Thursday, April 5, 2018

Prior to the start of the 2018 campaign, SEABL polled some of the most knowledgeable people around the country to provide their prognostications for the upcoming season.

Looking at the top four teams in both competitions, the players to watch, the MVP’s and eventual Champions, how do the experts’ picks compare to your predictions?

Chris Young – The Border Mail
Men’s Top Four:
Ballarat, Dandenong, Nunawading, Hobart.
Men’s Champions:
Ballarat- The return of Peter Hooley is enough to counter the loss of his Melbourne United teammate Craig Moller from last year’s team and the Miners once again look well-placed to be one of the league’s premier teams.
Women’s Top Four: Dandenong, Ballarat, Diamond Valley, Kilsyth.
Women’s Champions: Dandenong- Probably the most talented team in a league of immense quality, it’ll be tough to beat what is essentially a WNBL team for the Rangers.

Most Valuable Players: Peter Hooley (Ballarat) and Chelsea Poppens (Geelong).
Surprise Packet: The monster Canberra Gunners frontcourt could cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams. That alone should score them a few big upsets and potentially push them all the way to the playoffs but their backcourt will have to be up to the task defensively. After a year of explosive offensive and questionable defence, the Albury-Wodonga Bandits should cause a few headaches as well if they find a way to stop leaking points.
In the women’s competition, Diamond Valley look to have loaded up for their first season and have winners from position 1-5. They’ll give any team a run for their money and have the talent, on paper, to potentially go all the way.

Toughest Venue: Hobart boasted an 11-1 record at home last season and with some quality additions to both the men’s and women’s team, the Derwent Entertainment Centre will be rocking on any given night. The Chargers face a tough schedule, so they’ll be counting on their fans to give them a boost any time they’re at home.
Players to Watch: A position-less dynamo at 203cm, it will be interesting to see how Geelong deploy Matthew Johns. Time spent honing his skills as a guard at the Centre of Excellence mean the Supercats have one of the league’s most intriguing players on their books.
Another one for Geelong, it’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact former Iowa State and San Antonio Stars forward Chelsea Poppens has in the SEABL. The women’s competition is absolutely stacked with WNBL calibre talent this season but Poppens’ pedigree places her as a standout.

Bruce Mitchell – Southern FM
Men’s Top Four:
Nunawading, Bendigo, Mt. Gambier, Geelong.
Men’s Champions:
Women’s Top Four: Kilsyth, Melbourne, Dandenong, Diamond Valley.
Women’s Champions: Kilsyth.

Most Valuable Players: Peter Hooley (Ballarat) and Steph Blicavs (Kilsyth).
Surprise Packet: Melbourne Tigers men and Diamond Valley women in their debut season.

Toughest Venue: The Ice House at Mt. Gambier.
Players to Watch: Tom Wilson (Melbourne) and Ezi Magbegor (Diamond Valley).

Damian Arsenis – The Pick and Roll
Men’s Top Four:
The experience of Nunawading, Kilsyth and Hobart should see them all challenge Mt. Gambier while Dandenong’s all-Australian roster also appears deep, especially with Anthony Drmic returning home during the NBL off-season. 
Men’s Champions:
It is tough to go past Mt. Gambier though who have reloaded and will be seeking to win their fourth title in five years. While they will try to do so without an import, they add NBL class in Adelaide 36ers rising star Majok Deng. However, that target on their backs is only getting bigger…
Women’s Top Four: Could it be Launceston’s year? They retain a majority of their core from last season despite losing Tayla Roberts and had have a ready-made replacement in Mikaela Ruef. The Tornadoes have also added Alex Wilson and own as good a starting five as any team with Lauren Mansfield at the point. Reigning champs Geelong have been forced to ring in the changes due to injuries to Alex Bunton and Sara Blicavs but US import Chelsea Poppens is a more than capable pick-up and should definitely see them contending yet again. All eyes will be on Diamond Valley who have assembled a talented roster for their step up to SEABL, including five University of Canberra Capitals players. Leading the way is Australian Opal Ezi Magbegor and 2017 World Uni Games gold medalists Abbey Wehrung and Lauren Scherf.
Women’s Champions: However, with the reigning league MVP Angela Beadle teaming with Steph Blicavs, I’m tipping Kilsyth can step up and win it all in 2018.
Most Valuable Players:
Wow, the way too early to call awards! Let’s throw in Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) and could Kilsyth boast the best two players in the league with Angela Beadle and Steph Blicavs?
Surprise Packet: I think a team like Launceston in the women’s side with a well-balanced team and some serious WNBL talent could surprise and contend while Dandenong’s all-Australian men’s team could work their way into contention too, with hometown hero Anthony Drmic adding some firepower.
Toughest Venue:
It’s always tough to play at Mt. Gambier.
Players to Watch: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) is going to ensure the Braves are a must-watch team and Ezi Magbegor (Diamond Valley) is the future of the Opals.

