Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Heading into the last six rounds of the 2018 season, SEABL caught up with some of the most knowledgeable people around the country to look back on their predictions at the start of the year.

Analysing 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?

Damian Arsenis – The Pick and Roll

Men’s Top Four Pre-Season: Nunawading, Kilsyth and Hobart with either Mt. Gambier or Dandenong.

Mid-Season: My pre-season prediction of the experienced trio of Nunawading, Kilsyth and Hobart making the top four looks rock solid. However, Mount Gambier’s injury hit roster has seen them dip considerably more than expected and out of the top eight, let alone contending for a championship. Dandenong was my ‘smokey’ at making the top four following the addition of Anthony Drmic and given they are currently in fifth place and nipping at the heels of Hobart, they have their destiny in their own hands. Ballarat however don’t look like they will give up secon and arguably have a better run home than anyone in the top 5 right now.

Men’s Champions Pre-Season: Mt. Gambier.

Mid-Season: With the Pioneers falling out of the running, the title could go to any of the current top four teams. While it is hard to look past the likes of Kilsyth and Ballarat for what they have done to date, Nunawading has been tooled to win it all this year. If they can stay injury free they have the talent and experience to win the 2018 Championship.

Women’s Top Four Pre-Season: Launceston, Geelong, Diamond Valley, Kilsyth.

Mid-Season: Haven’t Bendigo impressed to date in going unbeaten with a 10-0 record. They are purring right now and making me rue my decision to leave them out of my top four. Yet, behind their unblemished start, the level of competition remains fierce with an extremely talented field chasing them. I still think that Kilsyth have the depth and talent to take it right up to Bendigo but after seeing Geelong and Diamond Valley in action, I’m no longer convinced they have the teams to challenge for the title let alone a place in the top four. I would not be surprised to see Launceston make a run along with Dandenong and Tayla Roberts who is having a cracker of a year, but I cannot see Nunawading or Kilsyth being displaced.
Women’s Champions Pre-Season: Kilsyth.

Mid-Season: While Bendigo have been the benchmark in the first half of the season, I am sticking with my preseason tip that Kilsyth, with their loaded roster all on deck, can win the 2018 title.

Most Valuable Players Pre-Season: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) and Angela Beadle/Steph Blicavs (Kilsyth).

Mid-Season: Jeremy Kendle has been very good but right now it is a two-horse race between Hobart’s Craig Moller and Melbourne’s Tom Wilson. Isn’t it great to see two youthful Aussie talents at the top of the list? If Melbourne can make the playoffs I would give it to Wilson as aside from Dexter Kernich-Drew, I don’t think he has as strong a supporting cast as Moller. Given Kilsyth’s depth and the individual performances of others across the league it is hard to see Beadle or Blicavs winning the women’s MVP. Kelly Wilson and Nadeen Payne have been brilliant but they steal the limelight from each other to a degree. Tayla Roberts has been brilliant for the Rangers and without her they would not be a contender, and the same could be said for Lauren Nicholson at the Torndaoes and Marena Whittle with the Spectres. Yet, while she has missed games due to 3X3 national team duties, the best player this season has been Rebecca Cole. She has been devastatingly good, and with her 3X3 duties behind her, will be looking to power the Tigers deep into the playoffs.

Surprise Packet Pre-Season: Launceston and Dandenong.

Mid-Season: The next generation of Aussie stars at the CoE have been so good this season and it is hard not to look past the Tigers who have been playing like a playoff team behind MVP candidate Wilson and Kernich-Drew. On the women’s side, just the fact that a side has gone undefeated across the opening half of the season is surprise enough. It is such a deep and talented competition this year with even 13th placed Ballarat still in with a chance of making the top eight so Bendigo’s performances have been simply amazing!

Toughest Venue Pre-Season: It’s always tough to play at Mt. Gambier.

Mid-Season: That new venue at Bendigo seems to be helping the Bendigo women. Mount Gambier is still tough though.

Players to Watch Pre-Season: Kendle (Bendigo) and Ezi Magbegor (Diamond Valley).

Mid-Season: Right now, the hottest player in the league is Tom Wilson of the Tigers and Cole for the Tigers women is a bundle of energy, with her 3X3 experience helping in going one-on-one against opponents.

Bruce Mitchell- Southern FM

Men’s Top Four Pre-Season: Nunawading, Bendigo, Mt. Gambier, Geelong.

Mid-Season: Nunawading, Kilsyth, Hobart, Ballarat. Only Nunawading remains with Bendigo, Mt Gambier, Geelong now replaced. This change is based upon team depth, stability and injuries after having seen almost all teams play.

Men’s Champions Pre-Season: Nunawading.

Mid-Season: Nunawading still but they will be challenged by the Cobras, Chargers and Miners.

Women’s Top Four Pre-Season: Kilsyth, Melbourne, Dandenong, Diamond Valley.

Mid-Season: Kilsyth, Bendigo, Nunawading, Dandenong. How did I miss Bendigo and Nunawading who have covered those that departed so well? Kilsyth and Dandenong have previous form and Sandringham or Melbourne are outsiders, should any of the top four teams falter.

Women’s Champions Pre-Season: Kilsyth.

Mid-Season: Still going with Kilsyth although Bendigo are a very serious contender.

Most Valuable Players Pre-Season: Peter Hooley (Ballarat) and Steph Blicavs (Kilsyth).

Mid-Season: Staying with Hooley due to his all-around game, although you can’t dismiss any of the current stats leaders. Blicavs or Kelly Wilson have the ability to put their teams in winning positions.

