By Mike Begley
It’s time for the stars to come out to play! We’re through the regular season. The players have warmed up and survived trips to late night talk shows. We have in our presence “the best team of all time,” who will simply demolish anyone who will stand in their way. And for those not into Monster Truck shows there are several high caliber teams who will likely play tight, even series’ and give us all a good fun time. There will be no shortage of interesting matchups. That’s for sure.
Now, unlike some writers who make up facts, others who distort, and others still who simply guess at them, the following is a preview highlighting actual playoff matchups we will have the pleasure to witness.
Barcelona Counts (1) v Mexico City Hellcats (8)
The old world meets the new world in this historical matchup. While the Conquistadors had the upper hand on the Aztecs, Mexico City’s Hell Cats do not intend to surrender despite Barcelona’s high-tech armory. The Hell Cats squeezed into the 8th seed though they are no traditional 8th seed. With key injuries to starters Darnell Kern and Manfred Fenstermacher the Hell Cats were rarely at full strength during the regular season. The Counts on the other hand seemed to have a lucky rabbits foot as they suffered no major setbacks. I guess money buys health. As a result, both teams are now nearly at full strength, and the matchup will be more even than one might think.
Manfred and Kern will be the keys as their sound defense will do much to limit the Counts infamous free throw opportunities. Ryan Rogers also expect to swat away a good numbers of dunk attempts. In the end though the Cats will struggle to keep up with the Counts’ unrelenting pace. Those Spanish ships just keep on sailing. It should still be a close series, as the Cats are playing the best basketball right now closing the season on an 8-2 run. And they are hungry having missed the playoffs last season due to key injuries. Who knows maybe an upset is at hand?
Prediction: Counts 4-3
Cape Town Zulus (4) v Gabon Giants (5)
It has become a tradition for these African nations to come together to inaugurate the playoffs this being the third straight occasion these proud franchises square off. Cape Town has managed to slip away with the victories thus far though it has also become a tradition for Gabon to pounce the Zulus on game one though this season Gabon has no intention of losing the series.
It seems there is no home court when these neighbors visit and consequently this will not be the deciding factor in this series. Both teams also enter at full strength with African fans expecting another classic.
Expect recently anointed 3rd team all-defensive center Polikarp Dragunas to play a key role manning down the middle. Though Gabon now focuses on scoring from the perimeter they are at their best when they control the paint. Will Cape Town choose to test the inside or opt to keep their scorers outside? These are exactly the questions that the series will answer. Consequently, the key matchup here will be between Arceo and Drapeau as it may be a key adjustment that will determine the series. Though it seems Cape Town will start with more offensive chess pieces to work with.
Prediction: Cape Town 4-2
Milan Mayhem (3) v London Disco (6)
The Mayhem are a sleeping dragon no one wants to poke let alone confront in a seven-game series. For most of the season Milan was without their best scorer and best pure shooter in league, Damien Bohm. Bohm instantly makes this team elite. The Disco are not too shabby when at full strength which they are expected to reach early in the series with the return of Chance Crowley. Still, it seems the Disco are missing that dominant force they had in a Mahara but they should be able to hold their own in London where they were 26-12 during the season.
Key matchup: Cordell Parks has the kind of prowess that could slow down Bohm and give him fits. The only issue is Parks is also expected to carry a heavy offensive load. Nothing he can’t handle, Parks is a graduate of Northeastern Moscow State after all. Expect the Disco to provide a tough obstacle but ultimately succumb to the Mayhem.
Prediction: Milan 4-2
Cancun Outlaws (2) v Paris Predators (7)
The Predators pulled off a franchise rejuvenating move in acquiring the most coveted point guard in the WBA three-time defensive player of the year Jervan Timmons. Unfortunately for the Predators they are facing a whole slew of Timmons like clones. The Outlaws finished the season with an impressive 58 wins the same number of wins they had in 2013 when they reached the league finals. To top it off the team could have easily eclipsed that mark had they not opted to rest their players and plod through the season conservatively to minimize injury. This will likely change for the playoffs as players like Trentesols are expected to play over 40 minutes. Welcome to the real season.
Key matchup: Clyde Summers seems to be the Predators’ best post defender and rebounder and it will be time for the former Dev league playoff MVP to shine. If he can stay out of foul trouble and slow down Trentesols for just a bit maybe perhaps maybe the Predators can squeeze away with a win or two.
Prediction: Outlaws 4-1
Brooklyn Rage (1) v Las Vegas Gamblers (8)
Mo money mo problems. It is not easy being Brooklyn. The best team of all time now was to prove they are not the biggest disappointment of all time. Having seamlessly replaced an entire front court during the regular season without so much as a hiccup the Rage are now on a quest to become the first team in WBA playoff history to go undefeated in the playoffs. The Gamblers, and Almantas Talacka are just glad to be part of history.
Key matchup: The injury bug will be the only factor that could influence this series. And apparently those bugs only bite bench players in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Rage 4-0
New York Liberty (3) v Kansas City Wild (6)
True competition. This series is wat the WBA is all about. Both teams have the talent to advance to the next round but one will take an early vacation and lick their wounds. Usually a series this close comes down to outside factors such as key injuries. In this case, the Liberty are missing stalwarts Seneca Redd and Chad Nolan. Without them the inside is vulnerable.
Key matchup: Sean Ashman will have to step up to slow down Jarrod Roe. It will help that Ashman can space the floor with his deadly three-point shot. If Ashman can land enough of those bombs it may help even things on the other side of the court. At the end of the day though Roe and Jackson are not exactly known for being clutch. While the Liberty are as clutch as they come.
Prediction: New York 4-3
California Fighting Cocks (2) v Seoul Dragons (7)
The Fighting Cocks boast four players capable of scoring 30 plus points on any given night. The Dragons have one capable of such feat. Though the Dragons play solid fundamental basketball it is not even close. On the bright side things are looking up for Korea as a whole unified land.
Key matchup: The key matchup will be between Morrell and Watt between who will lead the team in scoring. Two dominant scorers could easily cause friction but everything appears kumbaya in California. Must be the greenery.
Prediction: California 4-0
Colorado Pioneers (4) v Boston Massacre
Hameleers gave up his entire life savings to maximize the Pioneers’ performance for this playoff run. And you can bet for sure the Massacre are not going to stand in his way on his date with Brooklyn. The Bailey slayer (Darond Lyons) intends to bring his full playoff magic. On the other side the Massacre appear to be quietly rebuilding while remaining competitive enough to snatch a game or two in the first round.
Key matchup: The Lyons – Askins matchup will be fun to watch as Asking has his first taste of playoff humble pie as he is expected to somehow slow down Lyons. An impossible task.
Prediction: Pioneers 4-1