Although some teams had more success than others, the beauty of the BBAL is that every team makes the playoffs. With that same motion, every squad has the chance to hoist the championship trophy when it’s all said and done.
Granted, some teams have a better chance than others, but each group brings a different style of basketball that may blossom in the upcoming playoffs. I plan on highlighting each team’s “X Factor” and how, if executed correctly or poorly, may be the deciding factor on winning a championship or not.
Without further adieu, let’s get right into it.
8 Balls – Supporting Cast
From what I’ve been told, the 8Balls are only going to have their leading scorer, Danny Bomberger for the beginning of the playoffs. After that, Ross Conway will be without his presence.
From what I’ve seen from Ross in year’s past, he is fully capable of putting a team on his back. However, this talent of this league has accelerated, and that’s not a knock on his abilities, but more of a compliment on the overall talent in the BBAL.
Ross is going to get his, but some other player(s) need to step up to make up for the production that Danny brought. I believe Luke Pierson will elevate his defensive play; however, I need to see someone else step up on the offensive side of the ball. A couple of candidates I envision are Aleer Gonzalez, Grant Conway, and Calan Titus.
I know Danny leaving will hurt, but the 8Balls do have the highest team attendance percentage per week, so it’s not like they won’t have the help. They just need some of those multitude of subs to step their game up to the next level.
Bullies – Defense
Aside from Marqel Wansley and Erik Goldbach, the Bullies defense is not great. More so, Erik went out with an injury during the final week of the season, and I really don’t know what his availability looks like.
Now, the playoffs are a different animal than the regular season, and I know more than ever that the Bullies defense is going to be turned up a notch because… well, they’re the Bullies! I am especially going to be watching Liam Besecker because he is the ANCHOR of that paint.
Now, with the bully-ball mantra, the Bullies may also need to watch out for foul trouble, but hopefully the refs are a bit more lenient when it comes to playoff time.
Cherrypickers – Finding The Right Rotation
The Cherrypickers are the DEEPEST team in the league.
Six players are averaging points in double figures, Matt McCleary and John John Gillespie are steal demons, and Devonne Pinkard and Michael Hester are some of the better rebounders in the league.
Although the depth is a great asset, it can also be a weakness, if not used correctly. I believe KJ Myer’s biggest struggle this playoff will be deciding what lineups should play at certain times throughout the game. The talent is definitely there, but it could be a deciding factor if he mistakenly plays Kevin Roldan instead of KJ Brownlee, for example.
Again, seems like an easy problem to have, yet still a deciding factor nonetheless.
Dragons – Selflessness
I am not counting out this Dragons team. I know it hasn’t been exactly the season that Jeb Besecker had hoped for, but they still have a very talented squad.
The problem with the Dragons is that every player thinks they are THAT guy. Each players wants to be the best player and would rather inflate their stats than promote the overall team success.
In my honest opinion, I believe Ricky Cruz is the Dragons No. 1 guy. The offense needs to flow through him. However, Samir Gordon is one of the premier bigs in the league, and I honestly don’t believe they are utilizing his skills enough. The, you have shooters in David Morton and Jay Gonzalez and great ball handlers in Tyrell Melendez and Gyzelle Mitchell. If Jeb can somehow cater his team to the player’s strengths rather than their ego’s, the Dragons could make a deep run in the playoffs.
Gremlins – Energy
The energy from the Gremlins has carried them all season long. Whether on or off the court, each player feeds into it, and in turn, they come out week-by-week on top.
With that though, it can be their enemy. If the momentum shifts and the energy dies, the Gremlins scramble a bit and get into a bit of a funk. Or even if they talk too much, they tend to lay their foot off the gas and all of a sudden, they are battling in a game that should have been a blowout.
The Gremlins have all the necessary talent to win the championship, but I believe that their energy is what puts them overtop any team in the league. If they can channel that excitement, hustle, and energy for a full game, it will not only intimidate other squads, but it may be what decides them winning it all or not.
Huskies – Inside Scoring + Defense
The Huskies have been carried by the best scorer in the league (Timmy Edwards), one of the flashiest point guards (Eli Washington), and the best defender in the league (Jordan Tyson). Hence why I’ve been saying they have the best trio in the league.
However, something that the Huskies have not done great at all this season is shooting the ball from the deep. As a team, they are a combined 21-91 for a whopping 23-percent from deep. Not great at all. Ironic enough, as far as percentages go, Kurt Goldbach is their best three-point shooter.
Now, the Huskies have proved that they don’t need to shoot the rock to win games. In fact, all they need to do is lock up on defense and let Timmy cook in the paint. If they can keep that going, and maybe have more than five men show up, the Huskies will do just fine.
Lanc Show – Team Availability
This really is the only problem that the Lanc Show has faced this season. From what I hear, there are no Engle family vacations or golf trips planned throughout playoffs, so they should have all their pieces to make a run. However, if they’re letting Grant Hall from SportsStop play again, the Lanc Show mind as well not even play in the playoffs. (No offense Grant.)
Titans – Johnny Besecker’s Play
I already harped on the Titans ability to make a run in the playoffs, but I truly believe that the only way that it happens is if Johnny Besecker shows everyone who the hell runs this league.
The Titans have great chemistry, they have a star player in Antanee Pinkard, a great point guard in Robert Footman, and even some serviceable bigs in Noah Thomas and Trevor St. Claire. At the end of the day, I need to see more from Johnny.
Granted, he does lead his team in points, but the biggest strength in Johnny’s game has been severely lacking this season: his three-point shot. He shot 22-70 from deep this season which is unlike him. Now, he has improved his defense to make up for it, but I truly believe that if the Titans want to make a real push in the playoffs, Johnny has to step it up on the offensive side of the ball.
Tropics – 3-point Shooting
The Tropics are not the betting favorites by no means, and I’m sure some teams and/or players think that they shouldn’t even be playing in the playoffs. However, they get the same chance out of anyone else to win it all.
Without Tyler Crespo, the Tropics had to figure out how to fill in those missing pair of shoes. Although a massive ask, their three-point shooting has proven to be something not to be messed with. Ronnie Swatner is the best shooter in the league and John To and Javon Mitchell are shooting in the 40-percent range. Adam Stoltzfus is also a solid big man for the Tropics.
So, the Tropics aren’t completely out of it, but it’s going to take a Miami Heat level of three-point shooting to be done if they want a serious shot of winning the chip.
Woodpeckers – Staying Grounded
The Woodpeckers are the previous champions and are yet again one of the top teams in the league this season. With that being said, every single team is going to be coming for their throats. And you can’t blame the league for this at all.
As long as the Woodpeckers can take it one game at a time and take care of business, they will be fine. However, if they brush off the competition and look ahead to repeat, then it’ll be worse than a Shakespearean tragedy.