Read the full story on SportsLook - [ODDS and EVENS] Expect an Exciting, Drama-Filled B.League Season
Parity was a defining trait of the B.League during the 2022-23 season. But several outstanding teams set a standard of excellence that elevated the league throughout.
Ryukyu had finished the previous season as the championship runner-up, falling to the Utsunomiya Brex in the title series. That experience fueled the Golden Kings' singular focus during its march to the title in the 2022-23 campaign, with coach Dai Oketani's club winning 48 of 60 games before the playoffs.
At the same time, the Jets, who had a league-record 53-7 in the regular season, fell short of bringing a title to John Patrick in his first season at the helm.
To this observer, there's zero evidence that the Golden Kings and the Jets shouldn't be considered the B.League's powerhouse teams in the 2023-24 season. Both franchises are models of stability, with an active presence in signing veteran players to improve their rosters each offseason.
That said, the Alvark Tokyo (42-18), Kawasaki Brave Thunders (40-20), Shimane Susanoo Magic (48-12), Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (43-17) and Hiroshima Dragonflies (41-18) are poised to be in the mix for playoff berths once again. (Eight of 24 B.League first-division teams qualify for postseason play.)
When analyzing the makeup of the B.League, which features three divisions (aka B1, B2 and B3), a big focus must be on the strength of the West's top-four clubs. Consider the following: Of the seven B1 teams that won 40 or more games in 2022-23, four reside in the Western Conference ― Ryukyu, Shimane, Nagoya and Hiroshima.
Prediction: Yokohama B-Corsairs Continue Ascension
As for the aforementioned parity, 12 of 24 clubs finished in the 22-to-33-win range.
At the top of that list: the Yokohama B-Corsairs (33-27).
My prediction: The B-Corsairs will make a run at 40 wins this season. Rising star Yuki Kawamura flourished in the FIBA Basketball World Cup for Japan, gaining valuable international experience and bolstering his on-court confidence as a player. He'll be the biggest difference-maker for Yokohama.
Kawamura, the reigning B.League MVP, is only 22 years old. But his dynamic playmaking skills, bold forays to the basket along with a solid shooting touch are impactful. Competing for Akatsuki Japan in Okinawa gave Kawamura important one-on-one tests and opportunities to gain greater understanding of how to thrive against any opponent.
In 2021-22, the B-Corsairs went 22-35. Now, a winning foundation has been established.
Scott Has Big Ambitions for the B-Corsairs
Expect Yokohama to be one of the B.League's most compelling squads to follow this season. The addition of big man Josh Scott, a title winner with the Brex, gives the club a key inside anchor. A former University of Colorado player, Scott averaged 11.7 points and 10.0 rebounds for Utsunomiya last season.
"I am excited to be joining the Yokohama B-Corsairs organization," Scott said in a statement in June. "Together we have a chance to do great things. Looking forward to working with the organization, the staff and my teammates."
Plenty of Room for Improvement
In the 2022-23 campaign, the following teams also won between 22 and 33 games: Kyoto Hannaryz and Fighting Eagles Nagoya (identical 22-38 records), San-en NeoPhoenix and Ibaraki Robots (23-37), SeaHorses Mikawa and Osaka Evessa (27-33), Sunrockers Shibuya (28-32), Shinshu Brave Warriors (29-30), Gunma Crane Thunders and Akita Northern Happinets (29-31) and Utsunomiya Brex (32-28).
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Author: Ed Odeven