QBL Men Round 1 Preview

For those who don’t know me, my name is Chris Athanasopoulos and I will be writing previews for the Pick and Roll. Even though I’m swamped running my own website Basketball Expressions, I wanted to help the guys at P&R with my insights of the QBL. For those who don’t know a lot about the QBL let me give a quick scroll.

What is the QBL?

The Queensland Basketball League (QBL) is a 13 team competition, divided into North (5 teams), Central (4 teams) and South (4 teams) group. Each team plays everyone once, while they have a home and away series within their group. Because the South and Central teams have a one team less than the North, they have a crossover game between them. The best team during the regular season automatically qualifies for the semi finals and gets to host the Final 4. The top two teams of each group qualify while the third placed from the group that has the regular season winner get to the playoffs. The North team face each other while the Central and South cross over to determine the final four.

In the past the North teams have dominated the competition, with Rockhampton and Mackay spending a lot of money to get the borderline NBL players into their squads. Townsville and Cairns are also strong due to been the feeder teams for the respective NBL programs. The gap between the North and Central/South has widen a lot over the years and despite Brisbane, Northside and Ipswich spending money the North has a stranglehold of the QBL championship.

Week 1 QBL Previews

Saturday, May 3, 2014 7.30pm USQ Clive Berghofer Recreational Centre Toowoomba Mountaineers vs. Gold Coast Rollers

Last year both teams made the QBL playoffs, however despite their success, they have struggled during the offseason. Toowoomba have lost James Legan and have replaced him with Tron Smith. Smith is an entirely different import compared to Legan and thus the Mountaineers will go for a more team oriented offence. Star import Willie Farley returns with the added responsibility of player/coach, replacing Clarence Dickerson. However, the bigger loss to Toowoomba is that of Stephen Kluck and Charles Dickerson, two players that exhibited defence and rebounding. Gold Coast have gone through a bigger transformation, ditching long serving coach Mick Conlon for Doug Garvie. As a result only Jason Aucoin and Michael Gullotta have returned to the Rollers from last year’s roster. They have a new import in Buster Perkins but the majority of their team is consisted of juniors. Toowoomba have the better squad with Farley and Smith expected to carry the load, one would think that Mountaineers can win this.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 7.30pm, Maroochydore Basketball Stadium Suncoast Clippers vs. South West Metro Pirates

Suncoast had an impressive 2013 season despite missing out of the playoffs. Their import, Winston Robinson was named Most Valuable Player. Alongside Johnathon Hudson, they form a potent duo that was compliment with experience local players. This year they replace Robinson and Hudson with Khalil McDonald and Marshall Johnson. Zeke Meehl will play from the start, while they have some new players in the likes of Josh Walters. South West had a horrid 2013 season earning them the wooden spoon. They have heavily recruited getting four players that are currently playing in the NCAA Division 2. Their imports are Alex Herrera a 208cm All American First Team while Matt Carlson is a valuable big that can score from outside. If both teams were full strength this would easily be a Pirates win. Without their two imports South West during the preseason have look a lot like the team of 2013 which isn’t a good thing. Suncoast have their best chance to beat the Pirates this weekend but this is going to be a close game.

Photo Credit: Mushu2011

Saturday May 3, 2014 7.30pm, WIN Stadium Bundaberg Bulls vs Northside Wizards

Bundaberg had a disappointing 2013 season and needed better Australian players and they achieved that in guard Bryce Arnott and centre Dwayne Radcliffe. Despite keeping Willie Shacklefold, they lost Zarryon Fereti and import Rodrick Stewart who was replaced by Breland Hogan. Brent Stewart and new recruit Jordan Teo return from Canada, while Kyle Keirnan returns from WA. Northside managed to reach the top 4 and would be hoping to better their results. They lost import Marques Whippy and Thomas Ammar but managed to get back Shaun Gleeson who played for the Wizards in 2012. Mitch McCarron returns from Metro State and brings fellow Roadrunner Nick Kay along. TJ Diop returns to Queensland after his stint in college while promising guard Atem Deng is playing for them. Wizards have a new coach in Ben Johnson who replaces Leonard King. Bundaberg has improved a lot during the offseason, however they need more pieces in the puzzle. Northside have the talent, skill, depth and athleticism to make easy work of the Bulls, even though they will be missing McCarron and Kay for this game.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 8pm, NAB Stadium – Auchenflower Brisbane Capitals vs Ipswich Force

