The schedule may have just been released, but it's not to early to take a look at some of the most anticipated matchups of the 2013 season. Player movement may alter the meaning of some of these games, but as we stand now, here are five games that are a must-watch for any WNBA fan.
It wasn't easy to restrict this to just five games -- there are plenty more games with substantial intrigue -- but here's five that absolutely jump off the page.
May 27: Chicago at Phoenix
All eyes will be on this game as it will be the debut game -- barring trades -- for the top two picks in the highly anticipated 2013 WNBA Draft. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and it could potentially be the first WNBA game for current Baylor senior Brittney Griner, which would be sure to generate a national buzz.
This game will also be an opportunity for each of these teams to show off what they can do at full strength. Both Phoenix and Chicago suffered setbacks due to injuries last season -- hence why they are in the lottery -- as Phoenix lost Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor, among others, for most or all of the season while Chicago played without Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles for extended time. This will be the first look at each retooled, healthy roster as it pits two teams that will be among the favorites to win their respective conferences.
June 7: New York at Atlanta
Perhaps no two players mean more to their teams than Cappie Pondexter does to the Liberty and Angel McCoughtry does to the Dream. Also two of the league's most explosive players, Pondexter and McCoughtry are a must-watch every time they step on the floor. So, when they meet for the first time in this early-season tilt, you can expect their to be a bit of a scoring duel.
The intrigue only increases because the two stars in question were teammates on Turkish club Fenerbahce this offseason. When talking to WNBA.com, the two were effusive in their praise about each other. Cappie said Angel is a "great teammate" and "can jump out of the gym". McCoughtry said she'd love to have Cappie in Atlanta. Nonetheless, you can expect there to be a little added motivation when these two now find themselves on opposing sides.
July 11: Indiana at Minnesota
We have to wait until mid-July for our first WNBA Finals rematch, so Minnesota will be thirsty for revenge since the Fever upset the Lynx in four games and ended the team's quest for a repeat championship last October. The faces will be familiar as Indiana just locked up several of its key players, including Tamika Catchings, while Minnesota's core is expected to go largely unchanged.
We'll also get to see Maya Moore versus Tamika Catchings again. Much of the hype surrounding the WNBA Finals was Catchings metaphorically passing the torch of being thought of as the best all-around player in the WNBA to the rising superstar Moore. Catchings got the best of her good friend Moore in the Finals, but Moore, fresh off a title in China, may be ready to take that title from the veteran in 2013.
September 12: Minnesota at Los Angeles
While Minnesota was the heavy favorite to emerge from the Western Conference last year, the prevailing wisdom was that the Sparks had the best shot of eliminating the Lynx. Now, while the West is hardly a two-horse race this year, the Sparks, with the addition of Lindsay Harding, are only going to be even stronger competition for the Lynx.
Both Minnesota and L.A. have only one regular season game after this rematch of the 2012 Western Conference Finals so there is a strong chance there will be playoff implications on the line. Plus, when you get the likes of Candace Parker, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Nneka Ogwumike, among others, on the floor at the same time, you're sure to see WNBA basketball at its finest.
September 15: Indiana at Connecticut
If this season plays out anything like last, this matchup on the last day of the season could carry a lot of intrigue. Indiana and Connecticut finished atop the Eastern Conference last year and even met in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012, so this matchup could very well decide not only playoff seeding, but which team have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
On top of that, it will serve as one last regular season meeting between the last two MVPs, Tina Charles (2012) and Tamika Catchings (2011). If both teams are in contention for top seed in the East, they could yet again be dueling it out for the league's top individual honor.