On to Round Two
By Ron Chambers
I have to admit, the first round of the play-offs was amazing this year. Overall, I am pleased with my predictions. I picked seven out of eight. But, boy was I wrong on the Cancun vs. Mexico City match-up. I picked Cancun to win in five games and the lost in six. This proved two things. As much as I thought they relied on Trentesols…they rely on him more. And, Chris Dao is a stud.
Now for Round 2…
Gabon Giants (56-24) vs. Mexico City Hellcats (42-38)
Gabon is a deep, talented, well put together team. They have no stars with not a single player averaging more than 20 points, 8 rebounds, or 7 assists. But, there may not be a deeper team in the league. They play team ball. Despite being fairly averaging in scoring they are among the league leaders in assists and are among the most efficient offensive teams in the league. They also are very good defenders ranking #3 in steals, #4 in blocks, & #4 in opponent scoring.
I take it back, Maybe Mexico City is the deepest team in the league. They don’t have a single scrub on their team. But, their starting five is not as talented all the way through as Gabon’s. The difference is that Mexico City does have a star…at least a star in the making. Chris Dao was impressive in the first round against Cancun. He is certainly one of the future stars of the league. The question is how far can he carry Mexico City this year. I don’t think far enough.
Prediction: Gabon wins the series 4-2.
Barcelona Counts (57-23) vs. Milan Mayhem (56-24)
This should be a great series. Barcelona is an interesting team. They are very deep and have some of the best talent in the league off the bench. Many say Primo Bugeja is one dimensional, but what a dimension. With a PPS of 1.62 he is one of the most efficient scorers in the league. Only the Rage have a more prolific offense. They do tend to play one-on-one basketball but it doesn’t cause them problems offensively as they have the best PPS as a team at 1.42. They are only average from beyond the arc but their talent is inside where they lead the league in FG % and getting to the charity stripe. So why didn’t this extremely talented and efficient team win 60 games? Defense. They are not a great defensive team. They allow 106.3 points which is 1.9 over the league average. They are in the top 1/3 of both defensive FG% and PPS but they foul too much. Still, this is not the all offense no defense Counts team of a few years ago.
Milan does not have the depth of the other teams in the World Conference. They also don’t have a big star like Bugeja or Dao. But, they play good, tough team ball. There is nowhere that they really stand out and no real holes. The one exception is that they don’t get to the line but they also don’t send their opponents to the line so it is a wash. There is no flash here just good basketball. In some ways, they couldn’t be a bigger contrast to Barcelona which has a very specific style they want to play. Milan just balls and see where it falls.
Prediction: Barcelona wins series 4-3
Brooklyn Rage (74-6) vs. Kansas City Blues (51-29)
The Rage have been here before. Many times. They are arguably the most impressive dynasty in WBA history. But, they are starting to think about the end…but it won’t happen this year. The rage are impressive still. They averaged 119.8 points a game while holding their opponents under 98 points. They play the ultimate team ball leading the league also in assists. Their defense is aggressive leading the league in steals and second in blocks. They run hard leading the league in pace and Offensive Efficiency but don’t let up on the defensive end ranking second in defensive efficiency. Their Super Stars Mario Bailey, Jarius Miles, Omar Jefferson, and Dan Kincaide get all the press. But, Tyrus Mayes, George Faup, Anthony Davis, and David Flores are the players that allow them to keep the pace up. With the exception of Faup, who admittedly slows down the team when he is on the floor, this entire team is fast and they use it.
Don’t let the accolades of Brooklyn make you underestimate Kansas City though. The Blues also have star power. Walt Jackson and Jeremy Sims are as good as it gets. Antonio Gleason doesn’t get much press but he has had a great year. Ed Rhodes is an atypical shooting guard in this league with a defensive team-oriented focus. Daren Benson has taken some flack but don’t be fooled. He is a great point guard. He is an efficient point guard who doesn’t take shots away from Jackson or Sims. The Blue are a tough rebounding defensive-oriented team. they cannot be taken for granted. Their slow style of play couldn’t be more different than the full out sprint of the Rage. Controlling the pace will be a big part of keeping this series close.
Prediction: Brooklyn wins the series 4-1
California Fighting Cocks (66-14) vs. Colorado Pioneers (64-16)
This series is going to be really interesting. These are two dynamite teams who are looking to overtake the Rage in the next couple of years. This year if they can have a little luck. The talent that California has in its top 8 spots is mind-boggling. They have a crushing defense and often rival, or even pass, the Rage at the top of league standings. Hassan Watt is the superstar of the future and Kurt Beck is also a superstar. They have eight players who play between 27 and 35 minutes so they spread the load around. Their big problem is the injury to Kurt Beck. He will miss at least a few games this series. If California shows they can handle the Pioneers without Beck look for him to sit until he is completely healthy. If California struggles they should be able to have him back by the third or fourth game of the series.
It is amazing that Colorado could win 64 games and finish third in the conference. Devine, Lyons, Kinsey, and Henderson are as good as any top four players in the league. The Pioneer’s starting Point Guard Edgar Kamara first made a big splash with the Fighting Cocks where they transitioned him from a small, small forward to a tall PG. In his last few years in Colorado, he has fixed his shooting woes. He has shot over 40% for four straight years. This may not sound impressive but remember he has twice shot below 30%. This two-time all-star gets lambasted for not being a scorer. He only averaged 4.4 points this year. But, remember he is passing to Devine, Lyons, Kinsey, and Henderson. The real challenge for this team is that they don’t have much depth and that is where California really has the advantage. Further, a single injury could be devastating.
Prediction: California wins the series 4-2