We're halfway through, and it's time to examine the state of the league. Let's take a tour of our six teams, in reverse power ranking order.
6. Dunk-a Schoen (1-4)
It might be difficult for the Dunk-a Schoen faithful to remember in these tough times, but they actually opened the season with a thrilling OT win over Team Fouls. Trailing 20-10 at the half, they regrouped during the intermission and found a way to prevail. Since then, their fortunes have changed for the worse. It's been four straight losses for the Schoeners, with the low point coming in a week 3 loss to the Cray's Nest, who were missing two of their top 3 scorers. They could only muster 27 points in that game, and on the season they're averaging a league-worst 36 points. They're also second-to-last in free throw percentage, and are 4th in defensive efficiency.
On a positive note, the recent acquisition of Kevin Felder has given them another scoring option. He's yet to take them over the hump, however, and certain chemistry issues remain unsolved. Besides Felder, who has only played two games, no player averages double figures. Ben Weitmarschen comes closest at 9.8 ppg, while Whitney Warren (8.8) and Zach Heinzerling (8.0) are not far behind. If they hope to reverse the negative trends, a good chance comes this week against Team Fouls, the only squad they defeated in the season's first half. Failure to right the ship will likely mean that the task of making the playoffs is too great. For the league's cellar dwellers, it's now or never.
5. Layup Line Heroes (2-3)
Amazingly, one of the Heroes' two wins came against Beast of Burden in week one. A brilliantly designed out-of-bounds play by Colby Hall gave them a 33-32 victory and an early start on the playoff rush. Since then, the fates of the two teams have been utterly divergent. While Beast of Burden has surged to third in the league, the Heroes have struggled, and currently maintain a tenuous hold on the 4th and final playoff position. Their second win came against Dunk-a Schoen, but a better estimate of their quality came against Team Fouls in week three, when an 11-point loss dropped them below .500. If they cannot avenge that loss in the season's second half, it's likely they'll fall out of the playoff race.
While their defense is second best in the league, allowing only 41 ppg, the offense has not done its part. Keith Gormley paces the Heroes with 16.2 ppg, while Colby Hall contributes 11.5. After these leaders, though, the drop-off is significant; no other player averages more than 4 points per game. As a team, the Heroes average only 36.6, a full 10 points lower than every team above them in the standings. This is compounded by the passive nature of their offense, which has earned only 52 strips to the charity stripe, second-worst in the league. Once there, the struggle continues; they are the only team under 50% from the line. The Heroes have always lacked diversity, and if that issue remains unresolved, the season's second half could be long. It will take a stunning victory to keep them in 4th place, and something approaching a miracle to raise them to the level of the league's elite.
4. Team Fouls (1-4)
Despite having one fewer win than the Heroes, Team Fouls has shown evidence of real class in the past three weeks. Starting with their lone win against LLH, continuing with a valiant effort in a losing cause to the Hospital Bombers, and culminating in last week's heartbreaker against The Cray's Nest, they've demonstrated the wherewithal to compete against the league's best. The importance of this week's clash against Dunk-a Schoen cannot be underestimated; in order to have a chance at the playoffs, they need to stay within a game of the Heroes, and winning against the league's other 1-4 team is an absolute must.
Team Fouls sits at the middle of the pack in scoring, with 41 ppg, but over 40% of this total comes from the long ball. Andrew Weiner leads the aerial attack with a league-leading 16 3s. His 15-point average is complemented by Zach Smith and Kyle Ervin, who contribute 9 apiece. Their glaring weakness, though, is the interior. They seem to have no interest in the attacking game, earning only 24 foul shot attempts on the year, fewer than half the total of any other team. This retreating style is reflected on defense, as well, where they concede a league worst 45.8 ppg. And while two more wins may be good enough to earn the 4th and final playoff spot, they'll need to establish an inside presence if they hope for anything more than a one-and-done postseason experience.
Part Two coming later today...