Surprise Packet Pre-Season: Melbourne Tigers men and Diamond Valley women in their debut season.

Mid-Season: No change, as Melbourne are on track to pass their total of ten wins from their last two seasons combined and with a full squad, Diamond Valley are still capable and a chance for the playoffs.

Toughest Venue Pre-Season: The Ice House at Mt. Gambier.

Mid-Season: Hobart for the men and Bendigo for the women.

Players to Watch Pre-Season: Tom Wilson (Melbourne) and Ezi Magbegor (Diamond Valley).

Mid-Season: Wilson is a possible MVP choice and while she is not among the highest stat-getters, Jasmine Simmons (Sandringham) is having a very consistent season.

Mark Quinn- Basketball Australia

Men’s Top Four Pre-Season: Nunawading, Kilsyth, Geelong, Ballarat.

Mid-Season: Nunawading, Kilsyth, Ballarat, Dandenong- The Rangers, after a slow start have been playing well and will only get better once Anthony Drmic returns from his season break in USA.

Men’s Champions Pre-Season: Nunawading.

Mid-Season: Nunawading – veteran leadership of Shane McDonald will prove the difference in the playoffs. The return of Andrew Steel to the Spectres line-up after a busy 3×3 schedule will make a difference too.

Women’s Top Four Pre-Season: Kilsyth, Launceston, Bendigo, Diamond Valley.

Mid-Season: Kilsyth, Launceston, Bendigo, Nunawading. Diamond Valley has been disappointing considering the WNBL talent on the roster.

Women’s Champions Pre-Season: Kilsyth.

Mid-Season: Hard to go past Bendigo who have not been troubled yet this season. Although, Nunawading have been a real surprise and are the smokey for the Championship.

Most Valuable Players Pre-Season: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) and a healthy Tahlia Tupaea (Sydney Uni).

Mid-Season: Ray Turner is having a consistent season and will be a contender, but Melbourne Tigers youngster Tom Wilson could be the surprise. Kelly Wilson has been the leader for the undefeated Braves so far and is dominating.

Surprise Packet Pre-Season: Diamond Valley will be a surprise packet for both competitions but especially in the women where they have a WNBL-quality roster.

Mid-Season: The Nunawading women have totally surprised me. Coach Paul Flynn has his team playing quality ball and all the players understand their roles and it is showing on the scoreboard.

Toughest Venue Pre-Season: Bendigo is always a tough team to beat at home.

Mid-Season: Currently, Ballarat are the only undefeated team at home in the men’s competition and playing good basketball.

Players to Watch Pre-Season: Ray Turner (Bendigo) and Tess Madgen (Dandenong).

Mid-Season: Have been very impressed with Melbourne youngsters Tom Wilson and Acoth Deng. If they both continue to record solid numbers each week, Melbourne could cause some trouble come playoffs. Lauren Nicholson (Launceston) is having a standout season as well. Playing out of position due to lack of frontcourt talent in Launceston, Nicholson is producing a double-double basically on a weekly basis and will be a key factor in how the Tornadoes finish the season.

Jordan McCallum- CrunchTimeShots

Men’s Top Four Pre-Season: Mt. Gambier, Nunawading, Kilsyth, Geelong.

Mid-Season: Kilsyth, Ballarat, Hobart, Nunawading. Four strong teams that I had in my top six in the preseason. Mt Gambier and Geelong have started slower than expected but their remaining fixtures are okay which should see them make a move up the ladder.

Men’s Champions Pre-Season: Mt. Gambier.

Mid-Season: Mt Gambier or Kilsyth. This is a lot tougher right now than pre-season given Mt. Gambier’s injury issues have them at 4-6. Brad Hill and Majok Deng will not return but the Pioneers still have the class, experience and coaching to get it done if they hit the playoffs healthy. If it’s not the Pioneers, I like Kilsyth who have come together as well as you could have hoped considering all the new pieces.

Women’s Top Four Pre-Season: Kilsyth, Diamond Valley, Launceston, Geelong.

Mid-Season: Bendigo, Kilsyth, Dandenong, Nunawading. Kilsyth were the obvious choice in the pre-season but then it was difficult to nail down exactly who would be where amongst a large group of teams.

Women’s Champions: Hard to go past Kilsyth.

Mid-Season: I’ll still take Kilsyth.

Most Valuable Players Pre-Season: Jeremy Kendle (Bendigo) and Steph Blicavs (Kilsyth).

Mid-Season: Tom Wilson would be leading the award right now but Melbourne have a tougher fixture to finish the season so he could be caught by a number of players including Craig Moller or Peter Hooley. Rebecca Cole will challenge for the top honour in the women’s. Blicavs hasn’t quite hit expectations but there’s still time for that to eventuate.

Surprise Packet Pre-Season: Kilsyth men.

Mid-Season: Melbourne Men’s seven game winning streak is the winner here. Well done to all the players and coaching staff regardless of if they end up sneaking into the playoffs.

Toughest Venue Pre-Season: Mt. Gambier.

Mid-Season: Mt Gambier’s inconsistency with player availability means a trip to Hobart to face the men is the toughest in the SEABL this season.

Players to Watch Pre-Season: Majok Deng (Mt. Gambier) and Tess Madgen (Dandenong).

Mid-Season: Deng only lasted one game before injury troubles forced him to re-focus his attention away from the Pioneers and depart. Daniel Grida is my answer with the oldest CoE player really making a name for himself. He plays with plenty of intent on both ends, impresses as an athlete and has had success as an aggressive slasher and three-point shooter. Madgen’s minutes have increased in the last few games and she will decide how far Dandenong go up the ladder.