Monday, 04 November 2019 13:42 Written by Josh Biddle and Steve Gibson
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2025 NatCon Playoff Preview


2025-R1-LON-SDS
The San Diego Storm are celebrating their first playoff appearance since 2017.  Next up:  The defending champion London Knights.

#1 London Knights (62-18) vs. #8 San Diego Storm (40-40)

by Josh Biddle

San Diego Storm

Though a .500 record may not be impressive in a vacuum, the fans of San Diego are impressed and are enjoying the fact that their franchise has qualified for the playoffs and snapped a playoff drought spanning the past seven seasons.

The Storm ranked favorably in offensive output with 104.9 points per game (#3 in conference, #5 overall) and ranked well in rebounding with 48.8 rebounds per game (#3 in conference, #4 overall), 35.6 defensive rebounds per game (#4 in conference, #4 overall), and 13.2 offensive rebounds per game (#3 in conference, #7 overall). Defensively, the team's primary red flag is their 25 fouls per game (14th in conference, 28th overall). The team has some favorable defensive metrics, including a .427 opponent's field goal percentage (#5 in conference, #7 overall) and a .340 opponent's three-point percentage (#5 in conference, #9 overall), but out-fouling their opponent's at an average of approximately five fouls per game explains how these favorable metrics ultimately accumulate to a -0.4 points per game margin versus opponents. The Storm have an extreme home-road split – 27-13 at home versus 13-27 on the road.

The Storm were led by small forward James Nichol, who finished the season averaging an impressive 23.6 points per game – his sixth consecutive season of averaging 20+ points per game, five of which with San Diego, along with 6.8 rebounds per game. The thirty-one year old forward started all eighty games, flashing his incredible durability – he has missed only two games over the past seven seasons. Free agent additions power forward Kevin Mazzola (18.0 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game) and center Gary Williams (15.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game) both were impact players in their first season with the team. Shooting guard Sheldon Cortez recorded the best plus-minus at 3.2 of the starting lineup, despite averaging 4.0 fouls per game. A major weakness for San Diego is the bench unit – there isn't a single bench player with a positive plus-minus, while each Storm starter has a positive plus-minus.

London Knights

The defending OBWL champion London Knights enter the playoffs coming off of another incredible season, winning the National East division by 13 games.

Stacked with top-end talent, the team has found a way to supplement the top-end talent with solid role players and rotations that produce, evidenced by positive plus-minus metrics by the entire active roster. The Knights rank favorably in both offense and defense in a number of critical categories. The Knights average 105.0 points per game (#2 in conference, #4 overall) compared to 90.9 points allowed per game (#2 in conference, #2 overall), and ranked first overall and first in conference in a number of categories – defensive rebounds per game (39.4), rebounds per game (51.4), blocks per game (14.1), field goal percentage (.484), points per shot (1.25), opponent's fouls per game (22.8), opponent's field goal percentage (.383), opponent's three-point percentage (.313), opponent's points per shot (0.96), and opponent's adjusted field goal percentage (.417).

Center Jose Owens led the team in scoring, primarily off of the bench (80 games, 6 starts), averaging 19.1 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game in 24.9 minutes per game. Point guard Alain Lagon (16.9 points per game, 2.4 assists per game), shooting guard Val Crumley (13.7 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, 7.4 assists per game), and power forward Jean Larry (11.4 points per game, 10.4 rebounds per game, 6.5 blocks per game) all were impact two-way players who heavily contributed to the success of the team on both sides of the court. Lagon averaged the most minutes per game at 29.6 with the team spreading minutes out aggressively, evidencing the team's depth through the strong rankings they established with a heavy variance of players on the court.

Season Matchups

1/16 – Storm @ Knights – 131-98 Knights win
2/19 – Knights @ Storm – 99-98 Storm win
4/6 – Storm @ Knights – 132-117 Knights win
4/11 – Knights @ Storm – 116-106 Knights win

Prognosis

The Knights enter this series with home court advantage, which is a strong advantage against the Storm who struggled on the road this season. In addition, the Knights just match up particularly well against the Storm – of course, it's difficult to find any team that the Knights don't match up well against and they'll be significant threat to repeat this season. The Knights draw the most fouls of any team in the league, and the Storm foul the most of any team in the league, which makes winning the series an uphill battle for San Diego. The Knights enter the playoffs having won their final eight regular season games, while the Storm enter the playoffs having lost six of their final seven games. The Knights may very well sweep, but I think the Storm and the Williams / Mazzola / Nichol combination can muster a home win.

