Big V 2015: Playoff puzzles becoming clear but title races remain wide open
The playoffs are fast-approaching in Big V season 2015, but as the make-up of the finals becomes clearer, the race for the State Championship titles becomes all the more cloudy.
State Championship Men
The men’s title race has, for a number of seasons, been largely a race of three, with dominant clubs Ringwood, Waverley and Corio Bay continually being the last three teams left.
This season is seemingly no exception, with the ‘big three’ again sitting first, second and third in the standings a month out from the end.
Of these clubs, Ringwood has been head and shoulders the best team in 2015 and was the raging favourite to take the title once again on the back of some scintillating offense and dominant interior defence.
Credit: Big V Media
However, with some doubts lingering over some key members of their frontcourt in the lead up to the post-season, the Hawks could be left a little thin in the paint at a crucial stage of the season.
Both Corio Bay and Waverley have the size to take full advantage as well, with the likes of Ma’Alo Hicks and Chris Cameron sure to be licking their lips at the prospect of having big guys missing from the Hawks line-up at this stage of the campaign.
Of course, both the Stingrays and Falcons are very talented in every other position as well and will push the Hawks all the way regardless, with Waverley’s close loss at The Rings a fortnight ago proving that they are a big championship threat.
There are also three other sides who will have the chance to compete for the title in August, with McKinnon, Hume City and either Bulleen or Whittlesea looking the likely candidates.
The Cougars are as dangerous and talented as any side, with their nine-game winning run earlier in the campaign proving that, and with Kale Harrison regaining his best form in the past fortnight, the top three will be moving uncomfortably in their chairs.
Hume City also has the talent on their roster to make sides work hard for their wins and could spring an upset or two on their day.
They face a tough ask from fifth given they won’t enjoy the spoils of home court in any matchup, but nonetheless can’t be simply written off with the likes of proven stars Jamal Brown and Jermaine Maybank in uniform.
The final playoffs spot is still very much up for grabs, however whether it be the Boomers or the Pacers, or anyone else, who claims it, a first-round matchup with Waverley will more than likely put an end to their brief appearance in the post-season anyway.
With the exception of sixth, there are five teams capable of winning games in August, and at least three who can legitimately stake their claim for the championship, which should make for an exciting and unpredictable playoffs series the whole way through.
State Championship Women
The popular school of thought has been that Hume City and Ringwood are destined to meet in the grand final for a third straight year, with the Broncos warm favourites to snag yet another title.
Hume and Ringwood occupy the top two sides on the ladder and should stay there, and the dominant duo will be very tough to beat.
If the sides do indeed make it to the grand final again, the Hawks will have to overcome what is fast becoming somewhat of a ‘hoodoo’ against the Broncos, with Ringwood coming up short against their opponents in two straight finals series’ as well as two more meetings this season.
That is, of course, if both sides make it that far.
Credit: Big V Media
Despite their dominance, the 2015 finals structure means that at least one side, or even both if things really go awry, could potentially face a one-off elimination game at some stage before the grand final.
The rest of the top five is all-but set, with Southern Peninsula, Waverley and Bulleen to contest for the title in August, so long as the Boomers don’t surrender a very healthy four-win advantage on McKinnon and Eltham over the final month.
The Hawks and Broncos would be favourites to beat any of those sides, but they all pose a danger as well, particularly in a sudden death clash.
The Sharks have lost just three times in their debut State Championship season and, despite the assumption that they would begin to drop off in the second half of the season, look as strong as ever.
Ella Hellessy and Chevannah Paalvast have been as good as any duo in the league, while the likes of Jamilee Pearce and Jasmine Shelley have shown they are able to break open games from the bench, giving their opponents nightmares.
Waverley, sitting fourth, may have lost Tegan Cunningham for the season, but still boast sister Caitlyn, as well as superstar Carley Mijovic, who is arguably the best player in the competition.
Their depth and defence are slight issues, but the likes of Mijovic and Cunningham both have the potential to carry their side to wins, while Adrianna Cann, Lauren Bennett and Abbey Lloyd have all shown they can provide valuable contributions when called upon as well.
Bulleen rounds out the top five and the young Boomers are just as dangerous as any side in the finals positions.
Their depth is the key here, with the Boomers having a different top-scorer almost every week, while Lauren Pearce and import Taylor Hall lead from the front at both ends of the floor.
They have shown they can push Ringwood all the way in a three-point loss at The Rings earlier this month and with nothing to lose will make the teams above them nervous.
Only the grand final is a best-of-three series in 2015, meaning Ringwood or Hume City, or both, will need to win at least two matches and at least one elimination final to qualify for the grand final series.
With three very capable teams on their heels, there are no guarantees that either side will be playing off for the championship in late August.
To find your local club’s fixtures and results, and to keep up to date with all the league news and information over the season, head to www.bigv.com.au or click here.