Tuesday, 07 May 2019 14:22 Written by Josh Biddle and Jason Rouse
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2024 AmCon Playoff Preview


KCP-SAC-R1-2024
It's old heads versus young legs as Lynwood Emmert leads the Sacramento Snipers back to the postseason for the first time in over a decade.

#1 Kansas City Pioneers (66-14) vs. #8 Sacramento Snipers (38-42)

by Jason Rouse

The Kansas City Pioneers head into the playoffs in rare form winning 23 of their last 25 games and securing the overall #1 seed in the OBWL. They've won their 9th division title under GM Ben Johnson and Coach Cosmo Schwalje. The 2021 league champions are looking to redeem themselves from being bounced out of the playoffs in round 1 just a year ago. The highflying Pioneers lead the league in scoring at 106.7 points per game and scoring margin at 14.5 points per game. By no means are they soft like many high-scoring offensives as they lead the league in rebounds at just over 50 per game and #1 in rebound differential at 6 rebounds per game. This team also ranks among the league leaders in almost every defensive category including holding opponents to 41% which is good enough for #2 in the league. A huge injury to their starting center Richard Hardee who broke his foot just a couple of weeks ago, is scratched for the entire series as doctors say he's out for at least one month.

On the other side we got the #8 seed Sacramento Snipers limping into the playoffs winning just 3 of their last 12 games. In his 4th year as GM, Chris Noonan, is making his first ever appearance in the playoffs and the same goes for Coach Bonifacio Gonzaga. They got here on their defense holding opponents to 95.8 points per game good enough for 7th overall in the league. Also, a solid rebounding team holding opponents to just 29.2 defensive rebounds per game good enough for #1 in the league. They rank 4th in rebound margin at 3 rebounds per game and rank 7th in opponents field goal percentage against at 43%. Offensively, they lead the conference in points per shot at 1.19 and are very solid shooting 75% from the free-throw line. You can thank All-League 1st Team, 23-year-old SG Lynwood Emmert, for carrying the Snipers into the playoffs.

Things to watch

1. How will the Pioneers be able to adjust without Richard Hardee?

Through 71 games Hardee averaged just under 30 minutes per game while scoring 16.2 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Shot 45% from the floor and 75% from the free-throw line which are all great numbers but I didn't mention his defensive contributions which are above average. They have played with several different lineups so who knows what they will come out with in game 1. Starting PF Andrew Sutton can't replace him offensively but defensively he's better and needs to step up his game even more. I believe the guard duo of Mark Marble and Mack Lavoie, both 3rd Team All-League, need to carry this team on their backs which they are both capable of. Now that there's more shots available both should get more touches on offense.

2. Will Coach Gonzaga allow Lynwood Emmert to play hero-ball?

SG Emmert, drafted #1 overall in the 2022 draft has exceeded expectations so far in his 3rd season. He plays 39 minutes per game averaging 27.8 points per game (#2 behind Charles Flowers) while shooting 49% from the field and 92% from the free-throw line. His 3-point percentage has dipped a bit this season shooting only 33% compared to 39% a year ago. They've been playing hero-ball with him all season so no reason to change things here in the playoffs. Only 2 other players average more than 10 points per game, 23-year-old PG Troy Howse at 13.9 and 22-year-old SF Gregory Santiago at 12 per game. They have no other option but to hand him the rock on almost every possession. That doesn't mean everyone else should just be spectators watching him in isolations, they need to find ways to get open and to get that rock moving.

How can the Pioneers advance?

Obviously, they are very heavy favorites but you still have to play the games. The bigs need to stay out of foul trouble, especially Sutton, who's by far their best rebounder and defender down low. Keep shooting lights out and putting up those big numbers because the Snipers just don't have the firepower to keep up. SG David Kitchens, who won the Most Improved player award needs to keep lighting it up off of the bench. In just over 24 minutes of action per game he averages 15 points and needs to keep on doing the same. KC can bring their C game and still easily win the series, but anything under that and Sacramento plays lights out I can see them taking a game or 2. The Pioneers have a massive home-court advantage leading the league with a 37-3 record. Add the fact that the Snipers are tied with the 2nd worst record in the OBWL with a 9-31 road record, KC protects home-court and the series is over.