Prediction: Knights in 5

Series Moneyline: Knights -5000; Storm +2500

 


 

#2 Minnesota Marauders (48-32) vs. #7 South Florida Sharks (46-34)

by Steve Gibson

Regular Season Head to Head

South Florida Sharks: 4W - 0L

The South Florida Sharks had no issues dispatching the Marauders during the regular season notching up 4 wins in impressive fashion. Three of those games where reasonably close but a 24 point blow out in Minnesota the highlight of this season series for the Sharks. Its safe to say the Sharks will be going into this first round matchup with full confidence in their ability to come away with wins on their own home court and have zero issues going up to Minnesota and snatching at least one game.

The Form Guide

Despite a road heavy close out of the season the Sharks are coming into the playoffs in red hot form so i feel they have to be talked about first. South Florida have shaped themselves to be peaking at the right time of the year. After a slow start the Sharks newly appointed GM Jay Amado got the team moving in the right direction around the new year and by early February the Sharks were poised for a hot streak losing just nine games in the final three months of action to make a serious charge at the playoffs. Three of their wins were against the Marauders during this period so we have to wonder if Minnesota just got the Sharks at the wrong time of the year or if the Sharks are superior.

The Marauders come in to the playoffs with the opposite form guide, limping into the playoffs rather than sprinting. Minnesota found themselves undefeated after nine games despite a road heavy schedule. They continued on their winning ways and looked a team to beat for the championship pushing out to a 38 win, 18 loss record by early March. Come the end of the season and its apparent the team lost its identity a little, stumbling into the playoffs and only just edging out the Inferno for a well earned and hard fought National West Division title.

KEY STATS THAT MATTER TO MINNESOTA

Turnovers: +7.5

Head to Head Minnesota have committed 7.5 more turnovers per game than the Sharks. That number may actually flatter the Marauders too because during the closer games the Sharks averaged less turnovers and the Marauders averaged more, however the Sharks did give up more of the ball during their blowout win in Minnesota, mostly due to extra minutes from the bench. Minnesota has to even this stat to make a contest, especially when South Florida's starters are on the court. Francis Ellender is expected to make mistakes in his rookie year and will only get better but the rest of the starters are veterans that are committing way to many turnovers for playoff basketball.

Field Goal Attempts -16.5

The Marauders let the Sharks shoot the ball 16.5 times more often than they did themselves during their season clashes and it got them beat. It's clear Minnesota ran a slow offense against the Sharks during the season but more than 16 less shots per game is gonna get the Marauders beat again during the playoffs. Minnesota has one of the best team field goal percentages in the league and Andrew Lawler is money so they need to find a way to get him away from the defense of Daniel Goodrum to get him stuffing the scorers sheet. Minnesota needs t ostart out gunning rather than trying to put the brakes on the opposition.

KEY STATS THAT MATTER TO SOUTH FLORIDA

Shooting Guard Studs: 35 points per game

There are two parts to this equation. Firstly the Sharks consistently score heavily on the Marauders from the two spot averaging 35 points per game during the season against the Marauders. Again this number flatters Minnesota considering one of those games Daniel Goodrum only played 11 minutes and in another game Daniel Goodrum played at small forward. The second part of this equation is Sean Anderson's ridiculous contribution off the bench averaging 16.5ppg for the season and dropping 29 points against the Marauders the last time they met. If the Sharks can get this combination at the two spot firing on all cylinders they will be hard to stop.

The Rebounding Game

This probably isn't an essential ingredient in the Sharks ability to come away with a first round win but it is food for thought for both teams. The Marauders actually won the rebounding contest on three occasions during the regular season against the Sharks. The margin was not huge, +6.6 rebounds in favor of the Marauders but it was only good enough to make it a contest, never good enough for a win. The one game that the South Florida Sharks did win the rebounding contest was in a 24 blowout win in Minnesota. South Florida grabbed 6 more rebounds that game, a turn around of almost 12+/- and with every rebound the final margin grew. Seems a no brainer that if the Sharks increase their rebounding intensity their likely-hood of victory gets better.

PREDICTION - SOUTH FLORIDA SHARKS IN SIX (4-2)

Minnesota's interior defense is top notch thanks to the likes of Ervin Holmes, Wallace Briseno and Tony Pence but they seem to lack the ability to guard tall, strong bodies on the perimeter and that's where South Florida does much of their scoring. Daniel Goodrum and Sean Anderson are both huge compared to their direct opponents in this matchup and also play a big role in shutting down the Most Improved Andrew Lawler. The Sharks are also well equipped to match Minnesota in the paint on both ends so their ability and advantage on the perimeter makes this a favorable matchup for the Sharks unless Minnesota can recapture some of that early season magic.

