ROUND 1 PREVIEW
Friday 16th March -
Wollongong Rollerhawks v Adelaide Thunder @5pm
Season 2018 tips off with the defending Champions taking on the Thunder who did not win a game last season. After making their return to the league last year, Adelaide’s goal is to now get some victories on the board but they face a tough ask on Friday night.
Across their meetings in 2017, the Thunder struggled to put points on the board and Brett Stibners averaged 23 points while Michael Auprince tallied 30 points in their final clash. The Thunder must be able to keep those two stars quiet and will be hoping a couple of their additions this season can help out Adam Roocke at the offensive end.
Perth Wheelcats v Queensland Spinning Bullets @5pm
With the Cluster Round being held in Floreat and Cockburn this year, the Wheelcats can utilise Round 1 to get off to the perfect start in 2018 with consecutive home games.
A regular in the NWBL post-season, Perth finished fifth last year so expect them to come out all guns blazing as they look to put that disappointment behind them. Shaun Norris and Kim Robins will lead the charge but the Spinning Bullets broke through to claim the bronze medal last season and will be no pushovers. Owning the second worst defence in the competition in 2017, that will be the main area of focus for the Wheelcats and a player like Tom O’Neill-Thorne will give them a real test.
Sydney Metro Blues v Red Dust Heelers @7pm
Helping them to finish third on the ladder last year, the Blues had an 8-1 record against non-finalist teams and the Heelers could not get past them in any of their three meetings.
With Joe Chambers back in 2018 for a full campaign, Sydney Metro may have the most damaging offence in the competition but the Heelers have added their own US Paralympian in Josh Turek which could make for a fascinating battle on the opening night of the season as the two imports aim to get their respective clubs off to the perfect start.
Saturday 17th March -
Adelaide Thunder v Kilsyth Cobras @9am
Backing up for their second game of the weekend, Adelaide will face the Cobras who will be playing in their 2018 debut. Kilsyth’s performance this weekend could be telling as they finished the regular season last year in second place before dropping three consecutive finals games to miss out on a medal.
That could see the Cobras come out with a point to prove and Adelaide will have to be prepared for a fired up team that includes reigning High-Point MVP Tristan Knowles and rising stars Damon Fent and Brian Carminati. However, Kilsyth have lost two of their top four scorers from last year which may hamper their offensive production.
Wollongong Rollerhawks v Perth Wheelcats @9am
The best team at sharing the ball and utilising their array of weapons, Wollongong will be aiming to recreate that style this year and against Perth, who looked one-dimensional at times, that brand of basketball could be deadly.
The battle between Aussie Rollers Stibners and Norris is always an entertaining one and you can expect both players to light it up from all areas of the floor, including beyond the arc while Nick Taylor enjoyed their clashes last season, scoring at least 20 points in all three meetings.
Sydney Metro Blues v Queensland Spinning Bullets @11am
The Spinning Bullets took a 2-1 advantage through the regular season meetings against Sydney Metro last year but in the contest that mattered most, the Semi-Final, the Blues were 13-point victors.
Queensland had six players hit the scoreboard but turnovers proved their downfall and they cannot afford to give Sydney Metro fast break points or open looks with the likes of CJ McCarthy-Grogan and John McPhail ready to pounce alongside Chambers. Owning six players from the recent Under-23 World Championships, the Spinning Bullets have a wealth of youth that they will be hoping can wear Sydney Metro down.
Wollongong Rollerhawks v Red Dust Heelers @1pm
The first test of Wollongong’s stamina and depth will be this match-up against Red Dust as they play their third game of the weekend and second of the day while the Heelers will not have played since the night before.
Red Dust will have a strong fan base behind them in their home state which could spur them on but they will have to find players to crash the glass since losing Adam Deans, their leading rebounder from last season. Without him, the door could be open for Auprince to dominate as he is coming off a year in which he averaged a double-double.
Perth Wheelcats v Kilsyth Cobras @1pm
Perth back up for their second game of the day against Kilsyth who will only be playing their second game of the round and the Cobras are also coming off a sweep of the Wheelcats from 2017 that included two victories in Perth.
As with his battle against Stibners earlier on Saturday, Norris will have another game-defining clash against fellow Paralympian Knowles. However, another Paralympian in Josh Allison enjoyed a couple of strong outings against the Wheelcats last season and if he can fire alongside the likes of Shaun Groenewegen, they should prove too deep for Perth even on their home floor.
Sydney Metro Blues v Adelaide Thunder @4pm
Round 1 does not get any easier for the Thunder on Saturday afternoon as they battle last season’s Runners-Up after already meeting Wollongong and Kilsyth who finished first and second at the end of the 2017 regular season.
The Blues cracked the century mark on three occasions last year and two of those times came against Adelaide. Chambers scored 45+ in both those games and he stands in their way again with the Thunder requiring a team effort from the likes of Beau Buckley, Jay Dohnt and newcomer Daisuke Mitsumoto to match him.
Red Dust Heelers v Queensland Spinning Bullets @4pm
While the Heelers were unable to get past Queensland in any of their three meetings last season, they pushed them all the way in each contest with an average losing margin of 9.6 points which is half of their overall average losing margin for the year.
A spread of scorers got them close with Jannik Blair and Jake Kavanagh contributing alongside the usual suspects such as Pike and Morich. Missing most of last season, Brad Ness has again been named in the Red Dust roster and if he hits the court, his size and point production could be enough to help the Heelers take revenge.
Sunday 18th March -
Kilsyth Cobras v Adelaide Thunder @9am
Adelaide’s tough opening weekend to season 2018 concludes on Sunday with a second meeting against Kilsyth after they meet on Saturday morning as well.
It will only be the Cobras’ third game for the weekend and if they are coming off a successful first clash and get on top early, it could make life very difficult for the Thunder to finish Round 1.
Wollongong Rollerhawks v Queensland Spinning Bullets @9am
This is the only weekend for the Spinning Bullets in which they play over three games and it is not an easy task for them on Sunday as they face the reigning Champions.
Queensland struggled to get their offence clicking against the Rollerhawks last season, scoring three of their six lowest totals for the year against them while Wollongong shot 62% from the field across the three meetings. Developing his game with the Under-23 Spinners, a player like Jake Fulwood could be ready to take the next step in 2018 and a clash in the paint with Auprince will be a great test for the rising forward.
Perth Wheelcats v Sydney Metro Blues @11am
Taking on each of the 2017 medalists across Round 1, this contest against Sydney Metro is the final test for the Wheelcats.
Giving themselves some hope for a late playoff berth last season, Perth took a game against Sydney Metro by restricting them to just 63 points before dropping their next two and averaging 89.5 points against. Getting into another shootout is unlikely to work this weekend so their defence must be top-notch while players like Amber Merritt and Thomas McHugh will need to contribute.
Red Dust Heelers v Kilsyth Cobras @12pm
With byes coming in Round 2 and 3, the Heelers will be leaving it all on the court in the final clash of the weekend and they will be hoping to jump the Cobras early who will be playing their second game for the day, almost directly after a match-up against Adelaide.
A favourable weekend for the Cobras does not see them tackle a top-four team from last year in Round 1 and they could put a disappointing 2017 finals campaign behind them with success on Sunday, especially with a run of eight straight games at home to come later in the year.