#1 Brooklyn Rage vs # 8 Cincinnati Hitmen
Brooklyn knows how to finish the regular season strong winning 18 of 20 games. Mario Bailey was voted the league MVP, and while I believe there were players who were more valuable to their teams, I can’t deny the solid stats that Mario puts up night in and night out. Omar Jefferson was also rewarded with some league love with his 3rd team all-league nomination. It got a little silly with Al-Herbert being considered 2nd all-league team and 2nd all-league defender. Let’s just say players benefit when their GM is also the commissioner, but I digress. One thing you cannot deny is that the Rage who had the best record in the league with 63 wins. They are no David, they are the Goliath of the league.
Cincy finished with an even record of 40-40. I believe Joe LoMonaco has done fairly well with his young team. He has a good nucleus of Evans, Durden and Bartholomew, and they have played the Rage very tough, with a 3 point loss at home only a couple of weeks ago. While they can score, they are really going to struggle stopping the Rage. Their best chance may end up being to take advantage of their team nickname, and hire a few guys to help encourage the Rage take a few games off.
Prediction: Cincy not the Goliath slayer we were hoping for. Rage cruise in 4 games.
#2 Toronto Dinos vs #7 Rochester Raiders
It is always fun to see Divisional opponents face off in the playoffs. Toronto has to like this matchup as they swept the season series. With Walt Jackson being snubbed for MVP, the league still noticed he was good enough to be a 1st team all-league player. He made an incredible 331 3-pointers this year, as a team almost 1000 3-pointers. So one has to think, might need to stop the long ball. As a team they love to shoot from all over the floor. They move the ball well and are willing to make the extra pass or two to set up each other. Toronto is nearly a complete team.
Rochester may be seeing the end of an era with Dave Williams not having his contract extended. The Raiders all-time leading scorer may be playing his last few games in a Raiders shirt. It just seems this season may end up being a season of what-if’s for the Raiders. While they have dealt with some significant injuries, even when they are fully healthy, it appears they are under preforming. But they click, they will be able to have a chance of an upset.
Prediction, Rochester makes it interesting, but in the end the Dino’s eat them up 4-2.
#3 Paris Juggers vs #6 London Disco
Paris may be the defending champs, but they have not dominated like I would have expected. They have the triple headed approach with Vasquez, Lee and Lio all chipping in 17 points a game. Both Vasquez and Lio are very capable rebounders. It took them just until the end of the season to steal the division title away from London. And should London not lose a starter in the car accident that Mario Bailey was driving, London probably has the 3rd spot. Regardless, Paris is a solid team, and by no means will they roll over and give up despite being in France.
Our hearts go out to the tragic loss of one of their starting players. It seems just a bit unfair, but life works that way sometimes. They still have some fire power from Bert Haug, but he simply isn’t good enough to will this team to a series victory. The good news for the Disco is the 2 first round picks in the upcoming draft. They will give it all they got against Paris. But like the saying goes: Failure: When your best just isn’t good enough. London is the Cinderella team that we all want to see them find a way to overcome all odds. But it may be that the death of their player shattered the glass slipper.
Prediction: Paris wins the battle, 4-1
#4 Miami Xtreme vs #5 Baltimore Pirates
These 4/5 matchups are always a lot of fun. Miami held onto the Division title over Baltimore by a single game. Miami really stumbled the 2nd half of the season. It is tough to say it’s because of their experimentation of lineups, playing guys out of their natural position. Or perhaps they are simply not as good as we once thought? For the first half of the season, they were battling for the best team in the league. Miami won the season series 3-1. And Troychak along with Whitaker, are really difficult to beat. I believe if they go back to the basic’s and use the starting lineup they utilized in the first half of the season, they will be difficult to beat. Miami’s starting lineup is as good as anybody’s and everybody seems to understand their role. The biggest weakness, is probably lack of cohesion. It’s as if they don’t trust each other all the time, and therefore have the tendency to play selfish.
Baltimore really had a great 2nd half of the season. They have the ability to beat top teams. Jay Dickinson has really proven to be a great player in this league. It is very unfortunate that he is out due to his inflamed appendix. That alone may be enough to prevent Baltimore from being the Xtreme. If former first round pick Arturo Fonzarelli, can jump the shark and be the go-to guy that they need. They have a chance. They just need to endure long enough to get Dickinson back. It is going to be a challenge for sure. This series may be the only one where an injury helps determine the outcome.
Prediction: Xtreme looks for ways to lose, but has too much talent, wins 4-2