Mark Quinn – Basketball Australia
Men’s Top Four:
Nunawading, Kilsyth, Geelong, Ballarat.
Men’s Champions:
Women’s Top Four: Kilsyth, Launceston, Bendigo, Diamond Valley.
Women’s Champions: Kilsyth.

Most Valuable Players: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) and a healthy Tahlia Tupaea (Sydney Uni).
Surprise Packet: Diamond Valley will be a surprise packet for both competitions but especially in the women where they have a WNBL-quality roster.

Toughest Venue: Bendigo is always a tough team to beat at home.
Players to Watch: Ray Turner (Bendigo) and Tess Madgen (Dandenong) who will be keen to make an impact on the league and get back on to the Opals’ radar.

Jordan McCallum – CrunchTimeShots
Men’s Top Four:
Mt. Gambier, Nunawading, Kilsyth, Geelong. Only injuries will stop Mt. Gambier finishing near the top while Nunawading are an experienced squad who know their role but age is the issue. Kilsyth have a youthful squad that don’t have the experience playing together of the other top teams but they have serious talent all over the court. Geelong are another experienced squad who have depth in the guards and wings. Maalo Hicks has some added responsibility in the middle whilst Michael Luxford and Matthew Johns are signings with upside.
Men’s Champions:
The championship core has returned which immediately makes the Pioneer title favourites. The starting five is full of “All-SEABL” level talent, with the pieces all fitting together nicely under the great coaching of Richard Hill. Majok Deng and Lewis Thomas give them a different look up front this season with the only question mark on the group possibly being a lack of bulk.
Women’s Top Four: Kilsyth, Diamond Valley, Launceston, Geelong. The Cobras have been one of the top teams for a few years and have now put together a trio of Steph Blicavs, Angela Beadle and Jasmine Gill. Diamond Valley’s calibre of recruiting signals a desire to immediately compete, Launceston will be led to another playoff run by Lauren Mansfield and while Geelong have lost some stars from last season’s Championship, they will still remain highly competitive.
Women’s Champions: Hard to go past Kilsyth.
Most Valuable Players: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo). A great scorer at this level and he will put up huge numbers on the back of a high usage rate. Whilst he will star again, I don’t think this Bendigo roster as it currently stands can get wins as frequently as his last stint in the league.
Steph Blicavs (Kilsyth). A former MVP winner, WNBL star and Australian representative, expect Blicavs to dominate with the ball for a team that should be near the top of the league.
Surprise Packet: Kilsyth men. They have the most room to grow and improve from last season. Their high minutes guys are all aged in their mid-twenties and they’re talented so it’s now just a matter of how they gel. Isaac Turner and Sam Daly will handle the ball, Felix Von Hofe will shoot a ton of threes, Owen Odigie and Dane Pineau will do the dirty work and Chris Patton will score inside. The coaching staff have some expectations on them now.
Toughest Venue: Mt. Gambier. One of the greatest SEABL squads ever don’t look like slowing down this season. They’re 56-7 at home since 2012.
Players to Watch: Majok Deng (Mt. Gambier). A flat out shooter at near 7ft tall who took his game to a new level in the NBL Grand Final series. He has an elite supporting cast around him in Mt. Gambier which should allow him to flourish and score the ball efficiently. There’ll be some added defensive responsibility for him on this team protecting the rim.
Tess Madgen (Dandenong). It will be interesting to see how quickly she rediscovers her peak form after a relatively recent ACL injury. Dandenong will need her to be an MVP contender if they are to do some real damage.