Tuesday, 30 May 2017 15:49 Written by Travis Whetzel and Tom Lacher
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2020 NatCon Playoffs Preview


2020 Larry 01
Defensive Player of the Year Jean Larry and the London Knights are ready to defend their National Conference championship.

 

#1 London Knights (62-18) VS. #8 Manhattan Swing (38-42)

by Travis Whetzel

Could this be the year of the Knights? Can they get to the big show again and this time take the crown? Maybe, but first they have to take out the Swing.

London improved on their regular season record of 53 wins from last year and finished with an impressive 62 win season this year. Last season they got to the Championship game, but were swept by the Tritons. This year, the Tritons seem to be faltering a bit and perhaps the Knights will take advantage. Right now though, the Manhattan Swing stand in the way of that goal. Manhattan didn't even make the playoffs last year, so they have improved as well. Although they finished under .500 this season, they did have some impressive wins against teams like the Dragoons, Huskies and Coyotes. Can the Swing pull off an upset? Let's break it down.

The Key Match-ups

Thomas Stanley vs. Michael Nail

James Willhite is out with an injury, so Nail is filling in. Nail is not the scorer that Stanley is, so right away there is a big advantage to the Swing, but Nail is a decent defender, so he will make Stanley work for it.

Jose Owens vs. Matt Messenger

Messenger is a fine rebounder, but he is completely outclassed by Jose Owens. It wouldn't surprise me if Owens averages over 20 ppg against Messenger.

Val Crumley vs. Todd Butterfield

Crumley is 27 and Butterfield is 31. Not a huge difference in age and Butterfield still has plenty of game. This is going to be a tough match-up. Butterfield's defense is top notch and Crumley's defense is excellent. I think we will see that Crumley will get to the hoop more than Butterfield and it will be one of the key factors in the series.

The Knights went 4-0 in the league series with the Swing. None of the games were that close either. The Swing were held under 100 points in all of the games. Thomas Stanley and Mark McKelvey are playing well, but they just won't have enough to even come close to winning this series. The Knights are on fire, finishing the season on a 26 game win streak.

Prediction: London in 4 games.

 


 

#2 Arizona Thunderbirds (56-24) vs. #7 Seattle Sea Dogs (44-36)

by Tom Lacher

2020 Gracchi 01
Although both teams are three-time champs, Lou Gracchi and the Sea Dogs have never beaten the Arizona Thunderbirds in a playoff series (0-3).

 

This is a clash of two 3-time OBWL championship teams. This is a true blueblood matchup of OBWL franchises in the 1st round of the National Conference playoffs. While Arizona has, for the most part, sustained their success Seattle has slid some over the past few seasons.

Despite the #2 vs. #7 pairing this looks to be a competitive series.

WHO ARE THE SEADOGS

Seattle still has their Big 3 intact. SG Joseph Drumm (18.9ppg 6.2rpg 5.7apg 2.6spg) is the heart and soul of the 'Dogs. He has the ability to not only dominate a single game but an entire series...and he will need to. C Donavon Bashford (20.9ppg 10.2rpg) is still a big time scoring threat but will need to be far more efficient in scoring his points. SF/PF Lou Gracchi (16.3ppg) is not the player he once was but has found a new role as instant offense off the bench. He will need to continue to provide that spark. PG Larry O'Brien (10.9ppg 5.6apg) had a subpar season but is still capable. The starting F's, McKinley Brownin (13.6ppg 7.6rpg 2.7apg 1.6spg) and Ean Kariger (9.5ppg 5.6rpg) are both extremely effective in their roles and pose matchup problems. Joseph Anguiano (8ppg 3.9rpg 4.5apg) is a slick passing slasher who has had a breakout season for the Seadogs.

WHAT DOES SEATTLE HAVE TO DO TO WIN

Drumm and Bashford have to have dominant performances and Gracchi and O'Brien have to channel their 2-seasons-ago selves.

WHO ARE THE THUNDERBIRDS

Everything begins and ends in The Valley of the Sun with Harry White. White (19.7ppg 6.6apg) seems to have lost a step but is still considered one of the best players in basketball. He has the playoff experience and success to lead Arizona on a deep run. SG Mark Marble (20.9ppg) is the team's leading scorer and can explode for 30+ points at any given time.

Up front the TBirds are led by veterans SF Angel Kurzyna (13.3ppg 5.7rpg 2.7apg) and PF Jordyn Hardin (6.8ppg 11.5rpg 1.5bpg). Both are past their glory days but both are still very effective in their roles. C Elton Carnahan (5.7ppg 9.9rpg 2.8bpg) is a defensive presence in the paint.

The TBirds are a deep and experienced team. SG Blaine Fitzwater (14.3ppg 4.8rpg 2.5apg), acquired via deadline deal, has been a great compliment to Marble. Veterans C Joseph Peterson, PF Jeremy Lakes and SF Dante Mahon all play key roles and give solid minutes.

WHAT DOES ARIZONA HAVE TO DO TO WIN

Be themselves. Seems simple and it is. Continue to be efficient offensively and stingy defensively and they will win the series.

PREDICTION

TBIRDS IN 6. Drumm and Bashford will make this competitive and entertaining but Arizona is the better team.

