Monday, September 20, 2010

Whalen Makes U.S. Women's Team; Augustus, Harding and Montgomery Don't

The Minnesota Lynx' Lindsay Whalen survived the final cuts to the roster of the U.S. women's team that will compete in the FIBA world championships starting on Thursday, September 23. But Lynx' swing player Seimone Augustus was 1 of the last 2 cuts. And, while former Gopher and now Lynx point guard Whalen made the roster, ironically 2 of tthe final 4 women cut were former Lynx point guards Lindsay Harding and Renee Montgomery.

In addition, former Lynx coach Jennifer Gillom, now coaching the L.A. Sparks, is an assistant to UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

The team's Web site has stats from 4 exhibition games, all wins, and Whalen was the #4 scorer with 9 ppg, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. She started 2 games, played in all 4 for an average of 17 minutes per game, and shot a remarkable 16-0f-19 (.842).

Augustus started 2 games and played in all 4 for 18.8 minutes per game, and scored 7 ppg with 61 percent FG shooting.

Whalen is the only 1 of the top 5 scorers who is not currently affiliated with a team in Connecticut, but of course she played for the Sun for 6 years before being traded to the Lynx earlier this year. The top 5 scorers are:

1. Tina Charles, UConn alumnus and the Connecticut Sun, recently named WNBA rookie of the year--13.3 ppg
2. Maya Moore, UConn, recently named NCAA player of the year for the 2nd time and still having 1 more year of college eligibility--13 ppg
3. Kara Lawson, Tennessee grad and Connecticut Sun, 10 ppg
4. Whalen--9 ppg
5. Diana Taurasi, UConn grad and Phoenix Mercury--7.8 ppg

In addition, UConn grads Sue Bird and Swin Cash will play for the U.S. despite missing the exhibition season. The 2 also play for the Seattle Storm, which just polished off the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA finals last Thursday, September 16. It says here that Bird will start at the "1" for the U.S., with Whalen coming off the bench. But we'll see.

Like the U.S. men, the women enter the worlds with a chip on their shoulder. Then men lost to Greece in the semi's in 2006 and settled for bronze. But not this year, when they swept 9 games en route to the gold medal. After winning the world title in 1998 and 2002, the American women were upset by Russia 75-68 in the 2006 semi's and settled for bronze. Of course, both the men and the women won Olympic gold in between, in 2008. Still, the U.S. women had won 4 of 5 world titles before 2006 and would like to get revenge, as the men have done.

And they're rated #1 in the world going in. But, the fact is they lost to Australia 83-77 in a tune-up in Spain over the weekend. Charles had 18 points and 7 boards for the U.S., while Whalen scored 13 points. They then hammered Senegal 93-51 in their final pre-tournament game, as Taurasi had 14 points and 5 assists. Moore had 13 points and 10 boards, Lawson 13 points, and Whalen 11 on 5-for-5 shooting.

So Australia would have to be regarded as at least the co-favorite. The Aussies beat Russia 91-74 for the gold in 2006, and finished 3rd in 1998 and 2002. Their star is WNBA regular season and playoff MVP Lauren Jackson, 6-foot-5, and now they can also play 6-9 Liz Cambage in the paint.

So the U.S. is hardly a shoo-in. While the U.S. roster is star-studded, it's also true that several prominent athletes are missing in action due to injuries. They included Sylvia Fowles, who led the U.S. in scoring and rebounding at the 2008 Olympics, plus Candace Parker, both NCAA player of the year and WNBA MVP as recently as 2008. Fowles scored 13 ppg and Parker added 9 in the 2008 Olympics. The #2 and #4 scorers from 2008 also have retired--Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie.

So the U.S. has something to prove. But it says here that Australia is a juggernaut.

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