AT the now midway point of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 season, a massive Round 8 of games sees another 14 matches in the men’s competition – equal to that of the Round 6 Mother’s Day Round. In this round, Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE) play three games across two states, while North West Thunder also have a home-and-away approach over Saturday and Sunday. Diamond Valley Eagles, Knox Raiders, Ballarat Miners, Frankston Blues, Hobart Huskies, Dandenong Rangers and Bendigo Braves also all play two games in what is tipped to be a massive round of action.
The Round 8 action tips off tonight with the sixteenth placed Diamond Valley Eagles hoping to upset the inconsistent CoE. The future stars of Australian basketball have surprised plenty of teams this season, including knocking off two of the top three sides, but have also suffered some losses against lower ranked teams. Alex Ducas has been a star for the CoE, averaging 21.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, and he will be crucial against the Eagles, Waverley Falcons and North West Thunder. The Eagles do not have a player averaging more than 16 points per game, with Logan Hovey‘s 15.3 and 5.6 rebounds the top Eagles shooter. The CoE will have to watch out for Waverley’s Deondre McWhorter who has been an impressive star this season, posting up 20 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks, while for the Thunder, Nick Banyard has come into his own of late, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the Tasmanian side.
A huge game to watch this round is the second placed Nunawading Spectres hosting the seventh placed Bendigo Braves. The Spectres have been shaky at home with two wins from five games, while the Braves are equally as unconvincing on the road, posting two of their four losses there, and only the one win. Simon Conn is the only player to have started in every game for the Spectres, averaging 19.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, while Dain Swetalla has been impressive in his nine matches, averaging 18.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists across the season. Swetalla’s double-double average on court is only bettered by Ray Turner on the opposition side, with the Bendigo forward averaging 21.9 points, 12 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game – ranked third for rebounds. The Braves also travel to face Dandenong Rangers on Sunday, who have five players in double-figure points, and four players averaging 4.7 rebounds or more. The Rangers have to find a way to tame Demarcus Gatlin (21.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals) and the Geelong Supercats, with the Supercats strong at home with a 4-2 record, but the Rangers are equally impressive on the road with a 3-1 record.
For the top-of-the-table Ballarat Miners, they host tenth placed North West Thunder, before a road trip to take on last placed Southern Sabres. There is a reason the Miners are top, with an impressive six players averaging double-figure points, and five players averaging at least 4.8 rebounds. Jerry Evans Jr is the top player of a competitive bunch, averaging 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Frankston Blues also have a home-and-away weekend, facing the Hobart Huskies at home on Saturday, before travelling to Ringwood on Sunday. The Blues are the most in-form team of the competition, having strung together an equal current competition-high of four consecutive wins. Damon Bozeman is one of six players to average double-figure points this season, currently posting up 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The Hawks are looking to make it two in a row against the Blues, with Matthew Fennell the current double-double leader at the club with 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
The other in-form team of the competition is Melbourne Tigers, a side that has now won four consecutive games and comes into the round with a big match against fourteenth placed Knox Raiders on Sunday. The Raiders will be coming off a game against the Eagles on Saturday and keen to make it two wins for Round 8. Melbourne’s Dain Pineau‘s unbelievable form is a talking point in the competition, with the Tigers star averaging 16.8 points, 15.4 rebounds – ranked first in the league – and 2.9 assists, shading an impressive-in-its-own-right effort from Nic Pozoglou who has averaged 21.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals so far this season. Knox does not have a dominant shooter with no one averaging more than 15 points per game, instead relying on a team contribution and the likes of Cadarian Raines (11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds) and Mike Rose‘s (14.0 points and 6.6 rebounds) work off the boards.
In the other game, Albury Wodonga Bandits will look to turn their season around after a disappointing past month which saw them slip to thirteenth and four wins from nine games. They take on third placed Kilsyth Cobras who are also in a rut since being stunned by cellar dwellers Southern Sabres, dropping their past three matches to be 6-3. The Bandits have a top two shooter and top two rebounder at their possession with Ken-Jah Bosley (24.7 points per game) and Torren Jones (13.0 rebounds per game) the stars, while a further four players average more than 10 points per game, but two of them have played a combined eight games from four starts. Tohi Smith-Milner is the player to watch from Kilsyth, averaging a strong 15.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game from his nine matches.
Round 8 fixtures:
Friday, May 24:
Diamond Valley Eagles (16th, 3-7) vs. Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (11th, 5-6)
Saturday, May 25:
Albury Wodonga Bandits (13th, 4-5) vs. Kilsyth Cobras (3rd, 6-3)
Ballarat Miners (1st, 7-1) vs. North West Thunder (10th, 5-4)
Frankston Blues (9th, 5-4) vs. Hobart Huskies (12th, 4-5)
Geelong Supercats (5th, 6-5) vs. Dandenong Rangers (8th, 5-5)
Knox Raiders (14th, 3-5) vs. Diamond Valley Eagles (16th, 3-7)
Nunawading Spectres (2nd, 7-3) vs. Bendigo Braves (7th, 5-4)
Waverley Falcons (4th, 6-3) vs. Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (11th, 5-6)
Sunday, May 26:
Dandenong Rangers (8th, 5-5) vs. Bendigo Braves (7th, 5-4)
Eltham Wildcats (17th, 3-7) vs. Hobart Huskies (12th, 4-5)
Melbourne Tigers (6th, 6-4) vs. Knox Raiders (14th, 3-5)
North West Thunder (10th, 5-4) vs. Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (11th, 5-6)
Ringwood Hawks (15th, 3-6) vs. Frankston Blues (9th, 5-4)
Southern Sabres (18th, 2-8) vs. Ballarat Miners (1st, 7-1)