 


 

#3 Boston Buzzards (49-31) vs. #6 Arizona Thunderbirds (46-34)

by Josh Biddle

Arizona Thunderbirds

It has been eight seasons since the Arizona Thunderbirds prevailed as the OBWL champion, but the organization continues to make playoff appearances year after year.

The Thunderbirds averaged 103.9 points per game during the season (#5 in conference, #9 overall) compared to 100.1 points allowed per game (#7 in conference, #14 overall). The Thunderbirds ranked favorably in defensive rebounds per game (36.8; #2 in conference, #2 overall), rebounds per game (49.0; #2 in conference, #3 overall), steals per game (9.7; #2 in conference, #3 overall), blocks per game (12.4; #2 in conference, #2 overall), three-point percentage (.376; #3 in conference, #4 overall), turnovers forced per game (17.3; #2 in conference, #3 overall), opponent's field goal percentage (.422; #3 in conference, #4 overall), opponent's points per shot (1.07; #6 in conference, #7 overall), and opponent's adjusted field goal percentage (.460; #3 in conference, #5 overall).

Veteran free agent acquisitions small forward Claud Lassiter and shooting guard Brian Montes complemented the dominating interior duo of power forward Carl Terwilliger and center Elton Carnahan. Lassiter averaged 18.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, and 1.0 steals per game with Montes averaging 18.0 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. Terwilliger added 19.4 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game, and 4.0 blocks per game, with Carnahan averaging 11.2 rebounds per game and 4.4 blocks per game. Backup center Chris Medina (5.9 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocks per game) is day-to-day with a broken nose entering the playoffs. Shooting guard Armando Izaguirre (4.9 points per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, 2.6 +/-, +10.5 net efficiency) is a solid two-way bench contributor. The Thunderbirds had an incredible 33-7 home record, compared to a 13-27 record on the road. The Thunderbirds concluded the season winning nineteen of their final twenty-five games, including seven of eleven on the road.

Boston Buzzards

The Boston Buzzards return to the playoffs in 2025 after missing the playoffs the past three seasons. Bottoming out with a 34-46 record in 2022, the Buzzards improved to 37-43 in 2023 and 42-38 in 2024 prior to their 49-31 campaign this season.

The Buzzards averaged 99.8 points per game (#9 in conference, #15 overall) and surrendered 95.6 points per game (#4 in conference, #5 overall). Rankings-wise, the Buzzards stand out in defensive rebounds per game (35.4; #5 in conference, #6 overall), rebounds per game (47.7; #4 in conference, #5 overall), fouls per game (16.7; #4 in conference, #5 overall), free throw percentage (.745; #4 in conference, #9 overall), opponent's steals per game (7.2; #2 in conference, #5 overall), opponent's blocks per game (7.1; #4 in conference, #6 overall), opponent's field goal percentage (.427; #4 in conference, #6 overall), opponent's points per shot (1.05; #5 in conference, #5 overall), and opponent's adjusted field goal percentage (.462; #5 in conference, #7 overall). More impressively, the Buzzards ranked top ten overall in several marginal categories including points per game (+4.2; #4 in conference, #8 overall), defensive rebounds (+2.2; #4 in conference, #6 overall), rebounds (+1.9; #3 in conference, #6 overall), blocks (+2.2; #6 in conference, #8 overall), fouls per game (-2.4; #4 in conference, #6 overall), field goal percentage (+.015; #5 in conference, #9 overall), free throw percentage (+.027; #5 in conference, #9 overall), points per shot (+.075; #4 in conference, #8 overall), and adjusted field goal percentage (+.011; #5 in conference, #9 overall). In summation, while they are solid albeit not necessarily spectacular across the board in various categories, the rate in which they outpace other teams on a per game basis helped set them apart from other teams in the win column.

The Buzzards were led in scoring by shooting guard Sheldon Perkins, who averaged 19.6 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game in 29.5 minutes per game off the bench, giving the Buzzards versatility and scoring off the bench. Small forward Frank Gifford (17.5 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game), shooting guard Jesse Yoshida (15.5 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game, 5.3 +/-), and center Darin Deans (13.1 points per game, 10.3 rebounds per game, 4.8 blocks per game) were all standouts for Boston as well. Starting shooting guard Jerrold Dean is a good defender who can also provide a secondary scoring option. The team is a bit shallow off of the bench, but they should benefit from shortening up the rotations for the playoffs, and Perkins off the bench helps mitigate any depth concerns when he's out with the second unit. The Buzzards finished the season 30-10 at home and 19-21 on the road. The Buzzards won eight of their final twelve games, which included winning four of six on the road.

