Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Schedules: "When do the Atlanta Dream play?"

Any discussion about the schedule of the Atlanta Dream leads into a discussion about the WNBA season, and how long it is.

There are only 34 games in a WNBA regular season. This lets one compare the length of a WNBA season, say, to the length of a college basketball season. The WNBA season is approximately four months long, lasting from early June to late September or early October. The NBA schedule, in comparison, is eight months long, lasting from early November to early June including the playoffs.

Part of the reason why the NBA's season seems to last forever is that the NBA plays 82 regular season games a year, and with 16 teams going to a post-season playoff where every series is a best-of-seven series, following a championship contender could mean watching 90 games of basketball. However, the WNBA only sends eight teams to the postseason and the first two rounds are best-of-three series. Only the finals is a best-of-five series.

The advantage is that following the WNBA seriously doesn't require a massive time commitment. Furthermore, with only 13 teams and only 11 players per team, that means that only 143 players are playing in the WNBA. It would be theoretically possible to memorize the name of every single player on every team.

Now, about the schedule itself. On weekdays, games usually start at either 7 pm or 7:30 pm, and it's rare that a game will run over two hours beyond its start point. Games in the WNBA are only 40 minutes long (not including stoppages of play and timeouts) as opposed to the NBA and their 48-minute games. This allows one to attend a game and get back home at a reasonable time - as opposed to say, football or baseball.

On the weekends, there will be some variation. Games can be scheduled in the late afternoon around 3pm or 4 pm. Once a year or so there will be a "kid's game" where kids from basketball camps or community centers will be invited to a rare game starting at noon or so on a weekday. These games are generally well attended, but you have to like kids.

The only rule in the WNBA seems to be that games are not scheduled on Monday night. I don't know if this is a fast and firm rule, but it seems to be the case.

Note that 34 regular season games add up to only 17 home games. Unlike other sports, the WNBA doesn't have a long preseason - part of the reason is that players play in Europe and are wrapping up their obligations to the European clubs. All in all, there will only be 18 chances to see the Dream at home if the Dream don't make the postseason. There are only nine chances left this year.

Your best bet? August. There is a homestand of six straight games from August 8th to August 25th.


Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting analysis for you, not sure who benefits....

Dream have 10 west games left and only 6 east (with no Indy and 2 of those being Detroit)

Sky, DC, and Sun all have 11 or 12 east games left, all including 2 Indy games and of course beating up on each other.

Dream obviously have to take care of their own biz first, but does this give them leg up in Eastern playoff race??? Or does it hurt them that they cannot beat the East themselves much anymore?

pt said...

Anon, that's a tough one to break down. Generally it's considered hurtful to play the bulk of the remaining schedule out of conference, if you obey that old chestnut that you'd like to have your fate in your hands at the end and not out of it.

The Eastern playoff race also has an interesting factor in it: if you believe that the four teams that have a chance of going to the playoffs are the Fever, Sun, Mystics and Dream, then our records with each of these teams becomes important to break tiebreakers.

The odd part about the WNBA is that you have to play each team at least twice, home and away. This leads to an "unbalanced" schedule, as that gives you 22 games against the other 6 Eastern teams.

Against the Fever, we're 1-2. We have no more games, and lose the tiebreaker.
Against the Sun, we're 2-1 with one game left.
Against the Mystics, we're 2-1 with one game left.
Against the Sky, we're 0-2 with one game left.

Where the Dream goes in the East might depend on those tiebreakers.