Tuesday, 07 May 2019 13:20 Written by Travis Whetzel and Eric Stelle
Rate this item
(4 votes)

 

2024 NatCon Playoff Preview


LON-MIN-R1-2024
Five-time Defensive Player of the Year Jean Larry and the London Knights are focused on trying to make it to the OBWL Finals for the third time in six years.

The playoffs are here again! Some familiar faces will take another run at the cup and some newbies look to dethrone some league legends. It is my task to take a look at two of these match-ups and provide a semi-intelligent analysis of the teams and who I believe will win. First of all, if the man in charge believes I am semi-intelligent, then one must question his judgment. Despite all that, let's have us a look...

#1 London Knights (63-17) vs. #8 Minnesota Marauders (42-38)

by Travis Whetzel

This is the 4th time in London's history that they have ended the season, leading the National Conference. Winning over 60 games is a huge accomplishment. Could this be another year that the Heikkinen Cup goes to a team outside of the USA?

To my knowledge, and we have discussed that in the first paragraph, the Marauders have never ended the season at the top of the National Conference, but there are plenty of other teams that haven't led their conferences either. The fact that Minnesota made the post season is a great accomplishment for them.

London Knights

The Knights defense is one of the best in the league. On average, they held their opponents to 91.9 ppg. When you add the offensive numbers of scoring on average over 105 ppg, that is going to equate to a lot of wins. One of the biggest reasons for this is the Knights shotblocking, led by Jean Larry. Larry averaged 6.8 bpg. This is pretty crazy. Larry had a pretty good supporting cast of shotblockers like Jose Owens with 2.7 bpg and Gerald Stubblefield with 1.9 bbg.

One thing I noticed about the Knights is their distribution of minutes. This is truly a team effort when you break it down. No one on the squad plays over 32 minutes. Even the leading scorer, Jose Owens only averages 28.9 minutes. This type of minute distribution helps keep players healthy and everyone is ready to play and contribute when called upon.

Minnesota Marauders

One of the Marauder's strengths is ball distribution. The have a high average of assists per game at 24.3. The Marauders have a number of players that pass well, which yields a number of players that contribute to the score. This team disperses the shot taking to all of its members pretty equally. This can prove to be valuable in the playoffs and can be tough for opponents, because they can't lock down one or two players on defense.

Minnesota disperses minutes pretty well also, but not quite to the extent of London. The Marauders have their own great shotblocker in Ervin Holmes, but no one else on the squad other than Wallace Briseno, is great at deflecting shots from the hoop.

Key Match-ups

Ervin Holmes will have his hands full when guarding Jose Owens. Holmes will block some of his shots, but Jose will find ways to score. The 26 year old Owens shoots from anywhere. He is very strong and slightly quicker than Holmes. Offensively, Holmes will not be a worry for Owens.

Minnesota has a surplus of guards that can score. Coach Hensley can rotate in all kinds of scorers and try to keep the Knights guessing. Andrew Evans, Joey Short, Andrew Lawler and George Ellis will be rotating in and out and shooting the ball well. Val Crumley will get most of the responsibility of guarding the two-guard position and he excels at it.

Tony Pence is a good power forward, but he will be battered, bruised and exhausted each night against Jean Larry. I would not wish that assignment on anyone.

Prediction

I really do like this Marauders team, but to come in and face the Knights right off the bat is not good for them. They couldn't beat them in the regular season and they won't come close in the playoffs either. They might win one game. The Knights are just tough for anyone to play.

Knights in 5.

 


DEN-VAN-R1-2024
Micheal Keyes and Greg Fore will highlight this slugfest between NatWest rivals.

 #2 Denver Demons (53-27) vs. #7 Vancouver Highlanders (42-38)

by Eric Stelle

Denver Demons

While their GM might be all bluster and bravado in the public eye but he's a bit more focused when it comes to his choices... I say a bit because he's still made some breathtaking ones. The Demons were fortunate enough to catch KVM after he parachuted out of Manhattan and, though he might not have had the bankroll that he did in Manhattan, he went to work in Denver with the gusto of a starving man facing a hill of fishmacs. What has resulted is a suprisingly elegant creation. Much ado is made about the defensive acumen of the font court that got them to the finals last year but this is not that team. This team passes the ball very well and shoots very well while still retaining enough defense to carry the day when a shooter might have an off night.

Vancouver Highlanders

I don't think that any team has worked harder in the final stretch to make the playoffs than the Highlanders. This proud franchise has been a playoff fixture for several seasons and they weren't about to let that slide this season. Anchored by some cagey veterans and now mature draft picks, the Highlanders start and end with defense. Sometimes accused of playing "keep away" more than playing offense, the Highlanders are dead last in the league in pace but fourth in defensive efficency. They grind games to a halt and then sprinkle in just enough offense to win the game. With the lowest offensive output of any team in the playoffs this year, their coaches look to put "strangleball" to the test and see if it can pay off.

