The Quarter-Final match (or, the qualifier for the Semi-Finals vs. London) will feature the Saint John Mill Rats vs. the Moncton Miracles.
The series will feature two clubs who played each other eight times during the regular season, and are within a one and a half hour drive from each other geographically.
What does this translate into? Just maybe one of the highest attendance records for the playoffs. The rivalry between the two clubs, their fans, their geographical locations . . . if it wasn’t for the Confederation Bridge, I might just make it over for a game or two.
I’m going to break down the series in a number of categories and give the nod to one team who has the lead in that particular category.
HEAD TO HEAD SERIES
The Mill Rats dominated the regular season series against the Miracles, sporting a 6-2 win/loss record. The following are the game point spreads:
This results in a 66 point spread in favour of Saint John with an average 8.3 points per game margin. Of interest, however, Moncton is .500 (2-2) vs. Saint John in the Coliseum, and the teams have not played since January 30th.
In this category, Saint John would get the nod.
LAST 10 GAMES
Another important factor is how “hot” the team has been recently. Saint John are .500 in their last 10 games (5-5), trading off wins and losses consistently (no more than two wins or losses in a row); likewise, Moncton are .500 in their last 10 games. The difference is that Moncton ended their regular season on a 5-game winning streak. Unfortunately, the fork in the road for the Miracles is they have not played a game since March 3rd; in other words, their hot streak to end the season has likely turned to, at best, lukewarm.
So, in this category, it is a draw.
GAMES THAT MATTER DOWN THE STRETCH
A third category is how have these teams played when their lives were on the line. Let’s begin with Moncton. Moncton ended their season two weeks before the other teams; so, they just knew they had to win. And, win they did. They won their final 5 games against two teams that are in the playoffs (Summerside and Windsor) and then contributing to two other teams playoff chances being dashed (Oshawa and Halifax) significantly illustrates the potential of this team when their back is against the wall.
Saint John, on the other hand, in one of their most important games this year, lost to Windsor Express in the “who will finish third place overall” in the League game. Of interest, is Saint John’s gladiator fight when down by what seems to be unimaginable odds with spreads of 20 points or more.
That being said, I’ll have to give the edge to Moncton is being able to finish games that matter down the stretch.
OVERALL OFFENSE AND DEFENCE
Saint John have averaged more points per game than Moncton; however, Moncton have allowed less points on the defensive end than Saint John. Specifically, the Mill Rats were ranked third in the League in Offense (104.00 points per game) and Moncton sixth (100.98 points per game).
On the defensive side, the scales are reversed: Moncton are ranked third in the League, allowing under 100 points per game (99.50) while Saint John are ranked sixth, giving up an average of 104.50 per game.
In the end, Moncton comes out on top on scoring margin (difference between offensive points for minus defensive points against) with a 1.48 point margin compared to Saint John’s -0.50 point margin.
SPECIALTY ITEM: 3 POINT SHOOTING % & DEFENDING %
What has the potential to be a turning point is 3 Point Defending: Saint John are ranked last in the League in defending against the momentum changing three-pointer; Moncton, on the other hand, are third in defending beyond the arc. However, Moncton’s advantage in defending against the three may be overshadowed by Saint John’s second place rank in League in successfully hitting the three pointer. Moncton are sixth in three point offense percentage.
Of interest, this series brings head-to-head the two top three point shooters (based on total 3 pt made) in the League: Devin Sweetney (1st) and Jerice Crouch (2nd).
In this category, we’ll say it is a tie.
SPECIALTY ITEM: REBOUNDING
Moncton Miracles are the League leading defensive rebounding team, averaging 41.4 rebs per game and fourth in offensive rebounding with 13.9 per game. On the other hand, the Mill Rats are ranked fourth in defensive rebounding with 35.9 per game and seventh in offensive rebounds with 12.5 per game.
In case you missed it, Moncton has a clear statistical advantage on rebounding. In what could be a game changer, we have the best defensive rebounding team in the League (Moncton) playing against the worse offensive rebounding team in the League (Saint John). . . Oh to be a fly on Moncton’s defensive boards this series. Calling for a Net Cam feed for sure.
SPECIALTY ITEM: TURNOVERS
Turnovers, as always, can play an important role in any series; however, in this series, it is even more a telltale sign: Saint John don’t turn the ball over very often. In fact, Saint John are ranked #2 in the League in Turnover Margin; on the other hand, Moncton has struggled with turnovers during the season, as evident with their seventh place rank in Turnover Margin. Moncton will need to hang onto that marble a little more to advance.
SPECIALTY ITEM: AT THE LINE
Both teams have struggled from being consistent at shooting from the charity stripe this year. Saint John are ranked sixth in Free Throw Pct in the League while Moncton are ranked seventh.
I think most people are expecting a close scoring series; therefore, the team that is able to improve their free throw percentages, just may be the team that walks away with the series victory and named the Top Professional Basketball Team in New Brunswick.
- GAME-READY: Moncton has not played a game in two weeks and Saint John have “fresh” game legs following their battle for third place overall;
- HEAD – TO – HEAD: Saint John win regular season (6-2) with a + 8.3 points per game margin against Moncton;
- AT MONCTON: The series is kicked off in the Moncton Coliseum where Moncton is .500 (2-2) vs. Saint John this season;
- AT SAINT JOHN: Moncton has not won a game in Harbour Station all year, going 0-4. They will need to win at least one game to advance;
- LAST 10 GAMES: Both teams .500 with a 5-5 record;
- TURNOVERS: Moncton has struggled all season with turnovers (7th) while Saint John 2nd best in the League in Turnover Ratio;
- DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING: Best defensive rebounding team in the League (Moncton) playing against the worse offensive rebounding team in the League (Saint John).
- TOP 3 PT SHOOTERS: Series brings head-to-head the two top three point shooters (based on total 3 pt made) in the League: Devin Sweetney (1st) and Jerice Crouch (2nd).
- FREE THROW SHOOTING: Both teams have struggled to be consistent from the line this year. The team that is able to improve their free throw conversion just may be the team that wins the series.
- SWEETNEY ATTACK: The key to the series will be how Saint John matches up against Devin Sweetney. Sweetney has played in all 40 games this year for the Miracles and leads the League in points, averaging 25 points per game. In his last game, he had 56 points.
I hope you have enjoyed this series summary. My goal was to write the summary in a format that is easy-to-understand so that even a casual basketball fan could relate to. I hope to provide a similar summary for all the series in the NBLC playoffs.