2018 WBA Playoff first round predictions
by Timmy Frenchy
It’s a different scenario this season as some teams made a huge step in the standings (see the Barcelona Counts), and some others began rebuilding in controversial fashion (enough has already been said on this topic). One thing is sure, there will be a new World Conference champions in the Finals this year. Let’s see how the first round could go.
Mexico Hellcats vs Barcelona Counts
(Barcelona won season series 4-0)
The Counts are certainly one of the surprise team this season. After winning 39 games last season, they went for an impressive 60 wins this season, capturing the Conference best record in the regular season. This team his built in an unorthodox way compare to the other powerhouse in the Conference, as all their offensive weapons are playing at the perimeter and with no real dominant post player inside. Will their success in regular season continue in the playoffs? The Counts now enter unknown territory.
General manager Sergio Gutierrez showed poise and experience in the regular season final stretch as his team won the battle against the Toronto Dinos and the Albacete Burning Hell to get that last and coveted playoff spot. This season they had (again) several key injuries to deal with but Chris Dao is already showing what kind of superstar he will become.
This is not your typical 1 vs 8 battle, as the Counts don’t have playoffs experience and have lost some steam during the final weeks of regular season. On the other end, the Hellcats are entering the playoff red-hot, having won 13 out of the last 17 games. Still, homecourt and offensive firepower should be the difference maker here.
Prediction: Barcelona over Mexico City in 6
Paris Predators vs Cancun Outlaws
(Cancun won season series 3-0)
It’s no surprise that the Cancun Outlaws are back as a true contender for the WBA championship. After retooling their squad 2 seasons ago, this group has been steadily improving and they are not done yet. This is still a young team with untapped potential who were very close on finishing with the best record in the Conference this season. Let’s not forget that they made an appearance in the Conference finals last year.
You can’t expect more from a new GM than what Brittani Avery did with this team since her arrival. She was patient enough to wait for the right offers and made some major moves that transform this average team into a team of the future. Getting Timmons, Rambuka and Weidner is an impressive tour de force.
With all due respect to the Predators and what their management has done this season, this team is no match for this savvy Outlaws squad. And the Predators coaching staff must face the master in coaching adjustments in the playoffs. It’s time to watch and learn!
Prediction: Cancun over Paris in 4
London Disco vs Milan Mayhem
(Milan won season series 2-1)
The Milan Mayhem has been a force to be reckoned with over the last few years. Many offensive weapons and a face pace style have been a deadly mix for many of their opponents during that span. They had another strong regular season especially since their main guy Damien Bohm was out for a big part of it, plus the fact that they had to deal with other several injuries. Let’s also mention that backup center Neville Donner will not play for them anymore. Nevertheless, this team is still one of the top dogs in the Conference.
The Disco had an impressive first half of season, flirting with the top positions in the Conference standings during that span. But since beginning of 2018, it’s another story was they went on multiple losing streaks. Chance Crowley going out with a torn ligament didn’t help them neither. He could be back on the court somewhere in the middle of the first round, but that won’t be enough.
The London Disco are entering playoffs on a limp. The Milan Mayhem are focus and ready to take them out quickly.
Prediction: Milan over London in 5
Gabon Giants vs Capetown Zulus
(Capetown won season series 3-1)
When you look at the Zulus on paper, this team doesn’t appear as dominant. They are centered around 3 superstars with not that many impact players surrounding them. So, when their biggest superstars Abdiel Gordon went down for a long period early this season, a little setback was expected for this team. But once again, general manager Adrian Arceo and his coaching staff made miracles with this squad as they are looking at a season as good as the previous ones. Zulus are now fully healthy and have upper their level of play at the end of the regular season. They are coming full speed.
After some injuries to key players and a difficult start for the season, the Giants made some wise moves to retool their squad without sacrificing the present. In fact, team’s management are just happy right now to be part of the post-season. Multiples trades were made by management, bringing a little more youth to an aging squad and filling the void of a crushing injury to Charlie Meyers only a few games played in the season. In damage control mode, finishing 5th in the Conference is not that bad at all in this competitive environment.
