Thursday, March 05, 2015

2015 Playoff Preview: Storm vs. Mill Rats

Picture courtesy of The Guardian
With the 2015 NBLC Playoffs underway, 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.

The Island Storm and Saint John Mill Rats will start their 2015 National Basketball League of Canada Atlantic Division semifinal series on Thursday in Charlottetown. While the hosts have managed a 5-3 record against the New Brunswickians this season, the Mill Rats have proven to be one of the deadliest clubs in the NBLC. Thanks to two February wins over the Storm, the Mill Rats have gone 5-1 over the past month - making them one of the hottest teams in the league.


This is the big matchup in this series. With the Island Storm’s backcourt of Sammy Zeglinski, Nick Okorie and Rashad Whack battling with Saint John’s guards, which include the likes of Johnny Mayhane, Anthony Anderson, Raheem Singleton and Alex Johnson. While Okorie and Zeglinski have proven to be big players the season, they might be overpowered by the sheer depth that the Mill Rats offer at this position.

Anthony Anderson will be the most important player in this category. If he is able to consistently get open looks, this series will be blown wide open. When you look back Saint John's 115-99 win against the Storm on February 22nd, Anderson shot 66%, draining 30 points in the win. The reigning MVP could be the difference maker here.

Advantage: Saint John

Way too explosive in this category. They have the edge here.


Another difference maker in this series is Brandon Robinson. After returning to the club this season, the former Rookie of the Year (2011-2012) has been a force at both forward and guard. While the 6’6” starter has been out injured with a hamstring injury, Joe Salerno will look towards his newly-developed depth at this position (Mike Williams (6’8”), Mike Martin (6’8”) and Billy Rush (6’6”)) to fill the gap. The Mill Rats will counter with some known NBLC talent in Erik Crookshank (6’8”), Kenny Jones (6’6”) and Jeremy Williams (6’7”). However, I worry about the Mill Rats size, considering the Storm also have Nick Evans (6’10”), a rough-and-tumble centre who’s averaging around 13ppg thanks to a strong tail end of the season.

Advantage: Island Storm

Size and depth give the Storm the advantage.


During the Mill Rats’ change in fortune over the season, they've emerged as one of the most lethal offensive teams in the league. Averaging around 111ppg, the club’s most potent weapon is their three point shooting. The club has been shooting around .400 from beyond the arc this year, which is well ahead of second-placed Mississauga at .365.

The Island Storm’s crutch will be their depth. Seven of their players average over 10ppg, with Brandon Robinson leading the way with only 17ppg. It’s this offensive variety that will allow them to push far into the playoffs. We saw similar numbers from the 2012-13 London Lightning, who beat the Storm in the NBLC Finals that season.

Advantage: Island Storm

Such a deep team that has been odds-on favourite to make the NBLC Final all year.


While both teams are loaded with proven NBLC talent, the Island Storm have the benefit of experience. Unlike most clubs, the Storm have been able to keep many of their players year-over-year. What’s even better is the fact that the majority of those players have made it to the NBLC Final two years in a row. Head Coach Joe Salerno has been a fantastic leader who has also been around for those two finals appearances.

The Saint John Mill Rats come into these playoffs as the hottest team in the league. After a major retooling mid season, the 17-15 Mill Rats have gone 5-1 in the month of February (which includes a 115-99 win over the Island Storm). It’s going to be up to Julian King to keep this run going after a week-long break between the end of the regular season and the start of playoffs.

Advantage: Saint John

These guys are red-hot. Should mean more than experience at this point.


Well, this one will go the full five games for sure. While the Island Storm have been dominant for the majority of this season, you can’t overlook how Saint John have been lightning the league up since January. If the Mill Rats can get their perimeter shooting going, while also maintaining their recent run of form, they should be able to take it in five.

Saint John wins the series 3-2.