Canterbury Rams (1-1) v Wellington Saints (1-0) (Live Stream via NZ Herald) When: Thursday, March 23, 7pm Where: Cowles Stadium, Christchurch Referees: Matt Bathurst, Gavin Zimmerman, Elliot Duncan
Notes: The Canterbury Rams play their first home game of the season against the Wellington Saints who they defeated two out of three games last season including the last time at Cowles 90-85. Canterbury will hopefully have shooting guard Ethan Rusbatch back in the lineup after missing last week with an ankle injury. Rusbatch averaged 14.5 points last season, and will form a potent shooting line up with American Jeremy Kendle who averaged 35 points, shooting 42.1% from three in his first two games. Arguably the match ups between the back courts will play a huge role as Kendle and Rusbatch will face Tall Black duo of Shea Ili and Corey Webster. Webster scored 29 in his first game of the season while Ili tallied 13 points, five assists and two steals. Last seasons forward of the year Marcel Jones has started his season averaging 27.5 points and nine rebounds in his first two games. Jones will go up against 2015 forward of the year Tai Wesley who had 17 points on 8-10 shooting against the Hawks.
Taranaki Mountainairs (1-0) v James Blond Supercity Rangers (1-0) When: Friday, March 24, 7pm Where: TSB Stadium, New Plymouth Referees: Melony Wealleans, Marty Davison, Sam Pan Notes: Taranaki return home after a convincing win over the Giants, while the Rangers are coming off a solid win over the Rams. Although Taranaki missed out on the semi finals last season they performed well against last seasons runners up, winning two of three. The Rangers did win in their last meeting in New Plymouth 84-79, Lindsay Tait scored 22 points. Taranaki forward Tylor Ongwae made an impressive debut with 28 points, six rebounds and four steals. Ongwae will have a size advantage over Rangers import Mitch McCarran who also had a great start with 28 points. Last season Taranaki finished 8-10, but only three of those wins came at home, which they will need to improve on if they wish to makes the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
SIT Zerofees Sharks (1-0) v Wellington Saints (1-0) When: Friday, March 24, 7pm Where: ILT Stadium, Invercargill Referees: Sean Cronin, Eilliot Duncan, Jacob Comb Notes: Southland will host the Saints in a rematch of last seasons semi-final loss. Southland has had the upper hand at home against Wellington winning four of the last five. Important match up will be between the respective frontcourts, Alex Pledger and Nick Kay for the Sharks against Tai Wesley and Josh Duinker for the Saints. Sharks also have depth in the forwards with Duane Bailey and James Hunter. Hunter made an instant impact on debut for the Sharks with a doubledouble of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Wellington on the other hand will be short handed with key forward Benny Anthony is still nursing a back injury. Returning Shark Reuben Te Rangi was solid in their blowout win over the Giants with 17 points. Te Rangi will be looking to bounce back from last season where he averaged 10.4 points, his lowest output since his rookie season.
Mike Pero Nelson Giants (0-2) v Canterbury Rams (1-1) When: Saturday, March 25, 7pm Where: Trafalgar Centre, Nelson Referees: Dallas Pickering, Sam Pan, Tayla Ammunson Notes: The Giants had a weekend to forget losing both games by an average margin of 28 points, but they will host the Rams who are coming off a Thursday game. Nelson will need to improve on the offensive end averaging 67 points, 34% of which is coming from Finn Delany. Delany will go up against Marcel Jones who both can stretch the floor and mix it up on the inside. Giants should get more production from guard Dion Prewster who had only two points in both games. Prewster averaged 12.4 points last season, including a 40 point performance against the Hawks. Nelson import point guard, Joseph Slocum will look to bounce back after averaging only 3.5 points last weekend. Slocum will have the tough task of facing the league leading scorer Jeremy Kendell who is averaging 35. Offence was not an issue for last year’s regular season champions, averaging 103 points, but coach Mark Dickel will want a better defensive effort after allowing 101 points on average in the two road games Taylor Hawks (0-2) v Taranaki Mountainairs (1-0) When: Sunday, March 26, 7pm Where: Pettigrew Green Arena, Taradale Referees: Melony Welleans, Jason McCabe, Rhys Hamilton
Notes: The Hawks losing streak is at 22, but after nearly ending it in the tough overtime loss to the Rams last week, they have another good chance against Taranaki when they add point guard Jarrod Kenny to the roster. Kenny and Everard Bartlett give the Hawks and experienced back court that has had playoff success with the Hawks team taking them to the playoffs multiple times including the 2015 squad that finished runners up. Taranaki shooting guard Alonzo Burton will face his former side of four seasons for the first time. Burton made a good start to the season with 14 points converting on 4/6 from three. Taranaki has won the last three meetings, but the Hawks previously dominated them winning 13 of the last 14.