We've got three very interesting match-ups on tap for week three as teams vie for position in this dog-eat-dog league.
8:15: Hospital Bombers (1-1) vs. Beast of Burden (1-1)
The evening's main event comes early with this clash of emerging aspirants. Both are coming off emphatic victories, yet both still have something to prove.
The Hospital Bombers, underdogs last week, took down Dunk-a Schoen in a game that was never as close as the 46-40 final score indicated. The inspirational win, in which no player reached double digits, has them brimming with confidence, and their week one loss is now a distant memory. Beast of Burden also rebounded well in week two, blowing out Team Fouls to level their record and stake a claim with the league's elite. The winner of this game will establish themselves as the league's second best team, and have an early edge in the playoff race.
Why Beast of Burden will win: Guards Ismael and Rafael Rodriguez, along with Robin Luna and Brian Love, play the best defense of anyone in the GABL. It's 36 minutes of hell going against their frontcourt, and the Hospital Bombers don't have the ballhandling skills to overcome the pressure. Swingman Kieran Valla and the bigs, Patrick Waldo and Kyle Pilkington, will be undersized, but still capable of at least containing the Bombers' big men. On the offensive end, the brothers Rodriguez bring a hot shooting touch (Ismael is the league's leading scorer), and Brian Love broke out in a big way last week with 8 points. They'll score enough to get the job done against a team that can't handle their intense pressure, and already allows the most PPG (50.5) of any team in the league.
Why The Hospital Bombers will win: After a strong effort against The Cray's Nest, they showed last week that they might be the league's best passing team. The pressure defense from Beast of Burden may give them some temporary problems, but they have size and athleticism in spades, and won't be intimidated. Expect them to exploit the offensive boards in a big way. On the defensive end, they'll completely shut down the interior with a strong zone, and Beast of Burden will be forced to shoot for their lives. With the hustle of players like Geoff Nelson, Jake Berkowitz, Kerry Brown, and Avi Kent in the frontcourt, that strategy won't be sustainable for long. Purinton, Bob Van Kolken, and Steve Friedman will win this game on the glass.
The Upshot: Can defensive pressure win the day for Beast of Burden, or will The Hospital Bombers escape the worst of it with timely passing, and slowly build a lead on a solid foundation of size and defense?
The Favorite: The Hospital Bombers (-4)
9:00 Team Fouls (0-2) vs. Layup Line Heroes (1-1)
There's a lot at stake in tonight's sandwich game. The winner will have some much-needed momentum going into the season's middle third, while the loser will find themselves in the league cellar, facing an increasingly disenchanted fan base and media scrutiny.
After a grueling win in week one, Layup Line Heroes played a lackadaisical game against The Cray's Nest. Most experts agree the effort didn't live up to their true ability, but that remains to be seen. They'll be looking to shake off that loss, while Team Fouls desperately searches for a winning formula of their own. After going up 20-10 at the half in week one, it's been a steady downhill slide. That collapse, and last week's disheartening defeat at the hands of Beast of Burden, have raised questions about their offensive viability. Fans are anxious to see whether they'll come out tonight with renewed vigor and resolve, or if the hits to their confidence have been too great.
Why Layup Line Heroes will win: Keith Gormley, averaging 17 a game, leads a talented offense that starts at the high post. Their size and passing acumen will break down the Team Fouls defense, and guards Colby Hall, Steve Reiter, Dan Abrams, Amy Hauck, and Steve Krakauer will have room to maneuver and shoot. On defense, they'll play a hard collapsing zone that limits Team Fouls to outside shooting, a strategy that's failed them two weeks in a row. Matt Brinkmann and Greg Wyrick will provide extra size in the paint, and against an opponent that plays small, they'll wreak havoc on the offensive boards.
Why Team Fouls will win: The two losses so far have been a bit deceptive. In week one, the pressure of a loud gym may have affected them, and it's important to remember that they didn't succumb until overtime. In week two, a permissive ref let Beast of Burden's aggressive defense go unchecked, and Kyle Ervin's early ejection cost them a good deal of offense. Additionally, David Saie was absent. Things will be different tonight, when Ervin's slashing abilities will be on full display. Zach Smith's size, Chris Bonastia's quickness, and the guard play of Allison Cline and Trista Sordillo will open things up for Team Fouls' offensive centerpiece, Andrew Weiner. Leading the league with 7 3-pointers, he's a pure shooter who can never be left alone, and Layup Line Heroes won't have the manpower to keep him in check all game.
The Upshot: Will we see a new Team Fouls tonight, or can the Layup Line Heroes reduce them to stationary shooting, and break them down with superior offense?
The Favorite: Layup Line Heroes (-2)
9:15: The Cray's Nest (2-0) vs. Dunk-a Schoen (1-1)
The final game of week three features the league's last undefeated unit against a team many in the press have labeled underachievers. Dunk-a Schoen have yet to put forth a true 'group effort,' but it's not for lack of talent. If they want to change their fate, they'll have to do it against the league's best.
After dominating their first two opponents, The Cray's Nest's outlook has soured a bit in the past week. Shane Ryan suffered a sprained ankle over the weekend, which is expected to keep him out for 2-5 weeks, and guard Jordan Glickson will also be missing from tonight's game. A depleted roster may make them vulnerable to a Dunk-a Schoen team looking for a big statement win, but they still have one of the league's top scoring duos in Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker.
Why Dunk-a Schoen will win: The loss of Ryan and Glickson takes away from TCN's fast-break and ballhandling game, and will be a key factor in tonight's contest. With less to worry about from the perimeter, Dunk-a Schoen can focus their efforts on shutting down Rasmussen and Tucker underneath. Whitney Warren, Ben Weitmarschen, Tom Fleischman, Katie Stokien, and Zach Heinzerling provide some size with which to undertake that task, and it will be the first time The Cray's Nest has faced such a big front line. With only five on the opponent's active roster, Mark Lee shouldn't face much pressure at point guard. Offensively, Whitney Warren and Heinzerling are due to put together big games, and all the size should nullify Rasmussen and Tucker's prodigious rebounding ability. Last week, Ben Weitmarschen proved to be a legitimate offensive threat, and he'll ride that momentum into this week's game.
Why The Cray's Nest will win: They're undefeated for a reason, and that reason is rebounding. Lars Rasmussen has been a holy terror on the boards, and Vance Tucker is equally fearsome. This won't be the first time they've faced big men, and even though the overall team size of Dunk-a Schoen is more than they've seen, it shouldn't deter them from getting second chance opportunities, and denying them to the enemy. Jacob Craycroft adds an imposing physical presence to the lane, while Gene Walsh's deft shooting touch and quickness will pose a threat from the outside, even in the absence of Glickson and Ryan. Jane Rizzo's staunch perimeter defense will highlight an effective zone that won't have to worry about outside shooting. It's unlikely that Dunk-a Schoen will top their season average of 38 points per game tonight.
The Upshot: Will Dunk-a Schoen capitalize on the missing elements, or will Rasmussen and Tucker be enough to preserve an undefeated season?
The Favorite: The Cray's Nest (-3)