Commentary: The unique WNBA timeline has them sitting on a gold mine of opportunity

We start tonight with a moment of silence for the keyboard warriors and trolls on social media who are so quick to say "So What?" or "No One Cares!" when you mention women’s basketball. 

Because while there’s already tangible evidence to the contrary, this year’s Final Four blew all those numbers away. 

It’s fair – and somewhat refreshing to say – that if you’re a sports fan and didn’t watch the national championship game between South Carolina and Iowa this afternoon, you were probably in the minority. From Dawn Staley and company completing a perfect 38-and-0 season to superstar Caitlin Clark trying to lead the Hawkeyes to an upset, including an NCAA Tournament Record 18 points in the first quarter, it was the culmination of a fascinating tournament. 

And frankly, it once again puts the WNBA in one of the most unique positions in all of pro sports. Because that league has the best opportunity to ride the momentum and the buzz from this weekend right into their regular season. 

So what do I mean by that? Well, it’s all about timing. The WNBA Draft is one week from tomorrow. Caitlin Clark will be the top overall pick, and Final Four MVP Kamilla Cardoso from South Carolina will likely be taken in the top four or five picks. But even more importantly, the season itself begins less than a month later. 

In the NFL, the draft takes place in late April, and the season doesn’t start until September.

In the NBA, the draft is in June, and the season starts in October.

Forget about timing in Major League Baseball and the NHL, you rarely see some of the top picks there play right away, but even then, there’s a big gap between draft day and their debut. 

But the WNBA benefits from the best possible timetable. You see the superstars in early April, and they’re playing professionally literally a month later. 

I mean – she’s not even playing for the Storm, but Caitlin Clark will likely be in town in just 45 days on May 22, when the Storm host the Indiana Fever. And she’ll be back just over a month later on June 27. Not that there aren’t fantastic athletes already in the league, because there are, but when you have a game-changing talent like that, it raises the profile of the sport itself.

And that’s what we saw this season. Championship teams might be celebrated, but talents like Clark have the ability to single-handedly get everyone talking. 

Case in point: In more than two decades, I don’t think a single negative thing was ever said about Sue Bird during her career. But her social media this afternoon was blowing up from Iowa fans still angry about the analysis she and especially Diana Taurasi had about Clark during the national semifinal game against UConn.

Warranted or not, it means people – a lot of them – care. And now it’s simply a matter of whether that emotional investment – especially from someone who is ordinarily indifferent to the WNBA - will carry over to the next level as well.

The buzz for incoming talent is as high as it’s ever been and timelines are more favorable than any other league. 

After this college season and this weekend’s Final Four? The WNBA is literally sitting on a gold-mine of opportunity.