Brisbane were the surprise package of 2013, reaching the Grand Final only to lose to Rockhampton. Drew Eisenger was replaced by Dane Suttle and Tommy Ammar is set to join Brisbane once his season in Lebanon concludes. With Suttle in the starting line-up Jeffries can slot into his natural position of shooting guard. Ipswich were considered a top 4 team last year and underachieve so bad to the point they finish last in the group. The Force had a major overhaul with both imports gone and replaced by Kyle Harvey and James Legan, alongside Zarryon Fereti who returns after a season at Bundaberg. Legan and Fereti give the Force a boost of offence, something they were lacking last year. While neither has true point guard skills a lot of the ball handling responsibility will fall on youngster Jason Ralph. Matt Hodgson is a coup for the Force and pairing him with Martin Iti could make for a formidable defensive duo. Even at this early stage of the season this is a crucial game for both teams. Ipswich had the upper hand in their only preseason game between the two teams. Both teams has the offence to shoot in bunches, the key will be the defence. Point Guard play of Ralph and Brisbane’s Anthony Kopickas will also play a role. Iti vs Rychart matchup should be an intriguing prospect, Rychart is a capable outside scorer while Iti is a post player with an ability to block shots. Big-Joe Tertzakian will make sure that the stadium is packed to the rafters and the atmosphere is electric, hoping that the crowd can make the desired impact on the game.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 8.00pm Hegvold Stadium Rockhampton Rockets vs Cairns Marlins

The defending champions start their title defence against the Marlins. With the exception of the replacing their imports, the Rockets core has remaining intact. They have added former NBL player Chris Cedar to the squad alongside Mitch Philp, Brad Williamson. Chehales Tapscott has experience in playing in Europe and many pundits consider him as one of the best imports in the league. Ray Turner is a tall, athletic big that will be a handful alongside experience veteran Michael Kingma. Cairns are going through a transitional process having lost Aaron Grabau, Dwayne Vale. Their experience is difficult to replace instantly, despite that the Marlins will have experience in the form of Kerry Williams and Curt Ahwang. Shaun Bruce and Mitch Young will suit up for the Marlins Similar to the Brisbane vs Ipswich game, this is a match that is crucial for both team chances of hosting the finals. The key battle will be upfront, with Cairns having an edge on paper. Playing in front of the fanatical Rocket fans will be difficult for the Marlins.

Sunday, May 4 2013 3.00pm Kev Broome Stadium Gladstone Power vs. Cairns Marlins

Gladstone has struggled this offseason, they lost key players Braydon Hobbs, Shaun Gleeson and Justin Watts. Hobbs is a NBL calibre import and his talents will be sorely missed. Jeff Harper and Cardell McFarland are the team new imports with both having played in Europe during the offseason. Harper spend time in Israel division 2 and in Finland while McFarland spend time in the German third division. Illiwa Baldwin returns with ex NBL player Rowan Gray joining the team. Naturalise import Will O’Neal joins the power and the 36 year old will provide valuable experience. Cairns will be concluding their CQ road trip hoping the game verses Rockhampton doesn’t take much out of them. Gladstone has struggle over the past years in the men’s program and this year is no exception, If McFarland and Harper are anywhere near Hobbs level they could do some damage, but Cairns is too talented, skilled and depth for them to drop this game.

For more information regarding the Queensland Basketball League, head to their website, here.