The men have been separated from the boys with the eight play-off slots confirmed in the Airtel National Basketball league post season that rolls off this evening at the YMCA grounds. Now that contenders are going to be separated from pretenders, Felix Eupal looks at each team’s chances.
The defending champions are still the team to beat. They have the best-balanced team going into the post season. With last year’s play-off Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kami Kabenge still firing on all cyclinders, it is hard to see any team stopping the Oilers.
With the supporting cast of Ben Komakech, Jimmy Enabu, Geoffrey Omondi and Daniel Juuko, it will be a great disappointment for Mandy Juruni’s charges if they don’t make the finals.
After being booted out at the semifinal stage last year, Power changed their approach this season by recruiting massively because they couldn’t afford walking away another season empty-handed.
Sixteen wins and six losses is the record they bring into the play-offs. Their coach Bernes Ankunda, however, will have to find a way of working around the fragility of his back-court if he is to deliver a sixth title.
The two-time champions have been boosted by new sponsor in Stanbic bank just before they kick off their post-season campaign. Like other sponsorship deals in basketball, Warriors management remain tight-lipped about the details of the sponsorship but their team manager Ivan Ntabazi says: “My boys will be facilitated more than any other team in the play-offs.”
Gad Eteu, their head coach, has been there and knows the pressure that comes with such crunch moments. Warriors also lost six and won 16 in the regular season. Eteu has a squad at his disposal that is capable of anything. However, after losing two finals with Falcons, he will have to redeem himself.
Will this be the year when the Canons get the monkey off their backs and break the seven-year wait for a national title?
That is the question that all Canons faithful are asking and it is one they don’t have an answer to yet. They have always had a tendency to self-destruct whenever the stakes are raised, focusing more on the umpires than on basketball.
Centre Desmon Owili is still serving his ban and will return on November 13. That is if they are still in contention and are able to push Falcons, who they play in the quarters. Suudi Ulanga, Ivan Lumanyika and Joseph Chuma will still have to be the guys to carry the team.
Henry Mwinuka is leading a tight ship but he has a firm grip on it. The Titans have been tremendous in the second round, even producing a blowout double-digit win over Oilers.
Defence will still be their signature play but they don’t seem like they can go further than the semis. Last season, they bowed out at the quarterfinals and still lack an anchorman that can carry them forward.
The most successful team in Ugandan basketball last lost the past two play-off finals.
It is a team that you can never count off never mind that they have lost five games in a row in the second round. Falcons just seem to be revitalized whenever it comes to the play-offs. Stephen Omony, Cyrus Kiviri and Serge Kabangu will still be under intense scrutiny to vindicate patron Friday Kagoro’s vow to deliver a seventh title.
When they got promoted to the top-flight, the main goal was to avoid relegation. Now they are in the play-offs. That alone is achievement enough and they will exit with their heads high.
Nine wins and 12 losses is a pathetic record for a team that started the season by lifting Zuku University Basketball title. Walker Obedi’s team has been a shadow of themselves and don’t look like they will go beyond the last eight.
Source : The Observer