a buzzer-beater.

And guess what? The ratings on Game 1 were pretty darn good, the best ever for a Game 1. They were up 20 percent from last year's Game 1. So don't tell me that no one is watching.

The Sparks, led by former Naperville Central star Candace Parker, won Game 1, 85-84, but Minnesota came back on Tuesday to get a win in another nail-biter, 70-68.

Game 3 was in Los Angeles on Friday night and Game 4, also from Los Angeles, will be televised by ESPN at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Air time:

It's been a good month for women in sports television.

This week, Doris Burke, a college basketball player and coach turned commentator, was promoted from NBA sideline reporter to a full-time NBA analyst.

Burke, who cut her teeth as a longtime analyst for women's college basketball, will be the first woman to call a full schedule of NBA games as an analyst for a national network.

Former DePaul basketball player and former Comcast SportsNet reporter Sarah Kustok earned a similar gig, but on a local level. She is moving from sideline reporter for the Brooklyn Nets to the team's lead analyst.

Meanwhile, Beth Mowins, who has worked with Burke on the women's basketball circuit, is making inroads in football. This season, she is the first woman to call multiple NFL games as a play-by-play announcer.

Chicago Sky play-by-play announcer Lisa Byington pulled off the same kind of feat on the college level with the Big Ten Network earlier this month. She become the network's first female play-by-play voice for football when she called the Northwestern-Bowling Green game. She impressed enough to earn another assignment doing play-by-play for BTN.

Big deal:

Big Ten volleyball teams are once again earning national recognition in droves, maintaining the conference's reputation as the toughest in the country.

Seven Big 10 teams are ranked in this week's AVCA coaches poll, with four in the top 10.

Minnesota and Penn State are tied at No. 3, Wisconsin is at No. 7 and Nebraska is at No. 8 while Michigan State (16), Purdue (19) and Michigan (23) are also ranked.

Illinois and Ohio State received votes, which means that more than half the conference is getting national attention.

Not that that is anything new.

The Big 10 has exploded on the national scene over the last five to seven years.

Since 2012, four Big Ten schools (Minnesota, Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have ranked No. 1 in the AVCA poll for a total of 43 weeks. Penn State tops that list having been ranked No. 1 for a total of 21 weeks.

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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