Can the Snipers advance?

Other players need to step up offensively as Emmert can't score 50 points per to bail out the team every game. Coach Gonzaga has his work cut out for him as he needs to find ways through either player rotation or strategy to get more points on the scoreboard. Howse and Emmert need to slow down Marble and Lavoie which might be impossible to do as both are not known for their defense. Take advantage of Hardee's absence by trying to find matchup mismatches down low. Obviously, Sacramento has to hold home-court because there's no way they're going into KC and winning more than one game. They need to play their A+ game throughout the series and hope for the Pioneers to lay an egg to have any chance of winning.

Prediction

The Pioneers won the season series 4-0 and I got them doing the same thing in the playoffs. The Snipers just can't keep up with the Pioneers offensive firepower even with Hardee injured. I talked a lot about the Pioneers offense but their defense should get equal credit. That being said, it will be fun watching Emmert putting on a show in his very first playoffs of his career. Also, the big 3 of Sacramento including Howse and Santiago will be a force to be reckoned with in the future if they can keep them together. In the end not only talent but playoff experience will launch the Pioneers into the 2nd round.

 


TBT-PHI-R1-2024  
The defense-vs-offense matchup between Hunter Heath and John Newton will go a long way in determining the series between the Tampa Bay Tritons and Philadelphia Americans.   

#2 Tampa Bay Tritons (62-18) vs. #7 Philadelphia Americans (39-41)

by Josh Biddle

Tritons

Tampa Bay's 2024 season can best be summarized as an impressive, balanced effort, highlighted by an elite defense, culminating in a 1st place finish in the American Conference East Division (+3 games of defending champion St. Louis SunKings) and the #2 overall seed in the AmCon. Defensively, the Tritons posted impressive stats/rankings, allowing only 90.7 points per game (CR-1st, TR-2nd), and also finished the season ranked 1st in conference and second overall in field goal percentage against (.405) and adjusted field goal percentage (.442). In addition, the Tritons ranked 1st overall in conference and overall in fouls per game (14.2). Offensively, the Tritons finished the season averaging 102.6 points per game (CR-3rd, TR-9th), a .452 field goal percentage (CR-1st, TR-5th), a .361 three-point percentage CR-4th, TR-6th), a .499 adjusted field goal percentage (CR-2nd, TR-4th), and 13.8 turnovers per game (CR/TR-1st).

Led in scoring by SG Alain Lagon (17.8 PPG) and PF Hunter Heath (15.1 PPG) – who re-signed with Tampa Bay to the tune of a six-year, $136,350,000 contract - the Tritons' lineup remains balanced on the offensive side with six players averaging double figures in points. C Darin Deans provides an imposing defensive presence in the paint with his 7'2" frame, and provides great rebounding and shotblocking ability (8.5 rebounds per game – tied 19th in league; 4.3 blocks per game – tied 6th in league), while also adding 11.3 points per game, but enters the playoffs day-to-day with a groin pull. Could this impact Deans during this series? PF Joe Rutledge was a solid piece off the bench, averaging 8.8 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game in 18.1 minutes per game.

Americans

Philadelphia's 2024 season can be described as streaky – the Americans recorded four winning streaks of four or more games, and three losing streaks of four or more games. The Americans, unfortunately, stumbled down the stretch. After a five-game winning streak from March 12th through March 22nd, the Americans would lose eleven of their final fourteen games. The Americans tended to be mid-pack in most rankings both offensively and defensively, averaging 99.3 points per game (CR-9th, TR-17th) and surrendering 97.6 points per game (CR-7th, TR-11th). Two points of strength for the Americans in the rankings was offensive rebounds per game (14.1 per game, CR-1st, TR-1st) and steals per game (10.1 per game, CR-1st, TR-3rd).

