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Monday, 22 September 2008

NBL : Round 2 : Busy Dragons to take on Crocs

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Round One of NBL action is over and the South Dragons have been busy little ballers. The only team to play three games in the first week of the season, Brian Goorjian's troops managed to come out with two wins -- both of them against the reloaded Perth Wildcats, who are smarting after the loss of captain Paul Rogers for more weeks than first thought.

Goorjian even managed to rack up his 700th career win at Challenge Stadium, after rallying his troops from a season-opening loss to the Cairns Taipans up north. Swingman Joe Ingles appears to have returned strongly from his Olympic campaign and new additions Mark Worthington, Adam Gibson and Mika Vukona have been absorbed into the side well. Imports Cortez Groves and Tremmell Darden look like they have an easy squad to work with where they won't have to shoulder the full load every night.

John Rillie's Townsville Crocodiles have recovered from their tough loss to the Adelaide 36ers and are ready to take on the Dragons in Melbourne on Thursday. The 36ers are stacked (like many teams this season) and may surprise many observers in 2008/09 (including the Stern Predictions made this preseason on this site), so the Crocs' loss to them should not be a major disappointment. It must be remembered that Townsville is in an adjustment process after a few injuries rocked their preseason preparation, along with the addition of key piece Russell Hinder and almost-addition of Rosell Ellis. In short, the Crocs are a team to be feared -- there won't be many nights this season where JR let's the opposition off that lightly.

Meanwhile Wednesday night sees the 36ers host the Sydney Spirit. This match could be a complete demolition job by the boys from South Australia if they play the same way they did versus Townsville. With Brett Maher knocking them down from all over, Aaron Bruce running the point, Mark Tyndale doing his best Julius Hodge impression and Luke Schenscher and Adam Ballinger filling up the paint, it will be tough for the Spirit to walk away with anything better than a 10 point loss. The Spirit will however get a chance for revenge if they do fall to the Sixers, with a return gig on Saturday, albeit in Canberra at the AIS, as they try to spread the NBL love back in the nation's capital.

In one of many very entertaining games this round, the New Zealand Breakers will host the Melbourne Tigers at the NSEC. This will be a very good test for the Tigers to see how strong their title credentials are. NZ are over-brimming with offensive talent, particularly from the perimeter, as CJ Bruton and Kirk Penney absolutely destroy teams on three balls. Rick Rickert will be a handful for Chris Anstey inside. But the real measure of the Breakers will be their interior D, as there isn't much going on inside apart from Rickert. Anstey, Rod Grizzard and Sam Mackinnon may well test that aspect of the NZers.

Friday night sees Shane Heal lead his Blaze boys over to Perth, where both teams try to rack up win number one for the season, as both squads find themselves at 0-2. It will be a struggle for the Blaze, as the Wildcats certainly know how to throw a party in WA and have the firepower to scare any team in this league. Meanwhile James Harvey is returning from injury and Luke Whitehead is still somewhat of a question mark.

Home cooking is always sweet. That is what the Crocs will be serving up on Saturday as they welcome the Cairns Taipans to the Swamp. Don't expect any niceties from JR, Homicide and the crew as they take on the 2-0 Taipans. Cattalini, Black and co have been firing well so far, but they will need to have rested well in their week-long break for this QLD matchup.

Round 2 Matchups and Stern Predictions

36ers v Spirit : 36ers by 11

Breakers v Tigers : Tigers by 3

Dragons v Crocodiles : Dragons by 2

Wildcats v Blaze : Wildcats by 13

Spirit v 36ers : 36ers by 1

Crocodiles v Taipans : Crocs by 6

Review of Round 1 Stern Predictions

Here are the results of Round 1, with my predicted winner with the margin in brackets, followed by the actual result in bold:

Taipans v Dragons (1) : Taipans by 6

Spirit v Tigers (12) : Tigers by 10

Dragons (4) v Wildcats : Dragons by 16

Breakers (10) v Hawks : Breakers by 21

36ers v Crocs (3) : 36ers by 27

Blaze v Taipans (11) : Taipans by 10

Wildcats (4) v Dragons : Dragons by 4

Tigers v Blaze* : Tigers by 16
Hawks v Spirit* : Hawks by 12
* No Stern Predictions were made for these games

Total Record to date: 4-3

Not doing as well as might be hoped so far -- I'm sternly warning myself as you read this!

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