Season Matchups

11/13 – Buzzards @ Thunderbirds – 107-97 Thunderbirds win
11/30 – Thunderbirds @ Buzzards – 92-91 Buzzards win
1/8 – Thunderbirds @ Buzzards – 105-93 Buzzards win
2/18 – Buzzards @ Thunderbirds – 102-91 Thunderbirds win

Prognosis

This is shaping up to be a very interesting series with the two teams splitting the four game regular season series and both finishing the season in good form. A concern for Boston is shooting guard Jerrold Dean's day-to-day status as he continues to recover from a dislocated shoulder – he has been a solid contributor throughout the season averaging 26 minutes per game and providing solid defense and secondary scoring ability. Both teams have protected their home court well throughout the season and against each other. Another concern for Boston is the Thunderbirds' three-point shooting compared to the Buzzards, who don't have the caliber of shooters on their roster. The interior defense of the Thunderbirds with two 4.0+ per game shotblockers is a luxury to have facing a team who isn't as strong a three-point shooting team – perhaps this series will come down to how Boston fares from three-point land and from the perimeter. I think Arizona may be able to sneak this one out, but I expect this to be a long series and neither outcome would surprise me.

Prediction: Thunderbirds in 7

Series Moneyline: Buzzards -225; Thunderbirds +200

 


 

#4 Honolulu Inferno (48-32) vs. #5 Toronto Huskies (46-34)

by Steve Gibson

REGULAR SEASON HEAD TO HEAD

Series Split 2-2

The Inferno and Huskies split the regular season with two wins each but interestingly both teams managed to steal wins away from home making this first round series one the more intriguing matchups of the playoffs. The Inferno will have something to prove after narrowly missing out on being crowned National West Division champions whilst the Toronto Huskies will be eager to make it back to the finals with a prime Charles Flowers.

THE FORM GUIDE

The Honolulu Inferno practically handed over the division title to the Minnesota Marauders thanks to a disastrous run of performances on the home stretch. Honolulu lost 8 of their last 10 games which gives them one of the worst form guides of all teams in the playoffs. Throughout the season the Inferno were a little patchy, putting together a string of wins only to lose a bunch of games making them highly unpredictably.

The Huskies form guide looks a little better. Their play throughout the season was consistent enough to have them in the playoff picture throughout the year and they closed out the season reasonably strong, putting together wins at the end of the season when it mattered in order to secure yet another playoff birth as one of the most consistent teams in the OBWL.

KEY STATS THAT MATTER TO HONOLULU

38.5 Points Per Game

That's how many points Charles Flowers averaged during the season against Honolulu over the four games during the regular season. We all know that Charles Flowers is arguably the best player in the world and is the main reason the Huskies are so relevant. What does Honolulu do? Try to curtail his impact or let him do what he does and expose the weakness in the rest of the Toronto squad? Tough call but it's obvious Charles loves playing the Inferno and the freedom Udo Bach gives him.

Field Goal Percentage: 44%

In both of Honolulu's losses to the Huskies they shot less than 45% from the field. That's not a bad shooting percentage and sits close to their season average but against a high volume shooting team like the Huskies you must score efficiently, especially when the Inferno are a low volume shooting team themselves. In both of the Inferno's wins against the Huskies they shot the ball brilliantly so they must bring that game with them to the playoffs or jack up more shots.

KEY STATS THAT MATTER TO TORONTO

Fouls per game: 25

The Inferno are not a great free throw shooting team so the Huskies get let off the hook a little in this matchup but during the regular season against Honolulu the Huskies averaged 25 fouls per game which may prove pivotal in the Huskies quest to get passed the first round. The Huskies gave up almost 20ppg from the charity strip during the season against the Inferno whilst only making about 10 free throws on average themselves. If they can even this stat without giving up on the defensive end this series may be theirs.

Inferno Turnovers

Potentially making up for the Huskies fouling issues is the Infernos poor ball protection against the Huskies. In all but one game the Inferno committed more turnovers than the Huskies thanks largely to Toronto's ball hawking ability. The Inferno are one of the better ball handling teams in the league but against the Huskies they tend to struggle. A weakness the Huskies will be looking to exploit.

PREDICTION - HONOLULU INFERNO IN 7 (4-3)

It's a tough series to predict and it sure is hard too bet against Charles Flowers and the consistency of the Huskies but I think the overall squad of the Inferno is in better shape then the aging stars of the Huskies. It would not surprise anyone if the Huskies got up in this series and no-one would be disappointed so lets sit back and enjoy this matchup for what it is.

 

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