By Zagrieb Zano
With the season about a fifth part done. It seems fitting to take a look at each of the first place teams that are starting to distance themselves from their divisional opponents. And perhaps try determine what their secret sauce for success is.
The SLC Fanatics lead the Midwest Division which is not a surprise. They have great team chemistry, and despite dealing with some injuries issues to Sean Ashman, they are back on track. One of the subtle reasons they are doing so well is their ability to get 2nd chances points. They are 4th in the league in offensive rebounds with 15.3 ORB a game. Their defense is stifling with 9 steals and 4.5 blocks a game putting t hem in the top 5 for their conference and top 6 in the league. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the outstanding teamwork this team employs in passing the ball around. They are #1 in their conference for assists, and #7 in the league. It is this type of unselfishness, that has helped them start off with an 11-5 record. Early on they were dead last in FT percentage, but they are rectified that issue. They don’t have great depth so the injury bug could dismantle their success. But if they stay healthy they will be tough to deal with come playoff team.
Oregon was also predicted to lead their division. Behind the play of MVP candidate Bishop Stein, The Bears will be challenging to go deep in the playoffs. Oregon doesn’t truly stand out in any one particular area. But what they do well is they are better than average in nearly every important category. They are in the top 5 in the majority of these statistical categories in their conference. Lou Gonzales, isn’t the player he used to be, which is to say he is simply a legit all-star instead of All Universe player. Marquez Houston has been impressive, averaging a double-double. Oregon won’t be challenged for the league title barring some unforeseen accident like a death on the team. But they may not run away with the division, because they are simply not built to run people out of the gym.
I have to admit, while I knew Capetown was good, I really thought they were a year away from taking over the World Division. They are taking the world by storm. In a division that I believe to be the toughest in the league. No other division has two other teams with a 9-4 (Cancun, Gabon). With the best record in the league at 12-2. They have all pieces they need to play for a championship. Potentially, the only thing standing in their way may be SLC, who blew them out in Capetown. This team is leading the conference in Points, Turnovers, FG% and Adjusted FG%. They are also among the league leaders in steals and assists. They may have the most quality depth in the league. And their approach of no true superstars (don’t tell that to true superstar Abdiel Gordon), is proving to be a winning formula. This team is like a Hydra, slow down one head, and two others pick up the slack. If the Zulus are not at least in the conference championship series, then they failed in a big way.
Moving over to the North East Division, you may be thinking that we would be talking about Brooklyn here. But this article is only about division leaders so we don’t want to waste our time with those that don’t qualify. I predicted that Toronto would win this division, and while they start suffered a couple of early losses, they have stormed back to 7 straight wins. They are dominating the league in many categories, not just their conference. #1 in Offensive Rebounds, Total Rebounds, Assists, Steals, #2 Blocks. First and foremost, they have the largest Points scored two points allowed in the league. When you average outscoring your opponent by nearly 12 points a game. You know you are going to win a lot. Some may think that this is the Walt Jackson show. And while it’s true he is averaging 28 ppg and 11 rpg. Jervan Timmions is starting to shine as a true point guard. Pat London has solidified his spot at Shooting Guard. Perhaps most interesting is they are doing all these things while being dead last in Free Throw attempts. What would happen if they actually got some calls going their way? They do make it up fir by knocking down nearly 13 three pointers a game. While they will have some tough competition in their division, the Dinos should eat most of those opponents as they are the Conference Alpha.
In the heat of Miami, basketball fever is starting to catch on. Miami has set a blistering pace going 12-3. They are undefeated at home. Many thought the team goes as far as Dave Troychak can take them. But they have proven that when Troychak went out for several games, they continued to win. They have decent depth. GM Brent Bangerter, may win the Executive of the Year award, for bringing in Jaxon McCall. Jaxon gives this team a great compliment to Troychak. It is not likely that any other moves from around the league could be more impactful to a team then this one. Miami leads the league in FG%, which helps explain why they average over 103 points a game. Isaac Edmonson can take a lot of credit for this, as he leads the league in assist with over 12 a game. With his crisp passing, it is no wonder that they have easy shots to make. Miami is not just a scoring machine; they have a very solid defense. Which is why they average 11 points more per game. They are so good that they are finally getting people to come to their games despite being in a terrible economy. Is Miami the real deal? As first I was not so sure. I have changed my tune, and in fact they could be headed towards a Civil War Championship against SLC. Brother vs Brother. If that were to happen, that would probably be the best thing for the league, the storylines that would evolve from that would cause more popularity to the league than any other matchup. Granted, there may be a few teams that may disagree.
The London Disco have danced their way to a 1st place spot going 10-4. They are the least talented first place team, and are benefitting from playing in the Euro Division. They are #2 in Defensive efficiency, and that is the glue that has kept them winning. They only allow 88 points a game, which is what makes them dangerous. And they rarely turn the ball over. Shemar Mahara is playing much better then I originally expected. This 23-year-old is going to be a bonafide star. He has all the offensive tool, despite not being a great passer. Teamed up with Bert Haug, who in my humble opinion isn’t flourishing like I would expect. Partially due to the emergence of Mahara. As long as Haug is ok playing 2nd fiddle to the younger guard, this team. It will be interesting to see if London can hold off Frankfurt, and especially Albacete once the Burning Hell injury woes are cured. 12 more days for Tyler Kane. Enjoy it while you can Disco fans, because you will have a challenge holding off the rest of your division.