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B. League teams to play 60 games in first season

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The B. League unveiled its inaugural regular-season schedule, which begins this fall, on Friday.

The 2016-17 season will start in late September and end in early May. Each team in the first (B1) and second divisions (B2) will play 60 games during the regular season.

In the B1, the top two teams in the three divisions (East, Central and West) plus two wild-card clubs will advance to the postseason. There will also be promotion/demotion playoffs, in which the bottom two teams in the B1 and the top two teams in the B2 will square off.

To headline the opening weekend, which will be played on Sept. 24 and 25, the Link Tochigi Brex will host the Akita Northern Happinets, both of whom have been among the most popular clubs in the country, at Brex Arena.

Meanwhile, the Kawasaki Brave Thunders (formerly known as the Toshiba Brave Thunders), who captured the NBL title on Sunday, will take on the San-en NeoPhoenix, a three-time bj-league champion that was previously called the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, at Toyohashi Municipal General Gymnasium.

The league announced on May 24 that the Alvark Tokyo (formerly known as the Toyota Alvark) and the Ryukyu Golden Kings will compete on Sept. 22 and 23 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium to tip off the season.

“We know many of Akita’s fans will come to the (opening) game,” Brex sharpshooter Takatoshi Furukawa said at a Tokyo news conference at the National Training Center. “But we have our own enthusiastic fans, which we are proud of. I’m excited about playing in the atmosphere, and I’m sure the fans will enjoyed it as well.”

Said Akita guard Shigehiro Taguchi: “We are the challengers, but we have our own boosters called the ‘Crazy Pink.’ We’ll play together with them. We would like to show that anything could happen in a basketball game.”

Brave Thunders point guard Ryusei Shinoyama said that he’s sure the battles for the championship will be tougher in the new circuit, which was formed with clubs from the NBL, NBDL and bj-league and teams will play more contests.

The other opening-week matchups in the top division are: Sendai 89ers at Chiba Jets; Hitachi Sunrockers Tokyo Shibuya at Yokohama B-Corsairs; Niigata Albirex BB at Toyama Grouses; SeaHorses Mikawa at Shiga Lakestars; Kyoto Hannaryz at Nagoya Diamond Dolphins; and Levanga Hokkaido at Osaka Evessa.