With the 2015 NBLC Playoffs just around the corner, NBLCNET is taking a look at each playoff series, breaking down each matchup to determine who we believe will be the eventual winner in each series.
Well now, this is familiar! For the second season in a row, the NBLC playoff picture in the Central Conference gave us a Windsor Express versus Mississauga Power first round match up that features two teams headed in opposite directions. The Power showed a lot of promise at the start of the year, coming out of the gates to a 5-3 record and, with Omar Strong and the departed Travis Releford, featured two of the top scoring talents in the NBLC. Unfortunately the good times stopped there as the team went 2-22 the rest of the way, as their high scoring offence could no longer cover up their defensive deficiencies. Windsor on the other hand found success through their defence, and used that success to once again assert themselves as the top team in the league for the second year straight. So with Mississauga seeming like the weaker team on paper, just based on regular season success, how can they beat the defending champs? Well, believe it or not, the fact that they are so different from the Express just might be the key to the Power's playoff hopes.
This category isn't particularly close, as Mississauga barely even uses their front court, and Windsor features what might be the best front court in league history. For the Power, a lot of pressure will be on Paul Cooper and Douglas Thomas to at least somewhat slow down Windsor's bigs, especially with Michael Allison's absence. Thomas was a late pickup, but has played very well down the stretch, and Cooper has been one of the more under-utilized players in the league, showing a lot of skill on the few offensive possessions he gets. Both are tough, and can handle physical play, which will be helpful against Windsor. Lack of depth will be where the Power will struggle. The same certainly cannot be said of the Express, who not only welcomed back last year's championship winning front court of DeAndre Thomas, Chris Commons and Kevin Loiselle, but also acquired former NBLC All Star Tim Parham from Halifax. Commons in particular will be a difficult player for the Power to match up with, as his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting means taking one of Mississauga's bigs out of the paint to cover him. Thomas will be coming off an injury if he plays in this series, but even without him, Windsor still dominates up front.
Mississauga simply doesn't have the personnel to handle the Thomas/Commons combo.
This is where things get a bit more interesting. Both teams feature strong backcourts, but in very different ways, with Windsor using long, athletic guards to lock up the perimeter, and Mississauga using quicker and more dynamic play to drive offence. In Tony Bennett, Gary Gibson and Quinnel Brown, the Express have three guys who can play suffocating defence, and have proven to have great chemistry together. Bennett might be the best two way guard in the league, and Brown has been a legitimate MVP candidate. After struggling with injuries to start the year, former All Star Ryan Anderson was electric as well, giving Windsor the dynamic scoring option they had lacked. But adding so much size, a team sacrifices some speed, and that could be where the Power strikes. In Omar Strong and Tyrone Garland, the Power have two of the quickest scoring guards in the league, and Windsor has struggled to match it in the past, including the last time these two teams met, when Garland and Strong combined for 53 of Mississauga's 103 points, a game they only lost by one. Add Malcolm Grant and Jabs Newby, the Power certainly have guys who could turn the series into a track meet. If Mississauga pulls off the upset, this is how they'll do it.
Advantage: Windsor (ever so slightly)
The Power have some impressive players, but the Express backcourt has had an answer to everything they've faced so far.
Mississauga: The Power feature the biggest X factor in the league in Omar Strong. Strong put the league on notice with his 44 point explosion against the Island Storm, but followed up that game with only 6 points. He is truly one of the great scoring talents the league has seen, but his inconsistency can be maddening. If the Power are going to have any hope of beating the Express, they're going to need the good Omar Strong to show up for every game, as his speed is Mississauga's best chance at breaking past the wall Windsor's guards are capable of putting up.
Windsor: DeAndre Thomas has been one of the most intriguing projects to watch over his NBLC career. While always gifted, he's transformed himself from a foul waiting to happen into a punishing post threat. While still prone to the odd mental lapse, he's capable of disrupting opposing teams game plans in a hurry, whether by bullying and, in turn, tiring out opposing bigs, or getting them in foul trouble. Thomas is a truly unique talent, and if he's healthy, can dominate the Power front court.
Strong is good enough to win games by himself when he's hot. I'd say that's a pretty good X factor to have.
Mississauga: The Power are a very young team, and very few of their players have much NBLC experience, let alone playoff experience. Adding Douglas Thomas was a clever pick up, as the 31 year old has tons of D-League experience which will be invaluable for this young team. One has to wonder how the team's mentality is going into this series after ending the season on such a low, including a 126-91 loss to the Lightning to end the year. How the Power respond to that loss will define their series.
Windsor: With 5 former champs and 9 players with NBLC playoff experience on the roster, Windsor knows exactly what to expect. This is a team that isn't going to panic when they get down and isn't going to let a lead slip away. Coach Bill Jones is the reigning coach of the year, and has every player on the roster committed to his system. They were even able to rest some of their stars last game. As long as Windsor doesn't get caught looking at the next round, this series should be theirs.
Windsor features an embarrassment of riches, and goes into the series confident and rested.
The Express are simply too strong, featuring an MVP candidate on offence, and the league's best defence. There are holes though, and Mississauga has a team capable of exploiting them. I think Mississauga has a better chance than some people are giving them, but it simply isn't enough. Omar Strong and crew can steal a game, but not much more
Windsor wins the series 3-1