|(7) Hypebeasts vs. (9) Deutsche Bankers: The AL has long been a competitive place in recent seasons. It’s been all but impossible to pick winners as every game seemingly hangs in the balance until the end rendering parity at its finest as it permeates throughout the division. We love it.|
We don’t love it however when it becomes increasingly impossible to call a game not because teams are so even steven, but rather because we don’t know who is going to show up or not.
No team has gone against the spirit of the league more than the Deutsche Bankers this season. 6 of the 13 player on their roster – half – have been fillers, none of whom are eligible for the playoffs. Young Yu has all but dropped off the face of the Earth, possibly having returned to Brown for grad school. (Your guess is as good as ours’). Ming Mui is currently in China soul searching. At the best, they will have 5 players tonight and if these admonishment seems to fall upon their deaf ears, it’s because they’ve long ago locked it out. Drew Chen, Rob Chanthavongsa, Jiang Yu, Kevin Park and possibly Noh-Joon Choo can’t do anything about their teammates or lack thereof. All they know to do is lace ‘em up and play.
So tonight, these 5 – and really, it could be 4 – will go against a Hypebeasts team who still may be without Ian Yu who has been nursing an injured elbow. In Hype’s last game, a loss to the Fury, his absence was sorely apparent as his leadership, defense, and athleticism weren’t there. Hype has some great jumpshooters in Vic Ng and Virgilio Borbo, but when either of them has to deal with running the offense too, Hype’s attack isn’t as strong. They’re best when Yu is running the ship, distributing, driving, slashing, dashing. He’s best at setting his shooters up, or feeding Howie Chu down low. From the looks of it, he’s still nowhere near game ready. This is bad, very bad, for Hype.
However, Hype is still deep and Coach Virg will put the fear of God into his guys to make them play together – with or without Yu. Now that Hype is backed against a wall, they will kick and claw their way to stay alive in the marathon to get to the Finals out of the loser’s bracket. (Have you seen how long and complex it is?)
Hype will be running circles around the Bankers, but if they’re putting out blanks, and an ole’ NL MVP steps it up (KP), it wouldn’t be a miracle if we see a certain starting 4 move onto the next round.
(8) Yaletown vs. (10) TSIV-Uprising: Uprising is a young team that plays with a lot of finesse and power. Their offense starts in the high post with either Marcos Palacios or Ben Chobhaphand. Marcos will usually kick it out and find one of his boys on the perimeter when he's doubled or will head fake you to death if he's single covered. For Yale, on defense, they must stay honest on the interior, protect the perimeter, and run back on transition.
Big Ben can do it all and he scores in bunches. He can score on the perimeter and he's strong inside, but even giving him space to rumble through to get into the paint is worse. He likes the ball on the baseline and will back into his check. Yale’s hands will be full with him and so expect Ben to see a lot of double teams. If he gets to the line 20 times, it could kill Yale.
Marc Palacios is tall and lanky, is not very physical and stays on the perimeter. He's streaky, but he's more on than not. He's very good at the catch and shoot. It’s better if Yale makes him put the ball on the floor, but don't give him a lane in which to drive. Peter Panousopoulos is very similar to Marc, but is better at putting the ball on the floor and pulling off the dribble. Yale must keep these guys in the half-court as they like to run.
On offense, the defending champs, who have never lost this early in the playoffs, have to get it together. It seems that most of the time only 2 of the 5 players on the court are on the same page. In their last loss, 4 guys watched as Wilson Wang missed 14 3-point attempts. If that happens again, stick a fork in them, they’re done. They need to run the offense through the post, letting Brian Yang establish a comfort zone. When they’re on, Yale is spreading the floor, knocking down jump shots and scoring plenty in the transition, usually off of steals Derik Kumagai creates.
They can play the post, create turnovers, but if the gang of Wang, Sung-Mo Cho, Nelson Wong, Fred Lee, and Seung Keh shoot a combined 15% from outside, TSIV will go up, while Yale goes down.
Defense wins championships, offense wins games.
(2) FBNYC Fury vs. (3) Moneyball: While the NL and AAA has been filled with upsets, the AL brackets are holding form. 1 will play 4 in one quarterfinal and tonight, 2 meets 3. What a great one this promises to be.
This will be the first time these two meet nothing less than offensive theatrics will be expected. Both squads average in the high 50’s on offense when their main men are there, and tonight, we expect the main men to be there.
In Money’s 39-37 win over MIA two weeks ago, missing were Ray Huang, Sol Choe, and Len Kamdang. Why they played with fire like that and had their core all missing at the same time is beyond us, but luckily for them, they survived it, and tonight look forward to having them back to bolster their attack. Joe Liu is a phenom and can play virtually every position on the floor. Having him alone keeps Money competitive for any game and tonight will be no exception. Look for Liu to be flirting with a triple double again by halftime. With Sol back in the saddle running the ship, Money’s maker will be looked to not only steer them, but inspire their defense. Against the Fury, who handled a very good Hypebeast team easily last week, Money needs to man up if they hope to get an edge.
The Fury are a stacked team. If rumors are true, they will be without guard James Choi who only leads the team in scoring at 16.9 ppg, but whether he’s in or out, they can look to a long line of guys who can crush the opposition. Alex Cho worked his kinks out from an ankle injury in his most recent NL game after a horrendous shooting night against Hype, Rich Chang is really comfortable in the paint right now, and the tandem of Harris Chung and Brian Hu is enough to render Kamdang a small forward when those two are on the floor at the same time.
The Fury are big, but they can move too. They’re well coached and they play smart basketball for 35 minutes of the game. They’re not a team you’d want to be facing at this time of the season.
The thing is, the same can be said of Moneyball. They have high IQ basketball players and they play smart for 35 minutes of the contest as well. With athleticism to spare in guys like Nick Pao (the driver) and John Lee (the jumper), they’re not a team you’d want to face either.
So, hypothetically, this game comes down to that final minute. Which one plays smart for 36 tonight? 60 seconds of higher intelligence and one of you is going to the semis.