While the NBA and their planned restart in a bubble at Disney World has taken most of the headlines, the WNBA is gearing up for a season too. Starting on July 25th, the WNBA will be holding a 22-game season in a bubble of their own at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
As they prepare for what looks to be a very weird season, let’s take a look at the league from a UNC-centric perspective.
Before we get into looking at the on court action, we have to talk off court matters. As we’ve seen in the NBA and MLB and other leagues restarting, we have seen WNBA players opt out of this bubble season. Two of the most notable of those to do so happen to be Tar Heels.
On June 23rd, 2019 WNBA champion LaToya Sanders announced that she would be opting out of the 2020 season. The Mystics forward decided to sit out the season saying she wanted to do what is “best for my health and my family.”
On Sunday, Jessica Breland announced that wouldn’t be taking part of what was supposed to be her first season with the Phoenix Mercury. Breland also opted out for health reasons, as she dealt with and defeated cancer while she was playing at UNC.
Their withdrawals leaves us with, as far as I can tell, just one Tar Heel taking part.
(It should be noted that there are others that played at UNC and then later transferred away. Thanks NCAA investigation! I’ve just chosen to focus on the player that finished their career in Chapel Hill.)
Last season, Ruffin-Pratt started 33 of 34 regular season games for LA and averaged six points, two rebounds, and an assist. She and the Sparks made the playoffs and won the first round before getting swept by the Connecticut Sun in the semifinals.
This season, her team will be without a pair of notable players in Kristi Toliver and Chiney Ogwumike, who both opted out. Neither of those two played her position exactly, so that might not change her playing time, although maybe it increases her role on the court.
She’s not going to be a first option with the likes of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike around, but Toliver is a multi-time All-Star and Chiney Ogwumike averaged nearly 10 points per game, so maybe we see Ruffin-Pratt get some more chances on the offensive end.
The Sparks are also among the Vegas favorites to win the WNBA title. However, with the season coming down to just a 22-game sprint, it remains to be seen what kind of effect that has.
Play will kick off on July 25th with a triple-header that the Sparks will be a part of. Ruffin-Pratt and her LA teammates will take on the Phoenix Mercury at 3 PM ET in a game that will air on ABC. In total, the Sparks will play in 13 national TV games on either an ESPN channel or CBS Sports Network.