 


#3 Boston Buzzards (52-28) vs. #6 South Florida Sharks (45-35)

by Tom Lacher

2020 Wiley 01
Franklyn Wiley is just one of the many role players who are contributors for a very deep Boston Buzzards squad.

 

Division rivals meet in this NatCon 1st Round series. Both team made major moves in the offseason and during the season. Both had varying degrees of success because of those moves. This series might be the most interesting 1st Round pairing in either Conference.

WHO ARE THE SHARKS

The Sharks have star power in SF David Witherspoo (24ppg 4.8rpg) and Quentin Bryson (24.9ppg 6.9rpg 2.1bpg). Bryson was acquired in a mid-season deal and seemed to find his All-Star level game after being traded by Denver and their maniacal GM. Both players are capable of carrying a team in a series. Defensive standout SG Dominique Bahena (12.4ppg 2.5spg in 26 games) is finally back from the broken leg he suffered early in the season. He will be a wildcard however because no one knows how he will mesh with Bryson and how the injury will affect his defensive minded game.

The rest of the Sharks starting lineup and rotation is filled with a hodge-podge of role players. Richard Voyles and Sean Remington split the PG duties. Both are average at best. The C position is manned by Arthur Fiscus and journeyman Ryley Hanover.....again average at best. Shooters Claude Lassiter (13ppg) who was the starter during Bahena's injury and Leonard Lenior (9.4ppg) will play minutes off the bench.

WHAT DOES SOUTH FLORIDA HAVE TO DO TO WIN

Bryson and Witherspoo must score early and often and be efficient in doing so and Bahena must get back to form immediately. The role players MUST play well.

WHO ARE THE BUZZARDS

Boston plays with a 5-as-1 mentality and their sum is definitely greater than their parts. Four players average between 13.9ppg and 16ppg. Offseason prize acquisition Malik Campbell (16ppg 8rpg 2.6bpg 2.2apg) has bought into the Buzzard way. Last season's Rookie of the Year David Watts (9.8ppg 7.6rpg) has played solidly in his sophomore season while moving to PF. Boston stalwarts SF Michael Loftin (13.9ppg 6.2rpg 2.6apg) and SG Patrick Jackson (8.8ppg 5.2rpg 3.7apg) continue to produce within the system. Budding star SF/PF Octavio Morrison (14.6ppg 4.9rpg) is a huge contributor in his 6th man role.

PG Curtis Swiger (14ppg 4.3apg 2.3spg) is a ball-hawk who had a slight downward turn in his efficiency.

Off the bench, in addition to Morrison, Boston has trade deadline pickup PF/C Lenny Davis (14.2pg 5.1rpg) who has struggled since arriving in Beantown and SG/SF Franklyn Wiley (9.7ppg 2.7rpg 2apg).

WHAT DOES BOSTON HAVE TO DO TO WIN

Stay with their system. Boston lacks the star-power and go-to player that South Florida possesses. What the Buzzards do have is depth and chemistry. If they play within their roles they are a very good team.

PREDICTION

BUZZARDS IN 7.......or 6 or 5 or 4.....it all depends on how the Sharks mesh with Bahena's return and what the defensive game plan Boston has.

Boston is the better team but they should have a very healthy respect for South Florida and their stars.

 


 

 #4 Toronto Huskies (49-31) vs. #5 Quebec Coyotes (48-32)

by Travis Whetzel

2020 Cole 01
Mathew Cole's scoring will be a key factor in the postseason for the Toronto Huskies.

 

The Huskies didn't do quite as well this year as they did last season, but they did still earned home court advantage against the Coyotes, who are dancing in the streets after finishing league play with wins against the Archers and Tritons. Can Ottinger and Williams continue to dominate or will Flowers and Parandian control the paint? Let's break it down.

The Key Match-ups

Charles Flowers vs. Gary Williams

There really aren't many players better than Flowers. At 25, he is superb and he isn't finished polishing his game. Gary Williams might be one of the few who can actually guard him, but Williams will wish he was a few few inches taller by the time the series is underway. This is going to be one of the most exciting match-ups of the entire playoffs. These guys will be battling every minute, blocking shots, jockeying for position and exchanging blows, trash talk and gnarly glares at one another.

Mathew Cole vs. Frank McGehee

McGehee might as well just get used to being scored on. You can't stop Cole, you can just hope to slow him down. McGehee is very quick and a good defender. He is quicker than Cole, so he will be able to keep up with Cole and possible keep him from driving to the hoop so much, but it's gonna be a long series for Frank.

Charles Ottinger vs. Howard McGee

Both of these guys are top notch rebounders, but Ottinger is a much better leaper. McGee has a little more meat on his bones, which helps him box out better than Ottinger. The big difference in this match-up is the scoring. It is very lopsided in favor of Ottinger.

The Coyotes went 3-1 in the season series. That's pretty huge for a team that won't have home court advantage. This shows that they have a good chance of coming out ahead if they can steal the advantage away.

Prediction

This one may go 7 games and it is almost too close to call, but I think the Ottinger/Williams combo will prove to be too much for the Huskies.

 

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