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Hey bandwagon fans: Need a team to root for in the WNBA playoffs? Here's why the Dallas Wings should be your top pick

If you’re not already a fan, and not familiar with the WNBA, no worries – we have your guide to hopping on the bandwagon and representing the DFW.
Credit: AP
Dallas Wings forward Kayla Thornton (6) celebrates the team's win against the Las Vegas Aces in a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (Rebecca Slezak/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

DALLAS — The WNBA regular season has come to an end with surprising wins, heartbreaking injuries and shocking exits all across the league.

The Dallas Wings are no strangers to the ups and down themselves: Star guard Arike Ogunbowale has been out of action recently following abdominal surgery, and forward Satou Sabally has remained out after suffering an ankle injury in June.  

Still, the Wings managed to dominate the final stretch of the season, winning seven of their last 10 games to end the season with an 18-18 record that was good enough to find them finishing third in the Western Conference. 

The team looked particularly strong, too, in its final regular season game against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday, putting up 66 points in the first half and 41 points alone in the second quarter -- both franchise records.

That end-of-season burst helped the franchise earn its best regular-season winning percentage since announcing its move to Dallas from Tulsa in 2015.

Now, it's time for the Wings to take all that momentum into the WNBA Playoffs, which start this week. Because the WNBA doesn't take conference alignment into account in its playoff seeding -- the league simply ranks all teams by best overall record in its post-season tournament -- the Wings will enter the playoffs as the No. 6, a slot it clinched back on Aug. 8 with its win against the New York Liberty.

RELATED: Dallas Wings clinch playoff berth behind Mabrey's career-high 31

The team will kicks off its first-round matchup on Thursday, Aug. 18, against the Connecticut Sun, which secured its own No. 3 seeding after last Thursday night’s win over the Phoenix Mercury. The game will be televised on ESPN U and NBA TV; tip-off is at 7 p.m. CT.  

RELATED: 'Anything can happen,' including a championship for Dallas Wings? The team has won 5 straight ahead of the WNBA playoffs 

With the playoff stage now officially set following Sunday night's final slate of regular-season games, it's time to get familiar with the WNBA Playoff format and the team that's representing the DFW in the postseason. 

Whether you're a longtime fan or just ready to hop on the bandwagon, we got you covered.

A new playoff format for 2022

As the WNBA heads into its 26th postseason, the league will be introducing a new format for its playoff competition. 

Unlike previous seasons, there are no first-round byes for the top seeds this year; instead, all eight playoff contenders will compete in the opening round. Also new to this postseason, the teams will no longer be re-seeded as the the playoffs progress.

Still, the top seeds will have a definite advantage over their lower-seeded competition. Whereas the second and final rounds of the playoffs will consist of best-of-five series played in a 2-2-1 home-away-home formats starting at the higher-seeded teams' home court, the opening round will be a best-of-three matchup with the first two games being played at the higher-seeded team's home arena.

Meaning? If either the Wings or the Sun win the first two games in the opening round of the playoffs, the Wings won't even get the privilege of hosting a home playoff game this year.

If the opening games in Connecticut are split, however, the Wings will host Game 3 of the first round on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the College Park Center on The University of Texas at Arlington campus.

Should the Wings advance past the first round, however, they will be guaranteed to host at least one home game in each round additional they'll play.

Meet the Wings' key players

Arike Ogunbowale 

Credit: AP
Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale (24) is seen during a WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. Atlanta won 66-59. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Arike Ogunbowale is in her fourth season as starting point guard for the Dallas Wings. She's also the team's leading scorer averaging 19.7 points per game, and she has finished in the top five in the WNBA in scoring for each season since she was drafted out of Notre Dame in 2019.  

This year, she was named a WNBA All-Star for the second year in a row. Lasty year, she was named the WNBA All-Star Game MVP. 

But the WNBA star missed the last few games of the regular season this year and will miss the opening game in the Wings' first-round playoff matchup against the Connecticut Sun after undergoing a successful iliac crest core muscle avulsion repair, the team announced. 

With any luck, Ogunbowale could rejoin the squad in Game 2 in their series against the Sun. 

Regardless, fans can expect to see plenty of Ogunbowale in Dallas in the coming years. She signed a contract extension with the Wings this offseason that'll keep her on the team through 2025.

Veronica Burton

Credit: AP
Dallas Wings forward Veronica Burton (12) is seen during a WNBA basketball game against the Atlanta Dream, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. Atlanta won 66-59. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

With Ogunbowale out, rookie Veronica Burton is running the Wings' offense as its replacement point guard. 

When she was tapped for that role in a game against the Chicago Sky in the regular season, it gave the Wings the somewhat dubious distinction of becoming the only franchise in the WNBA to start a rookie for at least one game in each of the past seven seasons -- a clear sign that the franchise has been in rebuilding mode.

But the rebuilding process appears to be paying off, and Burton's success is part of that: The All-Rookie hopeful recently netted a career-high 15 points and four assists against the New York Liberty. 

Marina Mabrey 

Credit: AP
Dallas Wings guard Marina Mabrey (3) plays against the Indiana Fever in the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, July 24, 2022. The Wings defeated the Fever 96-86. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Guard Marina Mabrey is in her third season in the WNBA, and her second with the Dallas Wings. 

Drafted out of Notre Dame where she played in a backcourt alongside current teammate Ogunbowale, she helped lead Fighting Irish to back-to-back NCAA championship games during her junior and senior years in college. 

Mabrey has been a shining star for the Wings in the home stretch, scoring in double figures in each of the team's last seven games, including a career-high 31-point output in a game against the New York Liberty that helped the Wings clinch their spot in the WNBA Playoffs. 

On the season, the well-rounded Mabrey is averaging 13.6 points to go with 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

Allisha Gray

Credit: AP
New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, front left, and center Stefanie Dolson (31) defend against Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray (15) during the first half of a WNBA basketball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Veteran guard Allisha Gray is in her fifth season with the Dallas Wings and has scored in double figures in 28 games this season.

Gray was also a part of the inaugural 3x3 Women's basketball team at the 2020 Summer Olympics, where she took home a gold medal.

Gray is averaging 13.3 points per game this season, but she gets it done on both side of the court and is also up for the WNBA All-Defense title this year. 

Lately, her talents have also gone beyond the court in mic'd-up sessions. If you need a laugh, just watch the below video: 

Kayla Thornton

Credit: AP
Dallas Wings' Kayla Thornton looks to the bench during a WNBA basketball game against the Phoenix Mercury, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Native Texan and Dallas Wings forward Kayla Thornton is in her sixth season in the the WNBA and has been with the Wings since 2017.

Thornton has scored in double digits in five of her last eight outings with the team. She's averaging 8 points per game on the season. 

The veteran also recently surpassed the 1,500 career points mark, but is more known for the little things around the court that make a difference: She averaged 5.9 rebounds, 1.1. steals and 0.6 blocks per game this year.

Teaira McCowan

Credit: AP
Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) looks to shoot against Dallas Wings center Teaira McCowan (7) during the first half of a WNBA basketball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

New to the Dallas Wings this season, Texas native Teaira McCowan has finally found her footing in the WNBA with this squad. 

The fourth-year center had the most dominant season of her career in 2021, averaging McCowan averaged 11.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 26.5 minutes per game -- all career-bests with the Indiana Fever. 

Since joining the Wings, she's remained a force, averaging 11 points, 7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game. 

McCowan also recorded her 1,000th career rebound in the first quarter of the team's game against the Sparks on Sunday -- a game in which she finished with 8 rebounds to go with a cool 24 points.  

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