Seven teams, four nights, one winner!
That's the equation ahead of us during Finals Week as the 2020 Sal's NBL Showdown winds its way down to a conclusion on Saturday August 1.
And when it comes to finding a winner the best place to start is with a group of four men who have seen most games, if not every single one over the course of five robust weeks that included 10 games being played every seven days.
Huw Beynon and Casey Frank have been behind the microphone commentating all the action on Sky Sport, not missing a second and have witnessed all the flying dunks, slick assists and long-range bombs.
Mike Lacey has spent his past five weeks at the media desk, often arriving at the stadium an hour before tip-off and departing as the lights are being turned off. He too knows every stat, the highs and lows, and what each team is capable of achieving during Finals Week.
Our fourth 'finals expert' is Andrew Dewhurst. 'AD' has split his time behind the microphone as a court announcer and also writing game reports. So not only has he called the action, he has also written about it!
With a huge week coming up, we asked our four experts for their thoughts and a title prediction.
Manawatu Jets – So many offensive weapons and Hyrum Harris is the glue guy that keeps it all together. He’s my mini-Mika Vukona. If they can keep their emotions in check they are unstoppable.
Otago Nuggets – I’ve been really impressed with the development of the wider squad. Outside of the top two, Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai, who are both stars of the league, the improvement of the wider group has been really impressive and they look to have the depth to take them all the way.
The Otago Nuggets for me, they are a well-constructed roster, headed by the Tall Blacks duo of Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai. The pair have produced some outstanding performances but never over-played their hands. Both have coaxed the best out of their teammates knowing that a championship-winning team needs a few strings to its bow. The pair are averaging 9 assists per game to illustrate the team first mentality they and coach Brent Matehaere have pushed for.
In addition to Ngatai and JK, the trio of Jordan Hunt, Kane Keil and Josh Aitcheson are all averaging double figure points per game.
We haven’t seen much of Hunt and Keil in recent years as their skills and game management have matured in the American collegiate system, but both have flourished in the Sal's NBL Showdown.
Former Junior Tall Black Josh Aitcheson has been a standout in the New Zealand Tertiary competitions for a few years and his game has transferred seamlessly to the more demanding requirements of the NBL.
Others like Darcy Knox, Sam Aruwa and Akiva McBirney-Griffin have played their roles superbly and of course NBL Draft Pick Number 84 Matt Bardsley has been one of the finds of the season.
Factor in the vociferous, colourful game day support the Nuggets have been receiving from their fans and they shape to be the team to beat.
The Nuggets claiming their first ever NBL championship – now wouldn’t that be a fairytale story!
I have Otago Nuggets to win and yes, they are top of the ladder so this is hardly a surprise! In what looms as an incredibly even race to the Grand Final, I think the Nuggets and Jets have a huge and deserved advantage by being in the top two. But for me the Nuggets have greater depth and experience, in particular with Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai leading them. Kane Keil has been a revelation and Jordan Hunt will be primed for a big finals run and can boss the paint. They have a spread of scorers, they are well coached and have a great spirit. Nuggets for me. Dark horses could be the Canterbury Rams – what a story that would be, but with Reuben Te Rangi and Taylor Britt controlling their offence, look out!