R1 Preview: Townsville v Melbourne
This Friday night will be a swamp homecoming for the Crocodiles, as they host their first game of the season at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre.
Melbourne United head to north Queensland full of confidence, after winning the 2015 NBL Blitz in Townsville less than a fortnight ago.
Not only did they remain undefeated, but Melbourne led the Blitz in scoring at a staggering 95.7 points per game while giving up just 80 a match.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on the game styles with Melbourne averaging 31 three-point attempts per game at the Blitz while Townsville threw up a League low of just ten attempts per game.
Stephen Holt (14) and Chris Goulding (11) both individually made more three-pointers over the Blitz than the Crocs did as a team (nine). The battle from behind the arc will be crucial in this match.
The chemistry problems that plagued Melbourne in the back end of last season appear to have gone and the team truly does feel United. They will be an exciting brand to watch under new head coach Dean Demopoulos, who has new philosophies and a new roster.
It has been hard to form a realistic view on Townsville’s potential due to their injury-plagued pre-season. The Crocs has not fielded a full team at any stage of their preparation with highly-regarded import Jordair Jett hardly sighted and Luke Schenscher, Mitch Norton, Brian Conklin and Mirko Djeric all missing major minutes.
When injuries do occur, it leads to opportunity and the young guns for Townsville have shown they have a chance to make their mark on the NBL. Nicholas Kay and Corey Maynard look to have all the tools to be very good players very quickly. The Crocs may be the youngest team in the competition but their enthusiasm and youthfulness is contagious.
This will be an emotional return home for Melbourne swingman Todd Blanchfield. The former development player for the Crocodiles honed his game in North Queensland for the first six years of his career and has headed south to continue his future. He will be the enemy for the first time in his former town.
It could also be a history-making debut for NBA veteran Hakim Warrick who promises to enthrall basketball fans nationwide with his above the rim acrobatics. He could be the most exciting import ever to play in the NBL.
BY THE NUMBERS
Head-to-head: 4 games played
Townsville Crocodiles: 3 wins
Melbourne United: 1 win
In Townsville: 2 games played
Townsville Crocodiles: 2 wins
Melbourne United: 0 wins
2014/15 in Townsville:
Round 3) Crocs by 11
Round 19) Crocs by 37
THE HOMECOMING - Todd Blanchfield returns to Townsville for the first time since leaving the club he played for 150 times from a development player to the NBL’s Most Improved Player in 2015.
The Crocodiles have introduced just 66 players to their first game in the NBL over 23-years of history. Of those, Blanchfield played the 5th most games for the club before leaving or retiring.
Most games from players who began their career with Townsville until departing.
243 games – Kelvin Robertson (one club player)
219 games – Michael Cedar (one club player)
177 games – Brad Davidson (continued at Cairns)
153 games – Greg Vanderjagt (continued at Gold Coast)
150 games – Todd Blanchfield (continued at Melbourne)
147 games – Peter Crawford (continued at Perth)
A RE-UNION - This will be a re-union of sorts for the former students of St Mary’s College. The 2012 West Coast Conference champions featured Townsville players Clint Steindl, Mitch Young and Melbourne guard Stephen Holt with Boomer Matthew Dellevadova. These players were last together on the same court in the 2012 NCAA tournament loss to Purdue.
A DEBUT - Although the Townsville Entertainment Centre has been a NBL venue for 22 season, surprisingly only three coaches have made their debut at the Swamp with Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos becoming just the fourth.
Previous coaching debuts at the Swamp:
2007 – Trevor Gleeson for Townsville vs Sydney won 117-103
2001 – Guy Molloy for Cairns vs Townsville lost 85-120
1993 – Alan Westover for Melbourne vs Townsville won 126-111 (filling in for absent L.Gaze)
Dean Demopoulos has already made a solid start to his career at Melbourne with an undefeated run at the NBL Blitz. It has been 21 years since a coach with no previous NBL experience took a team to the playoffs in his debut season and the last two coaches have not even reached the half-way mark of their first season.
Recent coaches with no NBL experience first season records:
2007 – Marc Price (South Dragons) 0 wins 5 losses
2004 – Jeff Green (New Zealand Breakers) 2 wins 7 losses
1994 – Mike Dunlap (Adelaide 36ers) 22 wins 11 losses (runners up)
1993 – Jim Calvin (Geelong Supercats) 5 wins 13 losses
1993 – Don Monson (Adelaide 36ers) 14 wins 14 losses (0-2 in playoffs)
1991 – Murray Arnold (Perth Wildcats) 26 wins 5 losses (Champions)
1988 – Pete Mathieson (Geelong Supercats) 0 wins 24 losses