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ON THE BALL: Cougars’ world falling apart


ON THE BALL: Cougars’ world falling apart

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IN?THIS edition of On The Ball, NATION basketball writer Justin Marville reviews the first week of action in the Co-operators General Insurance Premier League season.
INSIGHTS, OBSERVATIONS and musings of an eventful opening week of the 2014 Premier League season.

That didn’t take long now did it?

Yeah, by my count that’s two games before the wheels started coming right off Cougars’ championship wagon for all of local basketball to see in what could only be described as one epic collapse.
Not that this should come as much of a surprise considering a certain scribe foretold of such an implosion in this very same medium just ten days ago.
And trust me when I say Saturday’s events could only be filed under the subheading “implosion”, as Cougars not only lost to a bottom-feeder in Challengers, but surrendered a 17-point lead in the process while scoring just two points (yes, you read that right) in the entire third quarter.
That might be considered the average run-of-the-mill proceedings for a Premier League contest were it not for the ensuing technical and unsportsmanlike fouls Cougars also gave up.
Then there was bickering. Pouting. Arguing. Giving up before the final whistle. If you could think of it then Cougars did it.
This time though, it wasn’t any fault of Terrence Roach, who played the good soldier on this occasion while everyone else around him fell apart.
Things don’t promise to get much better either, not after top forward Adrian Stewart took just one shot in total over the last two second halves less than a year removed from an MVP award-winning season.
Of course winning cures all, though they don’t figure to do that anytime soon with defending champs Lumber Company LSC and Smalta Pinelands’ super team right on the horizon.

Speaking of those two unbeaten teams, can’t we just fast-forward through this already listless regular season and get to that March 23 meeting between LSC and Pinelands?

Actually, while we’re at it, let’s go straight to their second round encounter too. Then head right on to LSC-Pinelands part two in the finals.
Forgive me for dismissing the league’s less fortunate seven a mere week into the season, but isn’t this where we’re inevitably headed anyway?
At the start of the season there were really only three matchups that looked worthy of watching, and now Cougars just may have eliminated two of those following Saturday’s stunning meltdown.
Is it a coincidence then that LSC and Pinelands are the only “unbeatens” left after just one week of action? Yes, they’ve feasted on some expected also-rans, but isn’t that what elite teams are supposed to do when faced with lesser competition?
Apparently not according to Cougars, who felt it necessary to treat a not-so-deep Challengers side that avoided demotion last year as if it was the second coming of the Clapham Bulls of the late 90s.
We could sit here and dismiss their records still, without remembering that both sides are without their best players while LSC are short three starters from the 2013 title-winning unit.
Naturally, things can change within a matter of games, and the two sides could very well be exposed as title pretenders and not contenders. Then again, everything can basically remain the same and give basketball simply a repeat of 2013.

LSC’s dominance, of course, should come as no surprise considering their near decade-long run of success.

But the end that has typified this latest show of dominance has been stunning to say the least. If you haven’t been watching, that’s one big defensive juggernaut LSC is wielding over there while surrendering a miserly 53 points per contest.
To put that in better context, they’re giving up 14 points a game fewer than the historically defensively-stout Warriors – the league’s gold standard at that end.
I’m not saying you should totally abandon the idea of LSC as an elite offensive unit, as the men from Husbands are still second behind Cougars in scoring at a decent average of 74.3 points.
And this isn’t to suggest Lakers haven’t been good defensively over the years, but there’s no doubt their defence is miles ahead of the other side of the ball right now while looking downright oppressive at times.
It’s not like LSC have matched up against slugs either, with two of their three wins thus far coming against the likes of Akeem Marsh’s Sonics and the lightning fast Cavs.
Remember those days when Lakers were referred to as the league’s soft boys? I’m starting not to either.