Canterbury Rams (13-5) v James Blond Supercity Rangers (9-9)
When: Friday, June 3rd, 6pm Tip off
Stream: NZ Herald
Referees: Dallas Pickering, Melony Wealleans, Yalla Edwards
The Rams return to the playoffs for the first time since re-joining the league in 2014. The last time the franchise made the playoffs was in 2002 where they lost to the Waikato Titans (coached by Jeff Green) 91-81 in the semi-final.
Since returning into the league, the Rams have improved each season, winning the regular season for the first time since 1993. Hopefully this years side can do one better than the 1993 team that lost to the Hutt Valley Lakers (coached by Jeff Green) 68-66 in the Grand Final.
Canterbury have a successful post season history with four titles (1986, 89, 90, 92) and a 60% winning percentage (15-10).
The Rangers return to the semi-finals for the second straight season under Head Coach Jeff Green, who will have another chance to win his fifth NBL title.
This will be the first post season for coach Mark Dickel, who has a 22-14 record since taking over the Rams the season before.
Despite finishing with a 9-9 record, the Rams can ill afford to under estimate a Rangers roster that have combined to win 21 NBL titles featuring proven winners such as Lindsay Tait, Corey Webster, Mika Vukona, Eric Devendorf and Dillon Boucher.
Gareth Dawson is the lone Ram to win a title, but one player who does have playoff experience is McKenzie Moore who took the Giants to the semis last year. This season Moore led the league in assists and steals, and since joining the Rams, they have gone 10-2.
The Rangers are loaded with offensive talent with the league leading scorer Eric Devendorf (25.8) and Corey Webster (23.0) who are first and third respectively in scoring. Overall the Rangers lead the league in scoring at nearly 96 points per game. The Rangers have done the majority of their scoring through isolation as they currently are second to last in assists (15.6)
The major issue has been defence, allowing second to most points (97.5), allowing opposition teams to shoot nearly 50%. from the field. Perimeter defence will be crucial for 9-9 Rangers who allow teams to shoot a league high 37.7% from three.
Rams are the third best scoring team in the league and are second in assists (17.1), but the one issue for them has been free throw shooting, currently the worst in the league (64.5%), In a close playoff game they can ill afford to miss free throws down the stretch
Both teams have a talented roster, but obviously McKenzie Moore is the key to the Rams success, as he assists for nearly half of the Rams buckets, to go along with his 21.3 points.
2014 MVP, Corey Webster found his scoring touch in Invercargill last week, and he scored 37 against the Rams in the last meeting.
Wellington Saints (13-5) v SIT Zerofees Sharks (11-7)
When: Friday, June 3rd, 8pm Tip off
Stream: NZ Herald
Referees: Tim Brown, Sean Cronin, Matt Bathurst
It is going to be a rematch of last year’s Grand-Final, but this time it will be the defending champion Sharks hosting the Wellington Saints.
Both teams have combined to win five of the last six titles (Saints 3, Sharks 2), the Sharks winning two of the last three. The only other team to win the title since then was the now defunct Auckland Pirates, who was coached by the Sharks Judd Flavell.
Flavell will go head to head with the Sharks most successful player Kevin Braswell, who after retiring last season has began his new career as a head coach for the eight time champion Saints. Joining Braswell were key Shark players from last season, Tai Wesley and Shea Ili.
The Wellington Saints return to the semi-finals for the ninth straight time which is the longest in NBL history.
Southland have played the Saints twice in the playoffs, both ending in wins which led to championships (2013 & 2015).
In the last couple of seasons the Sharks have had the better of the Saints, winning five of the last seven meetings. Overall the Saints have won 10 compared to the Sharks eight.
Southland have been dominant at home, with a win-loss record of 28-7 since 2013.
Both teams have been solid defensively, Saints allowing the second to least points (81.2) and the Sharks 3rd (86.3). In last year's grand final, the score was 72-68, so expect another low scoring affair.
The Sharks record at home has been very good against the Saints, winning both times this season, and the last three overall.
Last year's MVP, Torrey Craig, will get a chance to play at full health after playing limited minutes in last years playoffs due to a knee injury. Despite being a guard, Craig finished third in the league in rebounding.
Craig has struggled in the three games against the Sharks this season, shooting a combined 22/62 from the field (35%).
The league leader in rebounding is Sharks centre Alex Pledger,is averaging 11.4 per game, and at home against the Saints has tallied 18 points, 18 rebounds in the first meeting, and 20 points, 10 rebounds a couple of weeks ago.
2016 SIT Final Four Media Guide.pdf (416 KB)