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Reigning champion Lynx looks like team to beat

MinnesotLynx forward MayMoore chases loose ball  during first half WNBA exhibitibasketball game against Chicago Sky University Minnesota's Sports PaviliTuesday

Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore chases a loose ball during the first half of a WNBA exhibition basketball game against the Chicago Sky at the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness) MANDATORY CREDIT; ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS OUT; MAGS OUT; TWIN CITIES TV OUT

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Updated: May 19, 2012 2:56PM

The Minnesota Lynx rolled through the regular season a year ago, then kept on cruising through the playoffs to win its first WNBA championship.

The bad news for the rest of the league is the Lynx has nearly everyone back and opens the new season this weekend as the favorite to win the title again.

‘‘I do think Minnesota is the team to beat,’’ Seattle Storm veteran
Katie Smith said on a conference call. ‘‘They’re the defending champs. They didn’t lose anything, and they still look very good.’’

The Lynx lost consecutive games only once while putting up a 27-7
record, then went 7-1 in the playoffs. With just two new faces, it returns with the same starting lineup and most of its key reserves.

The Lynx will be trying to
become the first team to win consecutive titles since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02. The Houston Comets won the WNBA’s first four titles from 1997 to 2000. The
Detroit Shock (2003, 2006, 2008), Storm (2004, 2010) and Phoenix Mercury (2007, 2009) also have won multiple titles.

‘‘This is a new season, new challenges that we’re going to have to embrace,’’ said Lynx star Maya Moore, the WNBA’s rookie of the year last season. ‘‘One of the
advantages we have this year is nine people coming back. So we have that experience from last year, that familiarity with each other.’’

In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Dream is coming off its
second consecutive trip to the WNBA finals, where it was swept in three games. The Dream has
improved every season since entering the league in 2008, going from four victories that season, to 14 in 2009, 15 in 2010 and 20 last season.

The Dream will look to draw from its experience the last two seasons to return to the finals again and get the title this time.

‘‘Everybody sort of has a mind-set that they can win a championship each year,’’ Dream star Angel McCoughtry said. ‘‘If you didn’t, then there’s a problem. So, of course, every year you say, ‘This is our year.’ Every team should think that way.’’

The Dream’s main competition in the East likely will come from the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun. The Fever has won at least 21 games in six of the last seven seasons, and do-everything forward Tamika Catchings is healthy again after being limited by plantar fasciitis in her right foot during the conference finals against the Dream.

The Sun has been on the rise since a roster turnover two years ago left it as one of the youngest teams in the league. It finished 15-2 at home last season but struggled to hold late leads on the road.

The Lynx’s biggest challenges in the West likely will come from the Storm and Sparks, though both will be adjusting to some roster changes.


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