SWOT Preview: Crucial week ahead as WASL group stage comes to a close
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai and Al Hilal will dispute the no. 1 seed of Gulf's Group A in the final week of the WASL group stage.
Both squads are toting similar 1-4 win-loss cards, with each of them coming off contrasting results from their previous assignments but with one thing and one thing only in mind: take the top spot and clinch the remaining Semi-Final seat.
Shabab Al Ahli saw the end of their unbeaten four-game winning streak at the hands of a revitalized Kazma, and they will look to bounce back against their Saudi Arabian counterparts that will likely be easier said than done.
Al Hilal will be entering Monday night's clash with much momentum after a 103-48 win over Al Bashaer last March 6 in the most lopsided WASL game yet.
Eyes will also be on Al Nasr Riyadh and Al Sadd on who will catch the last bus to the playoffs, which is expected to commence after next week,
Both teams are carrying identical 1-4 cards, although the club from KSA has the edge over their Qatari counterparts as far as the head-to-head match-up is concerned following an 86-84 stunner on the road just last week.
Nonetheless, crucial will be their respective games as it would tell their fate. The two clubs won't have it easy, definitely, but they have no other choice but to try and win if they are to keep their campaigns alive.
Al Nasr, for one, will host the 5-0 Kuwait Club on Tuesday, serving as the nightcap of a twinbill to be opened by Al Sadd's clash versus Al Manama.
But while the two hope to make it, other teams are looking to enter the playoffs on a high by wrapping up the preliminaries with a victory.
Kazma, rejuvenated with the arrival of Salah Mejri and Shane Rector, will look to sweep the also-ran Al Bashaer on Monday in Muscat.
Capping off the week will be a pair of WASL-West Asia duels, to be opened by a marquee matchup between Al Naft and Gorgan on Thursday in Baghdad.
It would be followed by Orthodox Amman's clash with Zobahan the next day in Jordan, with the former hoping to secure their first win.
20 March 2023
Al Bashaer vs Kazma
Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex
Al Hilal vs Shabab Al Ahli - Dubai
Green Basketball Court
21 March 2023
Al Manama vs Al Sadd
Al Nasr Riyadh vs Kuwait Club
Green Basketball Court
22 March 2023
Al Naft vs Gorgan
Al Shaeb Hall
23 March 2023
Orthodox Amman vs ZobAhan
Prince Hamza Sport Hall
STRENGTHS: Al Nasr are up against a Gulf favorite -- who was the first to reach the Semi-Final -- but confidence is sky-high for this bunch especially Nassir Abo Jalas.
The 28-year-old forward was instrumental in their conquest of Al Sadd, punching in career-highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds for an efficiency rating of 22.
WEAKNESSES: While they may have found a formidable tandem in Mejri and Rector, Kazma's rotation has suffered a tough blow when Ahmad Albaloushi sustained an apparent leg injury during their meeting with Shabab Al Ahli.
The seasoned guard's status appears uncertain after going down during the second quarter, never to come back. He left the game with 10 points.
OPPORTUNITIES: Their upcoming duel versus Al Sadd could be a chance for Al Manama to show that they have grown used to Steve Taylor Jr.
The Bahraini side didn't have the result it wanted in its first WASL game with the veteran big man, although the latter showed glimpses of how good he can be after submitting 24 points and 6 rebounds versus Kuwait Club.
THREATS: Al Naft could impose a big threat versus Gorgan as they are coming in loose as compared to their foes, who last played back in January 18.
The Iraqi club have already returned to action last March 9, and they will surely look to vent their frustrations against the Iranian side after absorbing a tough 108-97 defeat at the hands of Wael Arakji and Al Riyadi in Beirut.