Key Matchups

Michael Keyes vs. Larry Burt - This might seem like an odd matchup to highlight but, then again, this is not the Michael Keyes of even a year ago. Make no mistake, Keyes still handles the ball like it's on a string. On top of near perfect delivery and outstanding timing, he's still the definitive point guard when it comes to distribution but the position is changing. More explosive scorers are infiltrating the point with their "pass off the rim" philosophy, many lament that the artistry of the point guard position is giving way to a more splashy style. You won't see any of that from either team in this matchup. Keyes'scoring average is down to a career low but his effectiveness from the perimeter and midrange remain. While never a good free throw shooter, he seems to have a definate lack of concentration at the line. As uninspiring as Keys' offense might be, Burt's will put watchers straight to sleep. He is not a part of the offense so much as he's part of the defense. Burt's function on the floor is to restrict the other team's point from shooting and not make a mistake in getting the ball to where it needs to go (usually Greg Fore). Keyes has about three inches on Burt so he might be able to thwart Burt's defense by posting up or getting into the lane and just being tall. I think if a team gets double digit production from this position, it could tip the scales in their favor.

Daniel Goodrum vs. Dennis Pichardo - One of the better kept secrets in the OBWL, Pichardo is a scoring machine. When one says that Vancouver musters up "just enough offense" to win a game, Pichardo is pretty much that "just enough" and as his shooting goes, so too go the Highlanders' fortunes. The trouble spot for Vancouver is that the position that Pichardo normally stalks is shooting guard and the Demons' Goodrum is a first rate defender who only gives up one inch to Pichardo and can chase him around on the perimeter with ease. If Pichardo can rise to the occasion or maybe get matched up against Fore, perhaps the quarter of the offense that Pichardo represents can still be accessible.

Interior vs. Interior - In any situation where you try to slow the other team down, nothing deflates a defense more than second chance points. Both teams do well when it comes to ending possessions and the Highlanders boast the #2 field goal defense. They are meeting the #2 field goal offense that the Demons bring. So controlling the boards are going to be critical. The work that Charles Cazares or Fore do on the offensive glass may yield the extra basket or two that could make a happy ending to an ugly night. Vancouver relies heavily on Daniel Black to clean the glass when Pichardo is not on the floor. Happily, Pichardo is only not on the floor for 18 minutes per game so, betwen the two of them, they look to keep the offense hungry Demons off the glass. Trick is, if the highlanders play Pichardo so far away from the basket, they'll have to crash him in so do you leave Fore or Goodrum to leak out in transition... or do you just take your chances and get back on defense?

Prediction

This is a bad matchup for Vancouver. It's hard to look at the head to head this season because Ottinger was present in the first two. Denver did handle business at home in either iteration of the Demons so it's hard to go against them overall. In a series, teams can really drill into eachother to counter strengths and exploit weaknesses. We know that Fore will get his so the question then becomes can Dean go back at him at the same rate and who else will help he and Pichard score? That X factor is what makes these matchups fun because the right guy gets some looks and sinks them in a game this slow, it could be upsetting.

I think that, like life - as Jeff Goldblum so famously coined - Denver's offense will find a way to take apart the stout defense of the Highlanders in 5 but it's going to be ugly.

 


TOR-MAN-R1-2024
Five-time OBWL MVP Charles Flowers will be a huge mountain to climb for the Manhattan Swing.

#3 Toronto Huskies (54-26) vs. #6 Manhattan Swing (43-37)

by Eric Stelle

Toronto Huskies

If there is one theme that ripples throughout the Toronto Huskies franchise, it is how close they have been to obtaining a cup. They fell short in 2022 with just about as close of a margin there could be. It's been like that ever since the Commissioner called Charles Flower's name at Toronto's pick all those seasons ago. The all everything power forward has been a force individually and his game elevated the team higher than the early Goloboy days ever did.

Manhattan Swing

In almost the inverse of Toronto's situation, the Swing have seen the promised land in the Bailey/Kramer/Olson/Glavocich days but those days are nearly a decade away. In the aftermath of the KVM era, it fell to new GM Nate Songer to pick up the pieces. After all the discarded fishmac wrappers were thrown away and couches had been saturated in fabreeze, Songer got to work. While he's not assembled a four all star squad like those glory days, he's also had to undo years of crippling overspending. That the Swing have overcome that giant hurdle is a testament and now they are starting to be more of a "make noise" team than just a "happy to be here" team.

Key Matchups

Mark McKelvey vs. Mathew Cole - Cole is a scorer of the highest calliber and, while age has made him much more earthbound than his days of baseline jams in Anaheim, he is still an effective threat who spreads the floor giving his interior focused scorers room to operate. You might remember McKelvey from all the hype he got in Los Angeles but the player who was supposed to be the next basketball Jesus has seen his traveles around teh league. With a stint in Detroit before finally settling in New York, McKelvey has had a dose of reality since draft day but that's not to say he hasn't improved. Like a fine wine, he's mellowed with age. At 6'5" McKelvey is tall, fast, and albe to close out on Cole to bother his shot. Add to that, he's a first team defender due to his great anticipation and interception of passes along with quick, bothersome hands.

