Australian U20 Nationals – Men’s and Women’s Semifinals Preview

Over the past 2 days we’ve seen the quarterfinals action from both men and women at U20’s Nationals and we’re down to the top 4 teams in each division. Today I preview the semifinals matchups and provide my prediction on which teams I think will advance to the championship games.

Credit: Kangaroo Photos

Men’s Semifinals

NSW vs Queensland – 5pm

NSW got off to a shaky start in their quarterfinal match against Tasmania but finished strong behind Xavier Cooks’ 21 points and 11 rebounds. Queensland cruised through their quarterfinal match against ACT behind Jack McVeigh’s 33 points and 14 rebounds.

NSW would be considered the favorite in this matchup; they’ve gone 4-0 so far in the tournament and haven’t really looked like losing yet. However, with Jack McVeigh being one of the most talented players in the tournament, the dynamic forward could pose a problem for NSW. McVeigh has been a model of consistency throughout the tournament, averaging 31.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg through 4 games; keeping McVeigh off the offensive glass and out of the paint will be key if NSW is to advance to the Championship game. NSW have a dynamic forward of their own, Illawarra boy Xavier Cooks has stepped up the last 2 games so look for him to continue his solid form.

Key matchup: Xavier Cooks v Jack McVeigh

Prediction: NSW

Victoria vs South Australia – 7pm

Victoria set the pace of the game early in their quarterfinal game against Western Australia, holding them to just 7 first quarter points. They would go on to win the game 76-51. South Australia was part of a double-overtime thriller during Thursday’s quarterfinals action. New Zealand was close to upsetting the in-form SA team, but Hamish Burns came up big late. Burns hit some crucial free throws in the final seconds of regulation, sending the game to overtime and eventually getting the 10-point win.

Victoria has been the favorite to win this tournament from the get-go; their smothering defense combined with their depth has proven to be a winning formula. I see star PG Michael Luxford, who’s had a quiet yet consistent tournament thus far, having his breakout game in this semifinal. SA can’t matchup effectively on Luxford, so expect him to come out firing. South Australia will rely on the play of Hamish Burns and Sam McDaniel coming into this game. Burns is SA’s most capable perimeter player while McDaniel has proven that he can post some monster numbers, dominating the paint and the boards. Victoria has cruised through virtually every game this tournament, so this may be the first time that they’re legitimately challenged.

Key matchup: Geremy McKay v Sam McDaniel

Prediction: Victoria

Women’s Semifinals

NSW vs Western Australia – 1pm

NSW has performed incredibly throughout this tournament, winning each of their 4 games in impressive fashion – capped off by their quarterfinal victory over New Zealand. Western Australia has rallied behind Jessie Edwards and Mikayla Pirini to knock off Tasmania in their quarterfinal game.

One thing to look out for in this match is NSW’ rebounding effort, they’re averaging just under 60 rebounds per game for the tournament so that will be a huge factor. Alliyah Fareo has been a big reason why NSW has found so much success on the glass. It’ll be up to WA’s 6’3 C Jessie Edwards to attempt to keep Fareo off the glass. Edwards has had some big games this tournament, along with some impressive rebounding numbers.

NSW look like the clear favorites entering this game considering the form they’re currently in. However WA could get some help from Mikayla Pirini, an Australian U19 Representative who’s been relatively quiet so far this tournament. The 5’6 guard could be the key for WA if they’re to stay in this game and potentially come away with a win.

Key Matchup: Alliyah Fareo v Jessie Edwards

Prediction: NSW

Victoria vs Queensland – 3pm

This matchup has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the tournament. On one side we have Victoria, a team that has thrived defensively has a lot of versatility offensively – not unlike their Men’s counterpart. On the other side we have Queensland, Australian Representatives Alicia Froling and Kristy Wallace have led them to a 3-1 start this tournament. Froling will be the biggest matchup problem for Victoria - although they do have a solid defensive presence in Lauren Scherf, Froling’s offensive efficiency and her commitment on the glass could provide problems for Victoria.Recent Aussie Opals Camp call-up Kristy Wallace will also be a big factor if Queensland is to compete in this game, the perimeter presence she can provide will be vital opening up the paint for Froling – and vice versa.

The 1-2 punch of Lauren Scherf and Rachel Antoniadou has worked incredibly well this tournament, their ability to dominate both on the perimeter and inside the paint offensively is something no other team has been able to do this tournament. Along with their brilliant team defense – holding ACT to just 42 points in their quarterfinal match –Victoria isn’t just the favorite to win this semifinal game, but they look like they can win it all.

Key Matchup: Alicia Froling v Lauren Scherf

Prediction: Victoria

We’re in for some exciting semifinals action at these U20’s Nationals. Although it looks like we’ll have a NSW v VIC Grand Final in both the Men’s and Women’s divisions, don’t count out either Queensland team pulling off an upset. A lot of star power on show on Friday, it’ll be interesting to see who steps up to the plate now that the games start to become more and more significant.