Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Playoff Prediction

Despite the fact that there are four rounds remaining in the NBL regular season, I feel pretty certain that the teams sitting in the top six positions right now will remain unchanged.

Now there may be some changes to the order in which these teams end the season, but I am guessing that South Dragons, New Zealand, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and your Crocs will be finding our way into the playoffs.

I feel that these six teams have shown superior consistency over the other NBL teams throughout the course of the entire season and it is this factor that will get them their playoff birth.

The Sydney Spirit (11-13) probably feel that they have every right to snag that sixth spot away from Adelaide (12-13) and they may indeed prove me wrong and do just that. However, I cannot see either of these teams going finding the momentum to promote themselves any higher than sixth.

This week will be a massive one for the third placed Melbourne Tigers (15-8). If they harbour any aspirations of a top 2 finish, this round will be where it needs to happen. First they face a tough Kiwi’s (16-7) team on their home ground mid-week. They then return home for a rematch. And finally they will have to get themselves fired up for an all Melbourne battle against the league leading South Dragons (18-6) on Australia Day.

Win two of these three games and they will stay in the hunt for a top two finish. Anything less and third position will be where the defending champs will stay moving into the playoffs.

I do think the top three teams will do some minor shuffling back and forth for those top three spots, but will have very little challenge from the teams currently occupying fourth through sixth. These final three teams vying for playoff positions is where all the action is going to happen in the coming weeks.

For the Crocs (14-12), the equation is simple - win our next four games and hope Perth (13-12) drops one and we will hold onto fourth.

If we are going to be a legitimate playoff team, we need to win three of our next four at the very least. It won’t be easy, as both Melbourne teams are obstacles facing us on the home stretch, but what better boost going into the playoffs than some big wins over the “big dogs”.

Whatever the results for either ourselves or Perth, a tie with the Wildcats will see us on the worse end of the head to head match-up. They will receive the higher seed as they dusted us 3-1 during the regular season.

So I am going to put my neck on the line and make my prediction now on how the ladder will look at the completion of the NBL season:

South will hold one to top spot and what a turn around from last season’s disaster, just quietly. Tigers will sneak into second just ahead of New Zealand. The Crocs will hold onto fourth, while the Wildcats will be a tough fifth seed. The 36ers will hold onto sixth, but their battle with the Spirit will go down to the last round.

You can read my column every Wednesday in the Townsville Bulletin.

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