B1 East: State of the League
Tonight marks the beginning of the second trimester for most of the teams in the B1 East, and what better time than now to take a look at some of the headlines from the first month. After the second trimester of the season is complete, in about 4 weeks, weíll be taking a look ahead to the playoffs and evaluate how far each team can go.
Biggest Surprise: Tenacious D has easily been the biggest and best surprise to date. After their monumental win against Little Nasty in the playoffs last season, and even after bowing out to eventual champs Silky Johnson, they have played as well as any team, building a 4-0 record. A lot of sweat, blood, and turnovers go into their wins, but Tenacious D finds a way to get it done. They continually defy conventional wisdom, beating teams it seems they have no shot against, and their unconventional style of play will be the subject of an in-depth case study later in the season.
Biggest Bully: Silky Johnson, the defending champs, look to be the favorite as we head into the rest of the season. They have been extremely impressive to date, absolutely crushing teams that they should beat handily, and sucking the soul out of teams that should have been able to give them a challenge. Silky has shown no mercy, going about their business with an efficiency that rivals that of any machine, beating opponents by twenty points per game, limiting them to just 57 points. Until another team steps up and knocks them off in the playoffs, this is their league, and weíre just playing in it.
Biggest Refreshment: Kool Aid has been without preseason addition Mark Raymond for the entire season and has kept the reasons very hush-hush. As of last week, Kool Aid has released Raymond and placed Local Hero Ed Finn in his vacant roster spot. Finn being partnered with Mazzone is reminiscent of one Scottie Pippen being brought in to pair with MJ. Even prolific scorers need a second option to take some of the focus off of them and to go the extra mile to help their team win. If this move pans out, we could very easily see three straight championships by an impossible to guard Kool Aid squad. As a result Mazzone could very well decide he has nothing left to prove and go on to pursue a racquetball career for a couple seasons before the Commish begs him to come back for the good of the league.
Biggest Hurt: Little Nasty is seeing its roster decimated with injuries. Aside from the usual bumps, bruises, and sprains sustained by every member of the roster, more serious injuries have started to take their toll. Hinton, who has a torn meniscus and strained ACL, has joined Jpro, out at least another month with a seriously ugly high ankle sprain, on the injured list. Add Mike Manning to the list as well with a torn coleus (calf muscle), and although he may only miss a little time, it’s an injury that will linger throughout the summer. Despite their obvious weaknesses, Nasty should be able to hang on and play teams tough down the stretch, as they will be fighting for their playoff lives. It’s time for Brady and Edwards to step into the spotlight and show the rest of the league what they can do.
Biggest Scorer: TFTís Joel Cuadrado may not seem like heís able to drop 30+ on your team, but itís a safe bet that he will anyway. A deadly shooter thatís adept at creating his own space and getting to the hoop, Joel has surprised many and is right at the top of the league in scoring despite his A.I. stature. What remains to be seen from Joel is whether or not he can take the constant beating throughout the season that he is sure to receive when going up against bigger, more physical guards.
Biggest Struggles: Genzyme continues their quest for a win in the B1 East that now extends over the course of a season and a half. Despite have a star (Keith Manning), a deep threat (Mark Allyn), and a versatile forward (Greg Miller) that plays tough d no matter how big the guy he faces, Genzyme just canít seem to put it all together. It doesnít help that Richard Manning has been hobbled by injury and only appeared in 3 games over the course of the winless streak, but Genzyme would seem to have the horses to get it done. Late last year they discovered that a Dean Smith, 4 Corners offense works very well for them, and theyíve played teams tight when they have the patience to run it for a full 40 minutes. The playoffs may be an unrealistic goal this year, but just getting a handful of wins would be a step in the right direction.
