Championship Up for Grabs
The A2 Playoffs are back, and with a great batch of games on Wednesday in the first round, itís time for a preview. Who has the best shot of winning it all, what team is going to exceed expectations, or worse, not live up to them?. We’ll handle this on the up and up, no lame jokes, no rants, none of that wise guy stuff. The following, in reverse order, are the latest ëpowerí rankings heading into the playoffs, based on record, 1stround matchup, possible opponents afterwards, plus a little bit of pure guesswork.
#7 Pino Colonic (7 seed)
Pino has under-performed all season, and they havenít had a full team show up yet. Their first round match up against the Funky Bunch may be too much for them. In a bit of bad news, they may be without the Greaser, which would be a huge blow. Derek and Perry are going to have to step up big time and hit a lot of shots to make up for Dave’s absence. Limiting turnovers (and hoping some of FBís guards donít show) are key to keeping this game close. Nip and Ian will have a tall task on their hands trying to contain Erik and Steve for the Funky Bunch. On paper, it seems as if Pino is doomed for an early exit, but thatís why they play the games.
# 6 OFF (5 seed)
Inconsistent, injured, and absent are the best words to describe Off’s play this season. Most weeks it’s been a struggle just to get 4 guys on the court. When they do, it’s never the same four, and as a result, the offense has struggled for most of the season. The schedule gives them no favors, as they face Kool Aid in the first round, and Little Nasty in the second if they were to get by a tough Kool Aid squad. This will be the third meeting between these teams, and it’s an even series split at this point. Off completely dominated the pace of the game when these to squads met in week 4. They will need a similar performance if they want to advance this time. Williams will need to take it right at Mazzone and the outside shots will need to be falling if Off wants to keep it close and advance, but I just donít see it happening.
# 5 Rapid Fire (6 seed)
Tough draw, pulling in Cambridge Medical in the first round, but they havenít had a full squad in a couple weeks, and Rapid Fire has been playing some inspired ball. Jamie Steward gets better and more aggressive every time he steps on the court, and needs to be a more prominent part of the offense if RF wants to pull off the shocker. There is no denying that Chris O’Connell can shoot from anywhere on the court, but heís going to have to trust his teammates to score as well. Tough defense from Matt Scabia and the rest of the squad is a must against a big CM team. Overall, they look like just as much of a long shot as Pino does of pulling off the upset, but if they can slow the game way down, anything is possible.
# 4 Kool Aid (4 seed)
Can they compete without the services of Mr. Fantasy Fred Bermont?? Kool Aid, and especially Chris Adams, will miss his presence down on the block against some of the bigger teams in the field. If Mr. Everything shows up, that will take some of the pressure off Adams, but they will still be lacking some bulk. Fortunately for KA, Off has been struggling just as much as they have the past couple weeks, and the 5:30 game is always tough to make, so who knows if weíll have a full run. Mazzone, as usual, is the key. Finn is going to get his points, averaging 28 to lead the league, but he needs to get the perennial MVP involved to make a deep run. For the moment, I’m going to refrain from saying anything derogatory about him, no need to fire Mazzone up. If his play in the 3 on 3 doesnít get him fired up to get back on the court, there is nothing I could possibly say to help.
# 3 Mike D & the Funky Bunch (2 seed)
They would be higher, but they haven’t played together as a full unit, and they have a possible second round match up with Cambridge Medical (who they beat earlier) looming. Whether or not the games are late enough for E. Brown and the Statey, Steve O, to make is still to be determined, and that will play a huge role in their fate. When all the guys are present, this may be the most well rounded team in the league. The big guys are great on D and can both score with a variety of moves. JaySar and Fred Barone give defenses headaches trying to match up with them. Usok off the bench can nail the 3, but their mentor, leader, and inspiration is out after getting 12 stitches in the 3 on 3 tournament this weekend. We wish a quick recovery for Mike D and hope he gets back on the court soon. No matter what happens, never count the Born Gamer out, never.
# 2 Cambridge Medical (3 seed)
Rapid Fire isn’t to be taken lightly, and a possible second round date with the Funky Bunch isnít appeasing either. Theyíve had some trouble in the last couple weeks fielding a full team, and the question on everyone’s mind is still unanswered. Is Jason Brickman (2 games during the season) eligible for the playoff roster?? If he is, and shows up, Medical gets bumped up to the number one spot on everybodyís list. Of course, with Scuffenbil on the court, they may not even need JB. The MVP candidate has been a beast all season, scoring 28 points a game and grabbing over 10 boards while actually showing up to almost all of the games. If they field a starting four, these guys might not even be challenged.
# 1 Little Nasty (1 seed)
The bye is what does it. Getting this week to heal those nagging injuries and watch the other teams beat each other up is a huge advantage. They will await the winner of the Kool Aid/Off game and will have both teams thoroughly scouted. Despite the balanced attack that Nasty has displayed all season long, Trevor still holds the keys to this team’s playoff success. When he’s on, you have to guard him as soon as he gets to half court, and there isn’t a more dangerous 3-point threat in the league. Aside from McAndrew, Deihl, Hinton, Brady, and Tibbs have all dropped 20 at some point this season, but is there too much balance? Someone is going to need to step up in crunch time to get that big bucket, but who will it be? Weíll find out when the time comes.