The All-African battle part 3! The first part went to game 7 and was kind of a flip coin for the winner. Gabon blew out Capetown in the first game of Part 2 but was dominated the rest of the way, losing all next 4 games. What part 3 has in store for us? Napoleon Carter will try to make it look respectable as he plays his first playoff game in a Gabon uniform, but the Zulus are entering playoffs in full-warriors mode.
Prediction: Capetown over Gabon in 5
This conference is still dominated by no other than the Brooklyn Rage. But some rivals have loaded up and could be a challenge for the back-to-back defending champions.
Las Vegas Gamblers vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 4-0)
The best team in the WBA found a way to surpass themselves as they won 76 regular season games this year, the best regular season ever by a WBA team. Mario Bailey and Omar Jefferson haven’t slowed down a bit, and Jarius Miles is in the prime of his career. The clear-cut favorite to win it all again this season. It would be shock if anything else happens.
The Las Vegas Gamblers are average across the boards, but they do have a dynamic scoring duo in Almantas Talacka and Micheal Kramer. You can’t get a worst matchup than Brooklyn Rage, one of the best franchise in WBA history at the peak of their success.
The Rage will have to handle pressure in their quest to win a title this season, but it won’t come in the first round. This series will be over in a nick of time.
Prediction: Brooklyn over Las Vegas in 4
Arizona Dragons vs California Fighting Cocks
(California won season series 4-0)
You must give credit to general manager Justin Lawrence for all the efforts made putting this group together. Jesus Morrell, Wally Birkhead, Kurt Beck, Hassan Watt and Bishop Stein. That’s is a very impressive starting unit that can beat any team in the league not named the Brooklyn Rage. This is only the beginning of their quest.
The Dragons are at crossroad right now. Experienced general manager Brandon Morfeld arrived late in the season and couldn’t do much trading wise because the deadline has already passed. Ajan Estay can win a game by himself from time-to-time, and he’s surrounded by some solid but aging veterans. But that won’t be near than enough.
The Dragons don’t have the firepower to match with the Fighting Cocks all-stars group. Another quick first round series.
Prediction: California over Arizona in 4
Omaha Wild vs New York Liberty
(Omaha won season series 2-1)
Finally, a more exciting first round series in the USA conference than the previous two. As the only team to have won the WBA championship in the modern WBA era (with the exception of the Brooklyn Rage), the New Liberty have shown some brilliance in the playoffs over the last few years although they seem to be steadily regressing since they won the prestigious title. Even though they had another stellar regular season, the loss of power forward Chad Nolan (Concussion) and Senecca Redd is really showing lately.
General manager Kelly Avery pulled some nifty moves getting future Hall-of-famer Walt Jackson aboard for a wild ride. A lot like all the teams ranked in front of them in the USA Conference standings, they have all the pieces to make some noise in this year’s playoffs. But they must take care of very respectable foe right away in the first round.
This will be a close fight. The Wild should benefit of the absence of Nolan and Redd to get their ticket to the second round.
Prediction: Omaha over New York in 6
Boston Massacre vs Colorado Pioneers
(Massacre won season series 2-1)
Quinten Laurence is another general manager that made multiples moves this season, improving his squad right away and in the long run. This is a very solid team defensively that can take care of the ball on offense.
The Colorado Pioneers have a very solid group of stars/veterans. The core of John Devine, Tom Kinsey, Tony Henderson, Darond Lyons and Edgar Kamara is a scary starting unit. But they don’t have much depth after that. Still, general manager Marc Hameleers has done a very good job putting those pieces together making sure that this team is back in the playoffs for the second straight season.
Evenly matched, these teams could make this series go the distance and reach 7 games. Coaching adjustments, homecourt and depth could all be X-factors here. At the end you must trust in the veteran’s leadership of the Pioneers over the inexperienced youth of the Massacre.
Prediction: Colorado over Boston in 7
Let’s get these playoffs started!