2017 Drew League Playoffs Roundtable

DrewLeague.com went 5-on-5 on the 2017 Drew League playoffs and how they feel the final games of the summer will play out:

What team surprised you most by making the playoffs?

Trinity Elliott (@trineezus): I was definitely surprised by the Jaguars making the playoffs. Despite playing great defense and being a really sound team, they have little to no star power. Most teams have a pro player or a guy who plays overseas, but they’ve been able to get into the playoffs without those factors; simply with hard work and grit.

Christian Gonzales (@ChrisG_Sports): The team that surprised me the most were the Jaguars. They started the Drew League 3-0, then that turned around and suddenly they lost seven straight games. The Jaguars went on to win the last two games – that ultimately sneaked them into the playoffs this year. I will be surprised if they win on Saturday against the #1 seed Birdie’s Revenge.

Lauren Jones (@LoJoMedia): The Clozers surprised me the most in making the playoffs as the youngest team this year after struggling throughout the regular season. Perhaps a bit self-indulgent, but I’m happy to see fellow Trojans squeak out a few close games to make it to the playoffs.

Otha Nevels (@ThaRealO): Bull Dogs, without a doubt. Don’t get me wrong, Big 50 (Tyrone Riley) and those brothers right out of the back door have heart, but heart doesn’t always win. James “Moochie” Wright has been elite for a long time. Shoutout to Manual.

Aaron Williams (@AaronSmarter): NWA. They squeaked in by the grace of the Basketball Gods and Redemption sputtering out toward the end of the season. They had chemistry problems all throughout the season, and lost some truly winnable games because of it. I don’t know if I’m more impressed or offended, but I am happy for Coach Roland Jones, Mark Dawson, and Taylor Statham; they’ve been through a lot to get here.

What team surprised you most by missing the playoffs?

Elliott: I thought Redemption would make the playoffs. Keion Kindred is a great coach and the roster was stacked with talent, but they weren’t able to get things done come crunch time. It’s really upsetting because I was super excited to see Chuck Garcia take over a game in the playoffs, but I guess we’ll have to wait until next season.

Gonzales: It had to be the Pandas this year. It seemed they would have locked in a playoff spot having Metta World Peace for almost the whole season. Unfortunately, after inconsistent play at the end of the season, we didn’t see them in the playoffs this year. The positives from this season are the development of Ron Artest III, who showed some explosiveness in his game from a year ago.

Jones: Redemption, a team coached by one of the most talented coaches in the Drew and comprised of dedicated, talented players, really surprised me by missing the playoffs. The tandem of Chuck Garcia and Kerry Carter alone proved to be pure entertainment for Drew fans this season. It is kind of a disappointment that we will not get to see them on the bigger stage.

Nevels: Ascension. Too much talent.

Williams: Pandas. The last two seasons, Pandas have been a borderline playoff team, and this year looked like the year they’d finally put it together. Also, after the stars aligned for them last year, I was beginning to think they had been charmed by fate. Plus, Metta played almost the full year, unlike previous years, so they looked like a lock early on.

What divisional quarterfinal game is the most intriguing?

Elliott: I have my eye on the #1 Citi Team Blazers and the #8 NWA game. The Blazers only lost two games, but a good chunk of their games were really close, especially thinking back to when they almost blew a game to Ascension because they were checked out in the first half. I think NWA will really surprise a lot of people in the first round.

Gonzales: It has to be #2 Hank’s Panthers and #7 M.H.P. The Panthers have played together this whole season while M.H.P. has brought in stars to help their record. It’s definitely going to be an offensive game with M.H.P., as they usually don’t ever play defense. This is definitely the game of the weekend.

Jones: I’d say #4 BB4L vs. #5 LA LOOP. Loop has been one of my favorite teams to watch this season, and BB4L has once more proven to be one of the toughest teams to match up against.

Nevels: #1 Citi Team Blazers vs #8 NWA features two great coaches, which should lead to quite the chess match.

Williams: For me, it’s #1 Citi Team Blazers/#8 NWA. Blazers, despite coming to rest at the top of the standings, has looked extremely mortal this season, and it’s taken supernova performances from “Action” Kenny Jackson and Kyle Gibson to drag them out of those particular crises. Relying on hero ball in the playoffs is dancing on the razor’s edge though; eventually, the supernova turns into a black hole.

Who makes it to the Division Championships (the last four teams standing)?

Elliott: #2 Houdini’s Problems (I like how poised they are when they step onto the court), #1 Birdie’s Revenge (I love to hate Birdie’s Revenge. They’re like the Drew League Monstars), #5 Home Town Favorites (I really hope they show out this postseason for Chris “Ghetto Bird” Young), #7 M.H.P. (I have a really strong USC bias, so a team stacked with three USC guys has my heart).

Gonzales: I have to pick #1 Birdie’s Revenge and #2 Houdini’s Problems in the Salvatori Division, #5 Home Town Favorites and #3 LAUNFD in the Walzer Division. Obviously, Birdie’s Revenge is undefeated this year and they don’t appear to be slowing down. But Houdini’s Problems may cause some problems (pun intended) in the matchup as it was a close one when these two teams faced each other back in Week 9, 58-56, favoring Birdie’s Revenge. LAUNFD is my favorite to advance over the Home Town Favorites with their core squad.

Jones: #3 LAUNFD, #1 Citi Team Blazers, #1 Birdie’s Revenge, #2 Houdini’s Problems.

Nevels: #5 Home Town Favorites, #3 LAUNFD, #2 Houdini’s Problems, #4 BB4L. Side note: The Divisional Semifinals could be the most exciting round of the p-offs with potential matchups of #1 Birdie’s Revenge vs BB4L and LAU vs #7 M.H.P.

Williams: Last season, I tried to be tricky with it. This season, I’m going with the obvious picks: #4 BB4L and #2 Houdini’s Problems in Salvatori, #3 LAUNFD and #1 Citi Team Blazers in Walzer. BB4L and LAU are completely stacked, #1 Birdie’s Revenge has been undefeated so far, and I just can’t see #2 Hank’s Panthers beating LAU without a minor miracle. I’m sure I’m going to hear it from Birdie’s Revenge on Friday night, but despite (The Game) Jayceon’s confidence and newfound defensive drive, I don’t think they can match up with BB4L’s size.

The 2017 Drew League Championship will be won by _ vs. _.

Elliott: Houdini’s Problems over Home Town Favorites.

Gonzales: I’m going with my gut feeling on this one and have to say that it will be won by Birdie’s Revenge vs. LAUNFD in the Finale. It seems like it’s meant to be for Birdie’s Revenge and their team this year. They have MVP-candidate Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, who has been putting up highlights week after week this year. The talent and size from Birdie’s Revenge will be too much to handle in the championship game for LAUNFD.

Jones: The ‘ship will come down to Birdie’s Revenge and LAUNFD. I simply cannot bet against Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, especially after he went off for 28 points off the bench in the Drew All-Star game. My opinion was decided when Birdie’s knocked off Houdini’s Problems in the greatest matchup of the regular season.

Nevels: I think we’ll see a rematch from last year’s playoffs: LAU vs BB4L, which to me determined the championship. The Drew 2017 championship will be won by LAU. Two out of three isn’t bad.

Williams: BB4L over LAUNFD. Again, going with the super stacked teams. Franklin Session’s fam and friends will probably flay me alive for this, but in their last matchup, Birdie’s faced off with a BB4L team missing its pros. Likewise, #4 New Edition has snuck up on some teams, but the size LAU is running out with is an advantage I just can’t ignore. Everybody feel free to yell at me next Sunday if I’m wrong — y’all do anyway! LOL.