Ready or not, here come the playoffs. The Kenya Basketball Federation Premier League playoffs are set to commence on the 22nd of January. As battle lines are being drawn, Th3 Doctor’s Report has decided to dig deeper into the teams and players looking to clinch the holy grail.
We will discuss matchups in both the Men’s and Women’s Premier League looking at their personnel and regular season performances to establish how well they will perform in the postseason. These are the matchups that everyone should be excited about.
4: Thunder VS Blades
Thunder will be far more menacing if it has Griffin Ligare playing at his usual Allstar level and with the help from his supporting cast. Losing Tony Mwendwa to injury is devastating for the Shauri Moyo-based Nairobi City Thunder, which reduces their chances of even making into the second round. We cannot sleep on Ligare as he has proven over and over again that he is a real competitor. He might just pull off an upset and storm into the semifinals, which might be as far as they go this season, with all due respect. All hopes for Thunder will be on Griffin Ligare’s shoulders and how far he is willing to carry them. Blades on the other hand are coming into this matchup with a better personnel, better backcourt and a better front court. This match up will boil down to execution for the Madaraka side, their depth and how well they will keep Griffin away from that rim. Blades will rely on the experience of its old boys to offer leadership to win this matchup. The young core of Dennis Koja and Ken Dwallo will be the players to watch in this mouth watering clash.
3: Equity VS UON Terror
Who knows how Equity Dumas will perform, they have never had a deep playoff run. Could this be the year we have been waiting for? The Bankers have never been past the first round since they debuted in the top flight league despite having enormous talent in their corner. Their defense is solid when Victor Ochieng leads the way but it shows cracks when lacking a formidable rim protector. However Dumas might just play small ball and outrun their opponents. Their bigs are undersized but can have a decent shooting game. They are quick on their feet and this can be used to their advantage. Kevin Chogo and Kelvin Kigotho are versatile enough to beat any big off the dribble and finish at the rim due to their explosiveness. Faheem Juma is a gem that can be used as a big or a bigger guard. All these can be effected by their tactical team to ensure they get to have an offense that works for them and can cover for their troubles defensively. Equity Dumas can make the finals. UON Terror have a young core that can terrorise if left to operate on an open floor. They have proven to be a really good rebounding team and they also have reliable shooters who can light up on any given day. Returning to the playoffs platform they might be a little inexperienced but don’t forget they are well coached and might have answers for the Dumas’ tactics.
Let’s see how well they handle the bankers.
2: KPA VS Eldonets Platinum
This series might just not happen because the Eldonets are protesting the seeding, but that will be a matter for another day.
The Dockers at full strength are built to make life hell for the Warriors. The KPA team is built to counter Ulinzi Warriors’ strengths and their ultimate goal this season is to dethrone Ulinzi and reclaim their championship. A KPA team that’s at its absolute best will offer a lineup with Nick Ogol, Brian Shivachi and Martin Kitong’o or Frank Omondi who has the height they need to get that rim protection in the middle. These bigs give KPA great depth in their front court which they really need if they want to win. The real headache, is how Coach Sammy Kiki and Mike Opel will ensure these players fit in the rotation. KPA has a young core than can play with pace. Wijas John and Job Byron give KPA great energy anytime they are on the floor. The backcourt troubles seem to be going away for KPA. This has been their thorn in the flesh but Lennox Wanje and Tobias Philip have brought some young legs at the point guard position and that gives KPA ball security especially at crucial junctures of the game. However, KPA will need to adjust their defensive pressure and rotations to be able to exploit their biggest challengers in the 2021/2022 championship race. A KPA vs Ulinzi Finals is what fans want, it has all that juice.
Eldonets will look to steal a game in Mombasa if they want to survive in this matchup. They are known to play agressive basketball and KPA should be aware that Eldonets will apply lots of pressure on the boards and on their guards. Eldonets are not new to playoffs basketball they made the playoffs last season and stole a game. There isn’t much to say. Players to watch from the Eldoret based squad are, Tyson Ongwae who is a seasoned shooter, Kevin Oyugi and Jeremiah Aliva. KPA playing at home are more lethal compared to Eldonets and are highly favored to bag the required wins, but Eldonets are also a highly motivated team when playing in Eldoret. Who will utilize their homecourt ? It might just be a sweet sweep for the dockers.
1: Ulinzi Warriors VS Kisumu Lakeside
The Warriors huge advantage is the personnel that can match up well against the top tier teams. Their guards can defend and score at the same time. Victor Bosire is a defensive freak and Joseph Khaemba brings in that pace they need offensively. Adding Eric Mutoro and Tiberius Menya into the mix gives Ulinzi a massive depth in their backcourt rotation. We cannot forget their bigs who can easily keep any big in the league away from the basket at all times with their physicality and experience. William Ochieng, Byron Mabonga and Vincent Juma have enough length to offer rim protection. With all that firepower, it’s easy to envision Ulinzi generating enough offense to win the league whether they play slow or at a much faster pace. They’re just too deep for the rest of the league. If they stay healthy and tactically sane they can go punch-for-punch with all the teams in the league and they might just win it all. Ulinzi is our pick to win it all.
Lakeside is one of the most organized teams in the league. They came into the new season with a new sponsorship deal with Safarilink. Its hard to win in Kisumu, that’s no secret. Playing there is not easy especially during postseason. Kisumu Lakeside is a threat to just any team.
However, they face the champions and that is a different animal. They beat ulinzi in game 1 of last season’s playoffs in the first round but lost game 2 and 3 and got eliminated. Will that magic happen this year? The players to watch are Cillah Derrick, a formidable guard who handles the ball with confidence and can shoot lights out any given day and Trevor Gari, who is solid on that back court. Still, we cannot forget that they also fall short in the big men category who can rebound and protect that rim. With the depth we have seen in Ulinzi and KPA going past the first round for Lakeside will be an achievement and a job well done