Leading the Americans in scoring were two top-25 scorers – PF John Newton (20 points per game) and SF Renato Ardoin (18.9 points per game). Newton finished the season with a .610 field goal percentage on shots designated as "inside", which will be challenged by the Tritons' top notch inside defense. Ardoin does the majority of his damage from the outside, sporting a .455 three point percentage which ranks 3rd in the league, a measly .001 off of the top two. SG Frank Williams, who signed with the Archers this offseason before being traded to the Americans, brings his 14.1 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 5.4 assists per game, and .401 three-point percentage against the team he played for last season. PG Stan McClelland, another ex-Triton, also had a solid season averaging 17.6 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game as the Americans' starting point guard. C Kevin Gordon, who was the team's inside presence and finished the season averaging 9.1 rebounds per game (2.2 offensive rebounds per game) and 4.1 blocks per game, suffered a late season broken foot which ended his season. His presence has been missed, and the late season slide can be attributed to this.

The Americans haven't had top tier bench play; however, they have tons of potential in 19-year old shooting guard Garrett Bennett (7.5 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 1.7 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game in 19.3 minutes per game) and 23-year old center Eugene Jones, who spent the majority of the season in the OBDL and finished the season averaging 13.7 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game in 30.1 minutes per game.

Season Matchups

12/13 - Americans @ Tritons – 101-81 win for Tritons
2/23 - Americans @ Tritons – 96-88 win for Americans
3/1 - Tritons @ Americans – 124-107 win for Americans
3/23 - Tritons @ Americans – 85-64 win for Tritons

Prognosis

After a 47-33 season last year with a round two exit, the Americans enter the playoffs this year with a worse regular season and shorthanded with the injury to Gordon. Don't be surprised if the Tritons attack the paint with Gordon's absence, though a wildcard could be who gets minutes at center for the Americans and can they step up? My guess would be no, as the Tritons have proven to be a very efficient team that can score in a myriad of ways. Despite the 2-2 matchup during the regular season, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Tritons sweep. The good news for the Americans is that even with an expected first round exit, this is a team rich in talent when at full strength, with two blue-chip prospects developing in the meantime, and getting primed for the ability for a deep playoff run possibly next season. Tritons look ready for a deep playoff run this season.

Prediction: Tritons in 4

 


FTW-STL-R1-2024
Rufus Motley and the Dragoons will the first challenge for Domenic Baum and the Sun Kings on the road to defending their title.

 #3 St. Louis SunKings (59-21) vs. #6 Fort Worth Dragoons (39-41)

by Josh Biddle

SunKings

The defending OBWL champions finished the 2024 season 59-21, 2nd place in the American Conference East Division (3 GB of Tampa Bay Tritons). The SunKings represent another balanced team – they finished the season averaging 101 points per game (CR-5th, TR-12th) and 93.8 points allowed per game (CR-3rd, TR-5th). An interesting note is the SunKings ability to control the boards – they allowed the fewest rebounds per game for opponents both in conference and overall (41.1).

Player-wise, the SunKings are star-studded with SG Domenic Baum (24.7 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game) – who ranked 6th in the league in scoring; SF Dong Richardson (18.0 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 3.9 assist per game, 1.1 steals per game) – who ranked 23rd in the league in scoring; and PG Jorge Denis (14.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game). SF Timothy Adler spent time between starting and coming off the bench, but finished the season averaging an impressive 16.5 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. C Alfonso Beggs, while not spectacular on the offensive end, is a very good inside presence on the defensive side, evidenced by his 2.9 blocks per game. The SunKings roster is impressive with the star power in the starting lineup, and the glut of solid contributors off of the bench that you need to keep the starters fresh.

