Road to Semis SWOT Preview: Who will gain the head start?
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - It has come down to this.
The West Asia Super League (WASL) Final Phase is upon us, at last, and teams are surely out to kick it up a notch once it starts, beginning with the Qualification to the Semi-Finals (QSF) on Monday night.
Al Manama and Kazma will commence the festivities at the BBA Arena, with Shabab Al Ahli-Dubai and Al Nasr Riyadh taking the spotlight the next night at the Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall as the Gulf teams duke it out.
West Asia League sides will open play on Wednesday night, with ZobAhan hosting Al Naft at the Azadi Basketball Hall. Al Riyadi will then take centerstage together with Orthodox Amman on Thursday at the Saeb Salam Stadium.
There should be no shortage of action and emotions among all the involved, and it would definitely be interesting to see which ball clubs will gain a head start in the best-of-3 series and move a win away from the semis.
27 March 2023
Al Manama vs Kazma
28 March 2023
Shabab Al Ahli - Dubai vs Al Nasr Riyadh
Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall
29 March 2023
ZobAhan vs Al Naft
Azadi Basketball Hall
30 March 2023
Al Riyadi vs Orthodox Amman
Saeb Salam Stadium
STRENGTHS: Since the league returned to action from the FIBA break, Kazma have become a team to watch out for with how they've turned their season around.
After losing three of their first four games, the Kuwaiti ball club would finish the Group Phase with back-to-back wins to reach the playoffs, and two key reasons behind the resurgence are simple: Salah Mejri and Shane Rector.
WEAKNESSES: Of all the teams entering the Final Phase, Shabab Al Ahli are one of the only two teams in the midst of a losing skid. They lost their last two games of the group stage, quite an unfamiliar territory for a side that began WASL at 4-0.
Given their predicament, a big question mark would be the Emirati side's morale. Ditto with West Asia League club Al Naft, who are heading into the playoffs with a harrowing three-game slide -- the longest active losing streak in the league .
OPPORTUNITIES: With Shabab Al Ahli and Al Naft sharing the same problem, it could be a chance for their QSF opponents to pounce on and steal a series lead
THREATS: The Al Riyadi-Orthodox Amman tiff is the only West Asia QSF series that features teams coming off victories to end the Group Phase, and both sides possess key pieces that would definitely impose threats against one another.
Orthodox Amman, for one, have Darrin Dorsey, who lit up the scoreboard with 33 points -- 18 on an 8-of-8 clip in the first quarter alone -- versus ZobAhan.
And Al Riyadi, of course, have Wael Arakji, who fired 25 against Al Naft for his second-best scoring performance of the season.