Charles Flowers vs. the World - Let's face it, whatever you call him - Charlie Pow-Pow, Chucky, Chuckle Thunder, etc. - sometimes, it just doesn't matter who you put on him. Some nights, he just destroys defensive MVP's. That's just the kind of player he is. So we're not going to talk about those nights because they are well documented in the trail of broken teams he's left in his wake. We're going to talk about how you climb that mountain to limit him somewhat becuase, let's face it, you're not going to contain him. Charles is crazy fast for his size and strength so if you're going to not get left in his dust as he flashes into the lane from the post, you're going to need somebody with the foot speed to keep up with him. Trick is, most of those people are smaller forwards so if you bring them over, he'll just shoot over the top because he's a great out to the elbow and even a bit beyond if he can set his feet. The Swing have tried a few iterations against him but one thing is certian, as long as it's not Tony Griffith, the odds that he'll go for 40+ are low. I think that between team scheme and hitting him with an array of defenders, he might be "only" limited to the high 20's or low 30's on the series.

Motya Kamensky vs. Whitney Cherry - I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Cherry will start at the three. In season, McKelvey has started there from time to time and even Thomas Stanley has a nose for boards that might make him a viable choice, but we're going to presume it's Cherry because the small forward position is where Cherry has been most productive. Kamensky is a powerhouse of a small foward... basically a power forward playing the three but with a three point shot. If Flowers is a nighmare, Kamensky is that feeling when you wake up from a nightmare. At 6'7" tall, Cherry is a great candidate to make Kamensky shoot over and it's inside where Kamensky is most effective. Cherry can bother his shot and also make him work on the other end. Trick is that Cherry has been inconsistent at times so fans in New York are wondering if the Cherry they are getting is going to be sweet or tart.

Prediction

During the season, each team has won on the other's home court so they seem primed to steal and steal back games as needed. It's going to come down to which matchup can be the most effective and who can get the most out of the hot hand. The Swing played somewhat of a shell game with Toronto in season hitting them with a variety of cast members in the front court; however, Toronto has not been without some gamesmanship of their own. If things get tough for Toronto, the might look to get Flowers in some matchups with slower players instead of trying to run over the top of his matchup at power forward.

I think that Swing defenders can bother Huskies shooters but will have a hard time keeping them off the boards. Because of this, the Huskies will use brute force to carry the day and club the Swing into submission in 6.

 


HON-ARZ-R1-2024
Can Michael Weathersby and the young Honolulu Inferno rise above the veteran and playoff tested Arizona Thunderbirds?

#4 Arizona Thunderbirds (51-29) vs. #5 Honolulu Inferno (45-35)

by Travis Whetzel

The birds of the desert versus the tropical flame. If regular season games are any indicator, this will be a pretty even series. These two teams split the season series, but when you look at the times that Honolulu won, it was by slim margins. A win is a win is a win, though....

Arizona Thunderbirds

Arizona has been a very successful franchise. When you can win a championship one time, that is a great accomplishment, but to win it again and then still remain a contender year after year, that is the mark greatness.

The Thunderbirds look a lot like the Knights. They have one of the best defenses and they average about 104 ppg. They also have several great shotblockers. I would love to have a team that can keep opponents scoring down consistently. The Thunderbirds' weakness is their bench. Most of the load is carried by the starters and a couple of the bench guys. This can be tough in a playoff series.

Honolulu Inferno

The Inferno really spread the wealth when it comes to playing time. They don't rely on one or two key players. There is not just one guy that you can shut down or try to slow down. All of the Inferno players are contributors. The only thing is, do the Inferno have enough FIREpower to over come the T-birds?

Key Match-ups

The biggest match-up would have been Udo Bach and Carl Terwilliger. They are their respective teams' best players. Udo scores a little more, but Carl is a much better shotblocker. Wiith Udo hurt and not likely to see action in this series, the question becomes who can contain Terwilliger down low? Good thing that Charles Ottinger is more than capable. Ottinger's foot speed is similar to Carl's and Ottinger perhaps can keep pace on the boards. This is a matchup to watch.

I really want to watch the point guard battle as well. I am a Harry White fan, even though at 37, he is not the player he once was. Kelvin Corr is only 22, but he is playing some great basketball. Defensively, Corr is lacking, but he is a great passer and is smart. He averaged only 2 turnovers for the season. White won't score a lot but he is very efficient. His numbers fell the last couple seasons, but his FG% is very high.

Prediction

Like I said, this could be a close series if you look strictly at the regular season series split. I don't think the match-up is quite that close though. The Thunderbirds score at a bit higher volume and that will be the difference. Both teams have good defense but Arizona should come out on top.

Thunderbirds in 6.

 

Read 85 times

You have no rights to post comments

Member Login