2023 First Round Playoff Preview
by Mike Begley
I know what you are thinking: Who in the world is Mike Begley? Well, I was pretty good at basketball and was drafted 15th overall by the Baltimore Golden Beavers in the WBA 2001 inaugural draft. I made more shots than I missed and gave George Holt lots of problems in the post. Now I am lucky enough to be sitting here with a beer writing this playoff preview. Ladies and gentlemen get your seat belts buckled as we embark on another WBA playoff adventure!
#1 Gabon Giants v #8 Cancun Outlaws
Simon Drapeau has led his team to the conference finals the last two seasons but he does not consider this feat an accomplishment rather a disappointment short of his ultimate goal to secure a championship for Gabon. Always striving to improve he has crafted a team that achieved a franchise best 70 wins good for a number one seed in the world conference. You can bet Drapeau’s sights are set on Gabon’s first championship and you can also bet he will not be distracted by that trophy as he is taking it one day at a time. First he must put the clamps on the league’s leading scorer, Kevin Whitlock.
Three elite 7 footers Mathiaz Kurz, Fulgencio Lurdes, and Artie Duggons anchor the league’s top defense turning the paint into a no fly zone. Cancun will need to focus on Whitlock hoisting as many three’s as possible to avoid Gabon’s Space Jam Monstar replicas.
Speaking of Cancun welcome back Pat Fullum! The legendary Outlaws are back in the playoffs after a two year hiatus. Except Scott Lio is no longer walking through that door. Once renowned for defense the Outlaws have turned a new leaf as entertainers. Fullum has assembled a fun, flashy, exciting team that has decided defense is not fun, flashy or exciting. Heck even the team’s center is named Wimpy! These Globetrotters put on a fantastic show for the fans and may even spin the ball on one finger but when it comes to outscoring opponents they will surely fall short to the Giants.
My prediction is Drapeau and Fullum will remain good friends and continue to take long walks around Canadian lakes while Drapeau sweeps the Outlaws in Cancun then proceeds to take a side trip to take his seat on the Jaguar Throne.
#2 Paris Honey Bees v #7 Edmonton Eskimos
The defending champions are unrecognizable. Who in the world trades the best point guard of all time? In his prime? Surely there must be a curse associated with that horrendous blunder. Gone is Jervan Timmons, gone as well is Fulgencio Lurdes who betrayed the Bees to fetch donuts for Artie Duggons in Gabon as his backup.
As such the Paris win total dropped from 70 to 57. Granted, still good enough for the third best record in the league.
These Bees face no pressure but hope to make things complicated and play upset maker. Maybe even sneak into the finals like when they swept number one seed Albacete a few years back. It will be a hard road too far for a bee to travel. Rumors circulate rookie Eusebio Blow could make his league debut in the playoffs but no one is scared of an unproven rookie.
Led by two number one draft selections in Guy Piavet and Kenyatta Davidson the Eskimos have catapulted their lottery success into a number seven playoff seed. This season the Eskimos have secured a niche as the league’s best defensive rebounding team. Will this rebounding prowess lead to a series victory over the defending champs? Maybe. Maybe not.
My prediction is the Bees will protect the hive winning games in Paris but may lose a game or two in Edmonton after a wild night at the north Saskatchewan river.
#3 London Badgers v #6 Frankfurt Fury
As Benet De Gama’s free agency looms David Morfeld went all in to show Benet the Badgers care about winning. Securing defensive stalwarts Clement Trentesols and Vitor Morales to pair with De Gama’s offensive genius seemed like a move that made sense. Heck the team averaged over 120 points a game! So who am I to say this was not a good move. However, the Badgers enter the series without Vitor Morales out with patellar tendanitis. As such, the Badgers are going to need to build this river dam rapidly to contain the Fury as both these teams are two of the top 5 offenses in the league with elite three point shooting.
Andrew Sharits put together a high octane offense of his own. One with a more balanced attack. The Fury enter this matchup as the lower seed but with a better record on the road. It will be a fun high scoring topsy turvy series.
My prediction is Fola Onibiyo gets hot and steals a game in London. Then De Gama steals a game in Frankfurt. Then Omar Raoumbe steals Victorino Pinelo’s girlfriend disrupting London’s chemistry and the Fury prevail in seven games.
#4 Barcelona Counts v #5 Milan Mayhem
Counts vs Mayhem! You have to love a classic Daubanton versus Esposito matchup. Milan actually has the better team record but for some reason are listed as the lower number 5 seed. Don’t ask me I don’t understand how this all works. Both of these teams excelled at home but struggled on the road so I am guessing home court will be vital.
For uncountable years (no pun intended) Corey Daubanton has constructed teams that live and die on the free throw line. This remains the case with Chris Dao and Davey Chisholm both shooting over 450 free throw attempts for the season. This does not bode well for the Mayhem’s pair of point guards Cayetano Morayta and Bennett Bangerter who both averaged over 3 fouls a game. We could see a free throw parade in Europe unless Michael Esposito finds a way to clean up his defense’s discipline. Jesus playing a prominent role may be the answer.
