11 weeks down, three weeks remain.
The Sal’s NBL is bearing down on the Final 4 and if this evening’s classic between the Saints and Rams in Wellington is anything to go by, what a finale we have coming over the next month.
The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks have strung the wins together over recent weeks, so it is time to cast our eyes over the remaining games and work out what we know and what we don’t.
The undefeated Saints are now locked in the number one spot. Tonight’s narrow victory means they hold the head-to-head over both the Rams and Hawks and can’t be knocked out of top spot, with three games to play.
The Rams and Hawks are Christchurch bound and the Sharks are all-but. They need one win from their final four games to give themselves a shot at defending their NBL title in Christchurch next month.
It’s the finishing order that holds the most intrigue.
Both the Rams and Hawks have an 11-3 record and both have four to play. The Sharks have moved to 9-5 also with four left.
Here’s the run in for the three teams:
Rams: @Giants, v Rangers, v Saints, @ Hawks
Hawks: v Sharks, @Rangers, v Rams, @Huskies
Sharks: @Jets, @Hawks, v Huskies, v Jets
Basically, for the Sharks to have any chance of finishing higher than fourth they need to win out. That won’t be an easy task. Anything less than two wins on the road this weekend in Palmerston North and Napier and the rest of this article is more or less moot!
The other factor is that Canterbury hold the head-to-head over the Sharks courtesy of a better points differential in their two games this regular season. Sharks Fans will also remember the Hawks shot the lights out in Invercargill earlier this season so for the Sharks to grab the head-to-head with Hawke’s Bay, not only will they need to win on Saturday night at Pettigrew Green Arena, but they will need to do it by 15 or more (eeeek!!!)
We know the Hawks were stung by the Saints this weekend and even though it appears they will be without impressive Australian Daniel Kickert who is returning home today due to a niggly back injury ,they will be wanting to set themselves for Finals by bouncing back this weekend. Before then, the Jets may be without import Kuran Iverson but they have beaten the Sharks on both their most recent trips north over the last two seasons.
The short story is the Rams or Hawks need to lose three of their last four for the Sharks to finish above them. If the Sharks do beat the Hawks by 15 on Saturday night, then if the Hawks drop one other game and the Sharks win out, they will finish third and the Hawks fourth.
A narrow victory in Napier won’t close the door completely but it will mean that the Hawks will only need one victory from their final three to be assured of consigning the Sharks to fourth.
Confused? I hear you. Running through scenarios like the above is all good fun, but we will have a much better idea of where we stand this time next week.
You can’t help but be impressed with how the Sharks have got their season back on track in recent weeks. That momentum breeds confidence, in the camp and in the stands.
This week’s road double-header will likely tell the tale and regardless, it should be good fun.
Strap yourself in Sharks Fans.