Forecast 2.0: Take Monarchs, Shock

Updated: August 24, 2006, 11:42 AM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Stop me if you've heard this one before …

As long as we were "officially" reopening this picking business, did I still think it was going to be Connecticut vs. Los Angeles, and then the Sun winning it all? Well, I'm not going to be surprised if that happens. … But I'm not sure that Connecticut can overcome the loss of Katie Douglas and Los Angeles can win without Chamique Holdsclaw playing meaningful minutes.

I'm not really an expert, I just play one on ESPN.com. As such, I'm called on to "make predictions." And I'll tell you what, that's some really valuable information.

Do you happen to have a small round object in the vicinity, one that starts out copper-colored and then gets brown with age and wear, has a picture of Abe Lincoln on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back? Fits easily into a slot on the back of a ceramic pig?

That's worth considerably more than my typical picks. However, people seem to be interested in who the "experts" are picking, and so I guess now I'll get to the point: I changed my picks from last week on who's going to the WNBA Finals and who's going to win it all. Now, I'm going with Detroit vs. Sacramento, and the Monarchs repeating their WNBA title.

I wouldn't have been so audacious to actually ask to do this. But my editor offered the chance to "repick" now that we know who's in the conference finals. My first reaction was, "No, I can't change now." As if anyone really cares or there's some kind of federal law about these things.

Then I decided as long as we were "officially" reopening this picking business, did I still think it was going to be Connecticut vs. Los Angeles, and then the Sun winning it all?

Well, I'm not going to be surprised if that happens. The four teams we're down to all have the ability to be the champs, no question about it. But I'm not sure that Connecticut can overcome the loss of Katie Douglas and Los Angeles can win without Chamique Holdsclaw playing meaningful minutes.

Obviously, just as it was so great to see Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro win a WNBA title last year for Sacramento, I think plenty of people want the same for Taj McWilliams-Franklin of Connecticut this year.

Others are pulling for L.A. because of Holdsclaw, who's indicated this might be her last season in the league. Of course, it's not like Holdsclaw's bereft of championships, getting three with Tennessee and then being part of the 2000 U.S. gold-medal Olympic team.

Chamique Holdsclaw
Kevin P. Casey /AP PhotoChamique Holdsclaw has played just two minutes in L.A.'s past two games, sidelined with a sore foot.

Meanwhile in Detroit, Katie Smith is seeking her first WNBA title, having won two with Columbus during the ABL days.

But … considering the McWilliams-Franklin factor, and that Connecticut has been to the Finals the last two years but hasn't won, and the hard-luck injury mishaps for the Sun, and that Mike Thibault is a hard-working, really-cares, really-does-his-homework, really-has-paid-his-dues kind of coach … well, the Sun are the sentimental favorite, for sure.

And when fully healthy, Connecticut showed itself to be the league's best team through the duration of the regular season. Unfortunately for the Sun, though, the latest "Oh, no!" injury might be one even a terrific team can't compensate for when facing an opponent like Detroit.

Connecticut has one of the deepest benches in the league, but a lot of the Sun's depth is not really experienced. Talented and with terrific potential, yes. But what we've all seen of Douglas this season is the ability to make big plays on both ends of the court at momentum-changing or momentum-sustaining moments. And that comes from experience.

It would be great to see the Sun give a swift kick to this irritating gnome of misfortune that seems to follow the team around. Sometimes teams do that when they lose a key player -- everyone else picks up just a little more load.

However, the team Connecticut is facing makes all that tougher. The Shock have had the best luck in regard to injuries this year. And Detroit looked in good postseason form in the first-round series against Indiana.

Meanwhile, Sacramento has looked the best of any team thus far in the postseason. And Los Angeles, with Holdsclaw playing a spectator role, had a very hard time putting away an injury-riddled Seattle team that was practically being held together with tape.

I know she didn't make the WNBA's all-decade team and it has been an emotionally trying last few years for Holdsclaw, but come on. She is hands-down one of the best players in the history of the game. I sincerely hope she stays in the league for many years to come.

After tallying 13 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes in Game 1, Holdsclaw played just more than two minutes in the second game against Seattle and not at all in Game 3. The difference between the Sparks with a healthy Holdsclaw and without her is so vast. And it puts all the more burden on Lisa Leslie and Mwadi Mabika to maintain their aggressiveness and yet stay out of foul trouble.

Further, the Sparks' knock-you-around style of play isn't going to bother the Monarchs one bit. I do think there are teams L.A. ends up physically overpowering at times, but there is no chance of that happening to Sacramento.

Yes, L.A. swept the season series, but the Monarchs were battling their own injury/health issues. Now, they're in as good a shape as they've been all summer.

So … the upshot is that the "favorites" have now changed, in my view.

Then again, we might do this all over again for the Finals.

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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