The WNBA opens its 21st season to thunderous applause this weekend. Well, maybe not thunderous. And, maybe not applause. More like a slow sarcastic clap.
Most often, the league serves as a better punchline than entertainment but like all sports – popular or not – a little wager can quickly make you a die-hard fan. And as ridiculed as the WNBA is, it has quietly become the secret weapon of sharp bettors each summer.
Due to the lack of exposure and coverage, plenty of WNBA news, trends and tidbits fall on deaf ears, which means those with their head to the women’s hardwood have a distinct advantage over the public and even the sportsbooks.
Here are some good reasons why sports bettors should love the “Dub” and what to look for when handicapping lady hoops.
Study pays off
The bookmakers delegate their resources to the sports that generate the most betting. WNBA lines are generally softer than the odds you’ll find in college and NBA basketball. As a result, someone that invests the time and effort into their research can have a strong advantage betting on a sport that is off most people's radar.
The bottom line is that the cold, hard cash won betting on the WNBA is worth the same as money won betting on any other sport.
Lack of depth
“I essentially handicap the games same as I would any other sport, but find that because the public and oddsmakers aren't as up on it, that you can often find very advantageous lines,” says Covers Expert Power Sports. “One key difference between it and most men's leagues is that there is a real lack of depth as far as talent goes, so the top two and three teams end up being much better than the rest of the field.”
The 2016 WNBA season finished with only three teams above .600 in the standings: Minnesota at 28-6, Los Angeles at 26-8, and New York at 21-13. Those three clubs went a combined
Value on the dogs
Many WNBA die-hards stick strictly to underdogs during the season. The thought behind this tactic is that you get plenty of recreational bettors and action junkies coming out of the woodwork in the summer months, when the sports betting menu is thin. Those players blindly pound the favorites and can warrant line movement that opens up value on the underdog.
Betting the WNBA dogs proved profitable last season, with betting underdogs going 115-100-5 ATS (53.5 percent). Road teams getting the points were especially solid, with a 77-62-2 ATS mark on the year (55.4 percent).
The 2016 WNBA season was unlike any other. Scoring jumped from 150.29 combined points per game in 2015 to 163.76 combined points per game last year, and it showed in the Over/Under results. WNBA games finished 123-96-1 O/U – a 56.16 percent winning clip for the Over. So not only was the women's game more exciting but it also had a profitable totals trend as the cherry on top of the sundae.
There are a few factors contributing to this sudden uptick in point production: Average pace (points per possession) jumped from 74.5 in 2015 to 76.7 in 2016, 3-point shooting climbed a touch from 14.7 attempts per game in 2015 (32.5 3PT percentage) to 16 attempts in 2016 (33.6 3PT percentage), and teams got to the foul line more often (18.56 FTA in 2015 to 21.18 FTA in 2016).
However, one of the biggest differences last season (and perhaps the facilitator of those above statistics) was the new shot clock rule. The WNBA stayed with the 24-second shot clock, but reset to 14 seconds – rather than a full reset to 24 seconds – after an offensive rebound. That meant that teams couldn’t milk the clock for a full 24 seconds after pulling down the offensive glass, therefore quickening the pace of play.
Here’s a look at the WNBA futures heading into Saturday’s season opener:
Los Angeles Sparks +225
Minnesota Lynx +275
New York Liberty +500
Washington Mystics +500
Phoenix Mercury +900
Seattle Storm +1,000
Indiana Fever +1,500
Atlanta Dream +2,200
Connecticut Sun +2,200
Dallas Wings +2,800
Chicago Sky +3,000
San Antonio Silver Stars +3,000
Odds via Sportsbook.ag.
Editor's note: This article contains information from a previous WNBA article published in 2013.