Just two weeks remain in the 2017 NBL Regular Season. Here's what we know ... and what we don't.
We know the Wellington Saints have run-away with the regular season and are now just two wins away from an historic undefeated run into the Final 4 in Tauranga.
We know the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks, James Blond Supercity Rangers and Canterbury Rams will join them there on 15 and 16 June.
But, with just one win separating those three teams heading into this weekend's penultimate round of games, it looks as though we will need all of the next two weeks to work out who will finish where and, as a consequence, what the semi-final match-ups.
Currently the Sharks have a 9/6 record with 18 points (and three games to play), Rangers have a 8/6 record with 16 points (and four games to play) and Rams have 8/7 record with 16 points (and three games to play.)
Where things become a little less straight-forward is if teams are tied on points or potentially, all three of those teams are tied. That being the case, get the abacus out!
The full NBL rules relating to the classification of teams in the event of a tie are noted below, but the short story is:
1. With two or more teams tied, finishing order is determined on the win loss record between the tied teams. That's easy if it's two teams tied, it's a straight head-to-head, but if three teams are tied it becomes a three-team points calculation from the nine games they will have played each other over the regular season.
2. If that can't split some or all three of the tied teams, then the next determination comes down to points differential in the games the tied teams have played.
3. If some or all three still can't be separated, the next criteria is points differential from all matches against all opponents during the regular season.
4. And in the highly unlikely event that teams are still locked together, they will need to either play a playoff game (with venue decided by coin toss), mutually agree who finishes where or complete a coin toss to decide.
While an extra game at the Shark Tank would be outstanding, I suspect it might be a little more trouble than it's worth! Right Judd?
So now we know the rules we are playing under, here's what each team has left:
SIT ZERO FEES SOUTHLAND SHARKS - Three to play. This Friday against the Mountainairs in Invercargill, Monday night (note this game is a 7pm tip now instead of 3pm) against the Rangers at Trusts Arena in Auckland and the final match of the regular season on Sunday 11 June against the Hawks in Invercargill.
JAMES BLOND SUPERCITY RANGERS - Four to play, including three in five days this long weekend. This Thursday night at home against Hawks, Sunday afternoon in Nelson against Giants, Monday's home game against the Sharks and finishing with home to the Rams on Saturday 10 June.
CANTERBURY RAMS - Three to play. Home to the Mountainairs on Saturday night, home for the Giants on Thursday 8 June and then away to the Rangers on Saturday 10 June.
Obviously the key games are Sharks at Rangers on Queens Birthday Monday and Rams at Rangers on Saturday June 10 - interestingly scheduled as a 3pm game.
Hypothetically if the Sharks win two of their remaining games, the Rangers win three and the Rams win three, all three teams could be locked together on 11 wins. Not beyond the realms of possibility if the teams beat who they should and the Rangers beat the Sharks and Rams beat the Rangers. YIKES! Extra play-off game here we come (kidding ... kind of).
So, what is the head-to-head situation between the three teams? Glad you asked, because this is where it gets really interesting.
The Sharks are 3-2 made up of a 2-1 record over the Rams and 1-1 with the Rangers.
The Rangers are 2-2 with 1-1 records against both the Sharks and Rams.
The Rams are 2-3 with a 1-2 record with the Sharks and 1-1 with the Rangers.
You know where this is heading, right? Taking the hypothetical situation we mentioned earlier, it is conceivable the three teams could finish 3-3 against each other.
OK, then what about the points differential in games between the three teams?
The Sharks are -3 with the Rangers and +17 with the Rams for a combined +14 with that one game with Rangers left.
The Rangers have a +3 with the Sharks and a +5 with the Rams for a combined +8 with a game against each still to come.
The Rams have a -17 with the Sharks and a -5 with Rangers for a combined -22 with one game left against Rangers.
Again, not a lot in it. To complete the job, should the third step be needed to split the teams, Sharks have an overall differential +81, Rangers are -2 and Rams are +29.
It's a really long-winded way of saying ... let's see how it plays out!
The best news is, even after dropping the last three games, the Sharks remain in control of their own destiny. Win out over these three games and they finish second and will face either the Rangers or Rams in the semifinal, their opponent likely to be determined by whoever wins the Rangers v Rams last round robin game on 10 June.
So it's still all up for grabs. For all the hand-wringing about how predictable the season has been with a clear top 4, it's going to be fascinating to see how the cards fall over the final two weeks of the season.
Where two or more teams are tied, the criteria to decide the placing’s shall be applied in the following sequence:
6.3.1 the win/loss record on the games between the teams concerned (2 points for each win, 0 for each loss), with the team with the most points taking the higher placing. If two or more teams are still tied NBL Rules (as at 17 Mar 17) repeat this process for those teams still tied. When this process repeatedly results in the same number of teams still tied, the following shall apply;
6.3.2 the points differential between the tied teams, with the team with the higher differential taking the higher place. If the result is that one team earns a higher placing repeat 6.3.1 for those teams with the lower placing. If the point’s differential is the same between all teams the following clause 6.3.3 shall apply;
6.3.3 the point’s differential over all games in the Regular Season, with the team with the higher differential taking the higher placing. If the result is that one team earns a higher placing repeat 6.3.1 for those teams with the lower placing. If the points differential is the same between all teams clause 6.3.4 below shall apply;
6.3.4 a playoff game(s) will be necessary, or if the teams agree, they can agree on which takes the higher placing, or decide by the toss of a coin. If a playoff game is necessary the venue shall be decided by the toss of a coin and that venue will be the home team’s, with each team being responsible for their own costs