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WNBA mid-season report card: Butler prof hands out grades

Lee Farquahr on Caitlin Clark Effect

Checking in with Butler prof on Daybreak

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Sunday road loss to Chicago hurts the Indiana Fever’s record and further fires up friction between the fan bases, but the game may be another big building block for the WNBA as a whole.

The Sky roared back in the fourth quarter at home to defeat the Fever, and Angel Reese provided the spark with 15 of her game-high 25 in the final few minutes. Clark played well down the stretch, too, and set a franchise record of 13 assists in a single game. The loss snaps a four game winning streak for Indiana, dropping the team to 7-11 on the season.

The roles of Reese and Clark as each other’s foils makes the Sunday result of the game hard for Indiana fans to take, but when placed in a longer view, such games help the league and the game, according to Butler University’s Lee Farquhar.

“Fantastic game. Incredibly entertaining,” he told WISH-TV’s Daybreak, agreeing that rivalries only thrive when both teams have a chance to win. “And it does make the victories a little sweeter, I suppose if you take a loss every now and then. But definitely a burgeoning rivalry that we’re looking at a decade of, of great games.”

Farquhar is an associate professor of journalism and sports media, so he takes a special interest in the demographics of those who tune in to broadcasts or attend games in person. He says they are very strong for the WNBA so far this season.

“Any sports league is looking for younger fans, racially diverse fans, and female fans. And the WNBA is knocking it out of the park on all three of those,” he says. “If you can establish those early fans and then carry them through a lifetime of viewership with great matchups like the Sky and Fever, you’re set up for success.”

Since he is a professor, we asked Farquhar for letter grades for the league and its youngest stars as they hit the halfway point of the season.

He gives the WNBA an ‘A-‘.

“There was a lot of grumbling early on about how the Fever schedule was really unfavorable. (They faced) a lot of high-end opponents with Connecticut and the Liberty and took some lumps early,” he explains. “But (it) got a lot of the fan base really interested in the league early.”

He gives the rookie class a solid ‘A‘, even though one of the biggest young stars gets an unfortunate “Incomplete”.

“Sad to see (Los Angeles Sparks center Cameron) Brink go down,” Farquhar says, talking about the knee injury that appears to have ended her season. “West coast fans would have continued to add to this overall boom, but the rookie class is performing very well for itself.”