Dragoons

The Dragoons finished the 2024 season 39-41, 2nd place in the American Conference West Division (27 GB of 1st place Pioneers). The Dragoons were relatively balanced as they were middling in terms of rankings both offensively and defensively, though they didn't do either particularly well based on their -2.5 margin of points scored versus points surrendered. The categories that stand out in a positive way for the Dragoons is 14.5 turnovers per game (CR-3rd, TR-4th) and 17.9 fouls per game (CR-4th, TR-7th). Although those particular statistics are easy on the eyes, it's hard to fathom that they can springboard the Dragoons past the SunKings.

The Dragoons' roster doesn't have the star power when compared to the SunKings, though they certainly have some talent. On the positive side, much of the talent is young and likely have not scratched the cusp of their potential, which means fans and opponents alike should keep an eye on Fort Worth moving forward. 26-year old SG Rufus Motley took a step back across the board in averages, though still posted a respectable 15.5 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and 1.8 assists per game. Furthermore, his .917 free throw percentage ranked 4th in the league. 22-year old SF Edward Barankowski averaged 14.2 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, and 1.2 steals per game for the Dragoons in his first full season in the OBWL, showing significant growth compared to the past two seasons where he played portions of the season in the OBWL. 24-year old PG Norbert Cottingham also showed growth from his rookie year, averaging 12.9 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 5.5 assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. SF Charles Banks (9.3 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game) and 21-year old PF Earl Carver (8.1 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 0.7 assists per game) showed proficiency as the team's top bench producers, with six bench players finishing the season averaging 10+ minutes per game. Will the bench be shortened, and will this result in better proficiency in the playoffs with the top producers receiving more minutes? Time will tell.

Season Matchups

11/19 - Dragoons @ SunKings - 115-88 win for SunKings
1/3 - SunKings @ Dragoons - 93-90 win for Dragoons
2/16 - SunKings @ Dragoons - 116-91 win for SunKings
3/19 - Dragoons @ SunKings - 108-90 win for SunKings

Prognosis

Despite a sub-.500 record, the Dragoons clinched their first playoff berth since the 2020 season, but are tasked with the improbable task of knocking off the defending league champion in Round 1. The Dragoons are simply a team that is likely a bit too young and too inexperienced to make noise in the playoffs this year, and the SunKings are a tried and tested playoff team with star power that will likely make another deep playoff run. I don't foresee the SunKings having any trouble with the Dragoons, but with the overall talent the Dragoons have, I think they may steal a game at home.

Prediction: SunKings in 5

 


DET-KEN-R1-2024
Led by young talents such as Andrew Jackson and Xander Remington, the Kentucky Stallions and Detroit Muscle are primed for hard-fought first round series. 

#4 Kentucky Stallions (41-39) vs. #5 Detroit Muscle (40-40)

by Jason Rouse

The Kentucky Stallions trotted their way into the #4 seed and look to make it out of the 1st round for the first time in franchise history. Under GM Robert Shepherd, the team has made it into the playoffs 4 times in 8 seasons, but had never made it past round 1. This will be the 6th time and 3rd time with the Stallions making it into the playoffs for Coach Darios Sheppard. They rank 5th in the league in points per shot at 1.19 and helping that number is their great free-throw shooting at 78%, good enough for #2 in the league. The offense also excels shooting just under 45% from the field but struggle from the 3-point line shooting just under 33%. Defensively they are average in most categories and are superb at blocking shots. The trio of SF Andrew Jackson, PF Arthur Fiscus and PG Cecil Means have carried them into the playoffs as they look to advance to round 2. A broken leg injury to, SG Geoff Sullivan, will hurt the team's depth and his defense will really be missed.