Biggest Overhaul: Seriously, That’s Enough added two key players (Nip Jethi and Derek Zundl) in the offseason in order to improve their all around team scoring. While it has worked about half the time, the other half it seems as though guys are struggling to get enough shots. Although there have been no public displays of discontent, one has to believe that shot selection and attempts are in the back of everyoneís mind heading into game time. With 8 games remaining in the season, STE has the chance to iron out their offensive game plan. They may play a bit more defense than the Phoenix Suns, but like the Suns, the offense really clicks when they get out in transition after defensive rebounds. Given the recent success of the Suns, donít be surprised when STE is battling in the latter stages of the playoffs.
Biggest Win: MFA Dream Team pulled off the biggest win to date in the league, surprising STE with their resiliency and ability to come from behind. Being new to the league, it’s important to get that first quality win under the belt and to use it as a springboard for bigger and better things. The majority of MFA’s offense continues to come from emerging superstar Josh Rose and point guard Bill Hewson. As they slide comfortably into the new league watch for Bill Durrati and Rich Pacheco to step up their games and lend a hand to their floor leaders.
Biggest New Superstar: Off, another of the new teams to join the East since last season has arguably the best rookie in the L. Chris Williams is a difference maker in the post and will kill you on the offensive glass, even if you think heís been boxed out. A very solid 3-1 start, with a showdown looming against league bully Silky Johnson, has give Off the confidence that they can compete with anyone. Williams isnít alone, as a solid supporting cast contributes to victory on a weekly basis. An additional duo named Chris (Green and Mercer) combine for 17 points and 8 rebounds an night, while a pair named Troy (Parks and Hatleving) are good for 12 points, 6 rebounds and a handful of swipes a night. Not forgotten is captain John Schmid, good for nearly a double double a night, which rounds out the team.
Biggest Expectations: The Rusty Trombones came into the season as the great unknown. Well, unknown aside from Trevor that is. Picked to finish in the top 3 this season, these guys have a lot of expectations riding on their shoulders. The more this team plays together, the less itís starting to rely on Trevor to do all of their scoring. Luke English, who is averaging just a hair under 10 points a game, is the teamís second leading scorer. He’s tenacious on the boards and will recklessly drive to the hoop to get his points. Matt Wells and John Concannon have both picked up their scoring of late, and their confidence in themselves being able to score will be a key as they gear up for the playoffs. As Trevor witnessed last season, the playoffs donít allow guys to bomb 3ís from all over the court, so his supporting cast will play a big role in any playoff success that they have.
Biggest Point Guard: The Irate Ambassadors have a point guard who has caught many by surprise this season. Michael Sweeney doesn’t have the look of a point, but he has the handle and ability to find open teammates that say otherwise. It also helps that he can knock down a good percentage of his jump shots. Don’t let his stature fool you, Sweeney has a quick first step and will take advantage of every seam in a defense. If the guys around him can step of their level of play just a notch, theyíll be playing the spoiler role as the season winds down.
Biggest Attitudes: CTC just has a swagger about them. Whether it’s Wilson driving to the hole and getting offensive boards, or Katz and Merril hitting both wide open and contested threes, the ‘I can do it all’ attitude borders on down right cocky. It works great for them as a team. Even the ‘role’ players, who give the media hell for referring to them as such, come into the game and expect to get results for all their effort. The Freeman brother and Kaplan all are capable of putting points on the board, getting rebounds and playing good defense. There isn’t any drop off on the floor, no matter who is out there. With their aggressive and frustrating defense and streaky shooting, these guys easily manipulate opponents and get into their heads.
Biggest Self Made Controversy: ODB had a chance to knock off Kool Aid last week and gain back some of their momentum that has been lost over the course of the last few weeks. Instead, a couple of the guys were too focused on what the ref was doing instead of what they were doing. Everyone knows that some bad calls are going to go against you, but youíre also going to get your fair share. In letting a winnable game slip through their fingers, ODB is officially in a slump and needs to turn things around quickly if they want to make the playoffs. Three of their next four games are all very winnable, and if the can get back to .500 by that time, theyíll put themselves in a good position.
This season has been even better than last for the East, as the level of play continues to get better. Half the teams legitimately have a shot at winning the whole thing, and considering that only 8 teams are going to get into the playoffs, the field will be ripe for upsets.