Not to brag, but I'm pretty great at predictions. Like, I totally called Andre Ingram winning the three-point contest. I also foresaw Joe Dabbert running wild in last year's Finals. I'm not exactly sure why Scott decided to call me out, thereby forcing me to show how much better I am at this than he is, bit here we are.
#1 Iowa Energy vs. #7 Utah Flash: I have a feeling that Earl Barron won't get a second 10-day contract with the Knicks, but that's based on nothing other than New York's past call-up history. Unfortunately for the Energy, the first round of the playoffs will be over before Barron could come back anyway. Utah had a pretty bad home record for most of the season before improving of late. As everyone else has noted, Iowa has lost a lot of good players, and while I like Mark Tyndale generally, I don't love that he's been the Energy's leading scorer since Cartier Martin left. Martin could conceivably get back in time for the third game, but I think the Washington Wizards are more likely to sign him to a second 10-day. And, I don't think the series will even get that far. Utah wins it in two games.
#2 Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs. #6 Reno Bighorns: It's true that the Vipers could get some NBA help, but Mike Harris is actually getting a little bit of playing time in Houston, so there's not a ton of need to send him down to get work. I'm really not crazy about RGV's rebounding situation (Mo Charlo could probably outrebound RGV's entire frontcourt by himself), and the fact that their big men are pretty much non-entities on offense. Reno's Desmon Farmer has been playing well, but the Vipers have the defenders to keep him in check somewhat. But, I think Rod Benson runs wild in this series, and Reno wins it in three games.
#3 Austin Toros vs. #5 Dakota Wizards: I think both of these coaches have done very well this season. The Toros have had iffy perimeter defense and a thin bench all year, and Dakota is the highest playoff seed without any NBA call-ups (Reno and Utah being the others). This is where losing Dwayne Jones will hurt the most, as Dakota has several good rebounders. I'm pretty excited to see Darren Cooper guard Curtis Jerrells and
Renaldo Major check Marcus Williams. On the flipside, losing Romel Beck hurts the Wizards, but even then I'm not sure Austin has anyone who can stop NBA assignee Lester Hudson - maybe Eddie Basden, but he's had to play more power forward recently. The Toros also just lost their best player in Marcus Williams, so even though it means I've picked three lower seeds so far, I think Dakota wins it in three games.
#4 Sioux Falls Skyforce vs. #8 Tulsa 66ers: Alexander Johnson recently got an NBA workout, and just based on his ability I like his chances. With him, the Skyforce have the best frontcourt in the playoffs, and without him it's still very good (and maybe even still the best). They've recently added shooter Kirk Penney, and as much as I like Mustafa Shakur, he can't be everywhere at once. Tulsa's Byron Mullens can be taken out of the game, both offensively and literally, and while Larry Owens can be a big-time scorer, he's also oddly quiet sometimes. Sioux Falls has won eight of their last 10 games, and I think they keep rolling in the playoffs. The Skyforce win it in two games.
#4 Sioux Falls Skyforce vs. #7 Utah Flash: Once again, I think the Skyforce's frontcourt will be the difference. Utah's Luke Nevill is still pretty inconsistent (though hilarious when he's arguing calls), and Brian Jackson has never been much of an offensive threat. The last game of the season aside (which was on the second night of a back to back), several of Utah's guys have been playing well recently, but I think the loss of Carlos Wheeler finally catches up with them. Sioux Falls wins it in three games.
#5 Dakota Wizards vs. #6 Reno Bighorns: Desmon Farmer has cut down on his turnovers the last few months, but Dakota has several defenders who can frustrate him. When that happens, as we saw earlier this year, Reno's entire offense collapses. So, even though Richie Frahm has been lights out from outside (he's shot 47 percent on threes since coming back to Reno) and Rod Benson should be able to handle guys like Corsley Edwards and Curtis Withers, I think Dakota wins it in three games.
#4 Sioux Falls Skyforce vs. #5 Dakota Wizards: Maybe not the most NBA-studded rosters in the league, but two very solid ones. This run of Dakota's is predicated on guys being healthy, which hasn't always been the case this year. Sioux Falls has several potential offensive weapons, as long as guys are hitting their threes. In the end, I think they'll be too much for the Wizards, and the Skyforce win the championship in three games. I really didn't think I'd end up picking the same winner as Scott, but Sioux Falls is playing very well right now and have the talent to keep their run going through to the end.