The Detroit Muscle looked to be a lock for a lower seed throughout the end of the season until Philadelphia and Fort Worth struggled down the stretch run propelling the Muscle to the #5 seed. GM Mark Sands makes his 2nd consecutive playoff appearance after missing 6 straight. Coach Eli Alvis will be making his 3rd consecutive trip to the playoffs and 2nd with the Muscle. They're a solid rebounding team ranking #9 in rebound margin at 1.8 and holding their opponents to just 10 offensive boards per game which ranks #3. Also, they only give up just over 41 rebounds per game good enough for #2 overall in the league. Offensively they shoot at a 45% clip which puts them at #7 overall in the league and 9th scoring 1.17 points per shot. The team has struggled all season long with injuries but they are almost completely healthy as Tobias Collins is day-to-day with a sprained wrist. SG Blaine Fitzwater has been solid all season long along with durable to help lead this team into the playoffs.

Things to watch for

1. Can Detroit be consistent on offense?

It's been a problem throughout the entire season and just recently in the very last game of the season at the Kentucky Stallions. They only scored 65 points on 40% shooting but only attempted 65 shots due to turnovers, lack of offensive rebounding and 3-point shooting. They average 96.2 points per game but have been held at or under 86 points a whopping 20 times. They got 4 players that average double figures with PG Xander Remington (11.6ppg) and PF Van Lefevre (11.1ppg) barely getting over that plateau. SG Blaine Fitzwater leads the team at 17.4 points per game and SF Quinten Bergquist coming in next at 15.2 points per game. There's numerous factors that go into shots per game and Coach Alvis needs to figure that out quickly.

2. Can Andrew Jackson and Cecil Means carry this team?

They're the only two on the team that score in double digits with Jackson scoring 25.5 per game (5th in the league) and Means at 16.1 per game. At the age of 25, Jackson, keeps on getting better and this year was no different as he had a monster season. He made his very first All-Star appearance and landed a spot on the 2nd team All-League. 23-year-old Cecil Means is a legit scorer but doesn't even come close in comparison to Jackson. They got 9 players averaging between 5 and 10 points per game so Coach Hodnett needs to find more options. Detroit's perimeter defense ranks 6th in the league holding teams to 33% from 3-point land, Kentucky is 24th in the league shooting 33% from 3. Looks like jumpshots, post-ups and driving will be their best options to put up big numbers.

How can Detroit win?

Obviously, as mentioned above they can't afford to have these games where the offense doesn't show up. First off, the coaching staff needs to find a way to slow down Jackson.  They're not going to shut him down completely but if they can keep him contained that will work. They should think about sacrificing defense for a little bit more offense like living legend SG Andy Teeters more playing time. He's averaging 9 points in just over 18 minutes per game shooting 47%, 86% from the line and 38% from beyond the arc. Also, C Donald Williams who averages 7 points per game in just 14 minutes while shooting 49%, 80% from the free-throw line and 42% from beyond the arc. Easier said than done as getting the exact amount of offense and defense out there with your rotations can be very difficult.

How can Kentucky win?

Keep getting to the free-throw line as they shoot 73% good enough for #2 in the league. How do you get to the line? Very simple, give the ball to Jackson whose made 507 of 567 free throws for a percentage just over 89%. Keep feeding him the ball as much as possible because he averages 1.42 points per shot. The downside is that he only averages 33 minutes per game so I think Coach should try to increase the minutes as much as possible. Limit the Muscle's offensive rebounding chances as they shoot a solid 45% from the field which ranks 7th. Also, need to find a 3rd scoring option other than Jackson and Means.

Prediction

This is not an easy pick as they split the season series and are pretty even on paper. Detroit is not a sexy pick whatsoever and researching them it's hard to find positives without coming up with more negatives. Stallions got the home-court advantage and the best overall player in Jackson, but can you trust the rest of the team? Hmm... If certain changes are made by Detroit, I like them but will those changes happen? Geoff Sullivan is a pretty big loss for the Stallions and the Muscle are getting healthy now. I would pick the Muscle if they had home-court advantage... Numbers say Kentucky but my gut says Detroit in 6!

 

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