NBL 2014/15 Round 13 Preview: Reptile Rumble #3 shadows Crocs' glowing struggles

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Townsville Crocodiles (6-11) vs Cairns Taipans (12-6)

Saturday, January 3rd, 7:30pm (local)

Townsville RSL Stadium, Townsville

Odds: Townsville Crocodiles $1.83, Cairns Taipans $1.97


It’s the Reptile Rumble, as the two Queensland sides meet again. The Taipans are coming into tonight’s game off the back of a tough overtime loss, to an inconsistent 36ers squad.

Whilst Matt Burston and Cameron Tragardh have been terrific along side Scottie Wilbekin, they struggled against Adelaide's forwards in Brock Motum and Anthony Petrie. Cairns will be hoping they can get back to their solid play, as they will be matched up with Brian Conklin and Mickell Gladness.

Conklin in particular has been on a tear since being held to 13 points when these two teams last met. Cairns will also be looking for improved play from their bench, as outside of Tragardh they have struggled to get dependable help on a nightly basis. The Taipan’s faithful will be hoping Cameron Gliddon comes up with a big game, as he was disappointing in their last loss. He will need to shoot the ball better than the one for eight performance he had against Adelaide.

Townsville should be ready to go, as they are home once again after a fantastic win against Sydney to bring in the New Year. Conklin had a field day against the Kings going off for 21 points. Conklin may need another 20p-10r game for Townsville to have a chance against their northern rivals.

Gladness will need to be his usual dominant self on defence, the big man currently sits 2nd in BPG and RPG with averages of 1.7 and 7.6 respectively. Markovic should continue his strong play off the bench, providing a much needed spark as the teams 6th man and Norton continues to impress as he went for 21 points in the teams latest victory against the Kings.

Key Player

Scottie Wilbekin

After crushing the league in his first few weeks of NBL action, Wilbekin has come back down to earth. Whilst his averages of 14.5 PPG and 4.5 APG are good, they aren’t quite the numbers we expected after his first few weeks of game time. The Florida Alumni point guard is still capable of putting up a triple double type performance, as just about no one outside of Carson in Wollongong can match his athleticism. Tonight he faces Mitch Norton, who has been highlighting his growing ability to command a team.

Expect Wilbekin to have a good game tonight, as although Norton can get it done on the offensive end, his defensive pressure leaves a lot to be desired. Look for Wilbekin to attack his match up early and often, using his speed and strength to get to the basket and either score or create for his teammates.

What To Watch For

Battle of the big men

Conklin isn’t afraid of contact and Gladness is a huge presence inside, Cairns often rotates between Tragardh, Burston and Alex Loughton. There will be plenty of big bodies out there tonight and with no love lost between these two clubs or fan bases I expect things to get physical. If Loughton or Tragardh can stretch the floor and force Conklin or Gladness outside the paint, that should open up the floor for guards penetration and Burston’s low post work. On the other end, look for Conklin and Gladness to use their muscle and beat up the Taipans big men.

Final Word

The Taipans are a top level team, and a real chance to win the title this year. While on the other hand, Townsville are struggling to stay afloat, with financial difficulties paying its toll (read more on this here via AndTheFoul.net and Downtown). The boys in green wont roll over without a fight, they proved as much in their win against Sydney. The Crocs will be tough at home and could pull off a surprise victory with the home crowd behind them. Conklin should be able to get his 20-10, so it will be up to someone else to step up to push the Crocodiles over the top against the Taipans. Cairns will need a big game from their guards, and someone will have to shine off the bench and match Markovic, who is averaging 16 points in his last two games.

Cairns by 9