Monday, 20 May 2019 12:57 Written by Jian Lan
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2024 AmCon Semifinals Preview


2024-KCP-KEN-R2
Can Cecil Means and the Kentucky Stallions be a roadblock to Mark Marble and the Kansas City Pioneers' road through the postseason? 

The American Conference playoffs have gone chalk as the top four seeds all advanced to the semifinals. Top seeded Kansas City easily dispatched Sacramento and will now face Kentucky, winner over Detroit in a hard fought series. Both teams enter the series at less than optimal strength with the Pioneers missing their starting center, Richard Hardee, and the Stallions without their defensive ace, Geoff Sullivan. On the other side of the bracket, second seeded Tampa Bay will meet the defending champs and third seed, St Louis. The Sun Kings are attempting to become the first team in history to win back to back titles. The Tritons remade their roster and are seeking a deep playoff run after last year's disappointment. Lets take a closer look at each series.

 

#1 Kansas City Pioneers (66-14) vs. #4 Kentucky Stallions (41-39)

Kansas City had the best record in the league during the regular season behind a dominating backcourt of Mack Lavoie and Mark Marble. The duo combined to average 42 points per game as they used their size to bully opposing guards. It wasn't all offense as Lavoie and Marble helped the Pioneers in becoming one of the league's best defenses in points allowed (92pts, 4th best) and limited opponents to 41% FGA (3rd best in the league) and 32.6% 3FGA (3rd best in the league). As good as they were, the most important player was likely Hardee. Like Lavoie, Hardee arrived during the offseason via trade and with it signaled that Kansas City has a post presence that will command respect from opposing defenses. After claiming the top overall seed, Kansas City made short work of Sacramento, winning the series 4-1.

Kentucky claimed the fourth seed behind a career year by Andrew "El Presidente" Jackson (25.5 points on 49% shooting) and a supporting cast of mostly journeymen. After years of pursuing big names with little to no results, the Stallions remade themselves into a gritty team by surrounding their superstar, Jackson, with players that had defined roles. The Stallions faced Detroit, an equally hungry team, in the first round. El Presidente led the team to victory in 6 games, averaging 25 points and nearly 8 rebounds as the Stallions advanced to the second round for the first time in Jackson's career.

What Kansas City needs to advance

No team in the league can stop Kansas City when they are on as evidence by their league-best 66 wins. The key for Kansas City is simple, play your game. For as good as El Presidente is, he will not be able to single handily win the series. Let him get his. The Pioneers are simply too talented for any one player to defeat them in a series, even without Hardee. Marble and Lavoie should have a huge series with Sullivan out for Kentucky. For comparison, with Sullivan guarding him in 3 games, Marble averaged 14.3 points and shot 15 of 50 (30%); without Sullivan, Marble went for 27 points on 11 for 21 attempts. Expect Marble to feast in this series.

What Kentucky needs to advance

In short a miracle. The only available option is for Jackson to find his inner Witherspoo-mode. He averaged 22 points in the regular season against Kansas City so he has a ways to go. Kentucky lacks scoring options which means El Presidente will get all the shots he needs and may very well average 30+ points in this series as he'll be defended by the flat-footed Marshall Gaudett. Without Sullivan to hassle the Pioneers guards, the bench for the Stallions will need to step up big. Though undersized, they can be effective in limited time.

Prediction

If Sullivan was available, I would expect this series to go the distance. He is that vital in this matchup. Unfortunately he is out and Kentucky is in trouble. Jackson is good enough to carry the team for a win but this is going to be a short series and all Kansas City. Pioneers in 5.

 


2024-TBT-STL-R2
PG Jorge Denis was the missing element in the Sun Kings' championship formula last season, does they have enough left in the gas tank to outpace the overhauled and super-charged Tritons?

 

#2 Tamp Bay Tritons (62-18) vs. #3 St. Louis Sun Kings (59-21)

Tampa Bay reclaimed the American East after a one year hiatus. This time the Tritons are expecting a much deeper run. The team overhauled its lineup by trading for Darin Deans and Alain Lagon, and signing Hunter Heath. Lagon has become the focal point of a balanced attack that features 6 players scoring in double digits. Defensively, the Tritons use their size and length to give opponents fits. In the first round, Tampa Bay got a scare and saw ghosts of last year as they fell 0-1 to Philadelphia. But the Tritons stormed back and avenged last season's playoffs loss by winning the next 4 games.

St Louis is in the second round after a surprisingly difficult series against Ft Worth. The Dragoons of Ft Worth won 2 games in Missouri where the Sun Kings only lost 5 times all season. But in the end, the Sun Kings prevailed in 6 games leaning on their trio of All Stars (Dong Richardson, Timothy Adler and Domenic Baum). Richardson, Adler and D-Baum are as explosive as they come. Individually, each player can beat you in a number of ways, be it in the post, jumpers or 3s. Combined on the same team, it really is pick your poison.

What Tampa Bay needs to advance

Tampa Bay is one of the most complete teams in the league and feature several household names (Deans, Hunter and Lagon). But it will be up to the lesser known players that need to step up and carry the Tritons. Specifically, Joe Aviles and Hobert Frisby. Both are former #1 overall picks that haven't quite lived up to their billing. Aviles will need to have the best series of his young career when he squares up against Richardson and Adler (also a former #1 overall selection). While he has the size advantage, he's going to need to find a way to stay in front of the much quicker Sun Kings. Frisby will also have his hands full against Jorge Denis, the bigger and crafty veteran point guard. If the two manage to win their matchups, the Tritons will find themselves in the Conference Finals.

What St Louis needs to advance

St Louis needs Baum to get going and stay hot. Tampa Bay is a great defensive team. Richardson and Adler are going to have a difficult time against Aviles and the rest of the Tritons vaunted frontcourt. But if there is one area that the Tritons can be "exposed", it is their backcourt. That's where Baum comes in. His matchup against Lagon should be in his favor since Lagon is an average defender despite his superior athleticism. Lagon also happens to be the Tampa Bay's leading scorer. Baum did get lit up in the first round by Rufus Motley. Don't expect a repeat as Motley is a far more explosive scorer. If Baum can convincingly win his individual matchup then the Sun Kings have a great chance at a minor upset.

Prediction

In a series that is as close as it gets, the advantage goes to the defending champs based on the explosiveness of their scorers. Baum will get the better of Lagon and Denis gets a slight edge over Frisby. Sun Kings in 6.

 

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