My prediction is Chris Dao steamrolls his way to round two with the Counts taking this series in six games. Esposito will likely blame the lag.
#1 California Fighting Cocks v #8 New York Firestorm
With a historic 74 win season and an incredible winning streak heading into the playoffs the Fighting Cocks are the clear favorites to hoist the WBA championship trophy at the end of these playoffs. However, they are an old bunch. Both Dan Kincaide and Kurt Beck are getting up there in years and may succumb to creaking knees somewhere down the line in these playoffs. This may be the last hurrah for these two so I predict they will give it their all.
Basketball wise California excels at every facet of the game culminating in averaging a whopping 125 points a game while holding opponents to 106. Of course the offense is funneled through Hassan Watt. So if an opposing team finds a way to slow down Watt then California may need to scramble to make up for that considerable scoring load. Another option is to allow Watt to get his points but try to shut down his teammates. This conundrum works both ways to benefit California. Hassan Watt is playing as great as ever averaging over 33 points a game nearing triple double averages and will not let anything get in his way after being just a game away from another championship.
California will face obstacles on their way to a trophy but New York is not one of those. The Firestorm are lucky to be in the playoffs with an abysmal 29 wins and will not win a game against California even if Shelton Britton averages 50 points.
#2 Brooklyn Rage v #7 Colorado Pioneers
A classic matchup pitting legendary managers Rondall Reynoso and Marc Hameleers.
It’s been verified that Rondall received several competitive offers for Mario Bailey and Jarius Miles which would facilitate a rebuild over new cornerstone Trenton Adams. However, Rondall rebuked these offers, and in a nostalgic swing at it decided to ride it out demonstrating great loyalty towards his aging legends. So here we are in a new era with one foot in the past. The best player on the Rage is now the young Trenton Adams. Neither Bailey nor Miles were named to All League selections. The Rage possess a top 10 defense and offense and when healthy will pose a challenge to any team.
Marc Hameleers pulled off the trade of the year by securing a dominant scoring duo in Hancho Durrant and Jo Jo Edwards to pair with the talented Xander Smith and legendary Darond Lyons. This offense packs a proper punch! And like they say you can never count out a punchers chance. Darond Lyons has a history of beheading the Rage as he brought them down in New York’s championship season. We are 9 years removed from that magical event but you can bet Bailey and Miles have not forgotten. As these legends step on the court to battle for a trip to the second round the WBA history buffs will watch with glee.
I predict Brooklyn is on a mission to do the unthinkable and compete for a championship. As such they will take care of the young Pioneers in six games and get some pay back against Darond Lyons.
#3 Miami Xtreme v #6 Arizona Dragons
Brent Bangerter ends a six year playoff drought in dramatic fashion securing the services of the greatest point guard of all time in Jervan Timmons. Anyone who thought Timmons was heading to Miami to semi retire was gravely mistaken. At 30 years of age Timmons is at the peak of his game averaging career highs in points, assists, and steals. This is Xtreme basketball! Aging like a fine wine Miami has become the perfect cellar for this legend. The simple math is that when Timmons is on the court Miami outscores their opponent by over ten points.
Nonetheless, these Dragons are not just going to roll out a red carpet and kiss Timmons’ feet. Achtung! The German tank Inge Adlgasser begs to differ and some say has demanded to guard Timmons. Just what adjustments will Dan Dingleberry make to slow down Miami’s 122 point offensive machine we will just have to wait and see.
I am guessing Dan will dingle several lineups but ultimately fail to secure a winning combination. So long as Miami remains healthy Brent Bangerter will defeat the Dragons in 5 games.
#4 Sydney Bloods v #5 Boston Massacre
This is going to be a hell of series! The Bloods end the season on a 15 game winning streak securing home court advantage in this series. The Massacre on the other hand end the season winning one game for each one they lose. On paper these teams seem evenly matched but as the games play out it is evident Sydney has the chemistry.
In Boston, this is no time for spilled tea, the massacre need to get their barrels together and win one in Sydney. You can bet Quinten Lawrence had higher hopes for all league point guard Alston Irving than losing in the first round. If this indeed happens it may be time to finally move on from Michael Askins.
Patrick Abrams will not change a damn thing. Whatever is happening in Sydney let it roll. I don’t think Boston will be able to swim against this Sydney tide but then again nothing in the regular season matters. The playoffs are a new season and the reason why we play the games.
So tune in folks we’ve got some incredible matchups to witness! To all WBA playoff participants may you remain healthy and do your best.
Disclaimer: I could be wrong about all my predictions so please don’t use them for betting odds. Wrong again. Maybe I’m wrong again. I could be wrong again. I remember once in August 1993 I was wrong. And I could be wrong again.