Parity has been the name of the game so far this season.
Indeed, two weeks is a short amount of time to offer any definitive conclusions. But it may be a sign of things to come.
Only two unbeaten teams remain after four games: the San-en Neo Phoenix and the Alvark Tokyo.
Only two teams are still chasing their first victory after four contests: the Yokohama B-Corsairs and the Shiga Lakestars.
Four clubs have 3-1 records: (Tochigi Brex, Sendai 89ers, Sunrockers Shibuya and Nagoya Diamond Dolphins); six have gone 2-2: (Niigata Albirex BB, Kawasaki Brave Thunders, Osaka Evessa, SeaHorses Mikawa, Ryukyu Golden Kings and Kyoto Hannaryz); and the other four squads are 1-3: (Levanga Hokkaido, Akita Northern Happinets, Chiba Jets and Toyama Grouses).
Like his opponents, Evessa coach Dai Oketani said his team is a work in progress at this early stage of the 60-game season.
“Our defense is getting better, but we have to improve our offense more in this league,” Oketani told The Japan Times on Tuesday.
Oketani said the intrigue factor is a key element in the widespread interest in the B. League across the nation.
“I don’t know about the (whole) league,” he noted, referring to its overall landscape. “But it is simply good for teams and fans because we can compete against new opponents and players.”
Youthful exuberance: Tochigi Brex point guard Yuta Tabuse turned 36 on Wednesday. He’s one of the older players in the B. League, though Hokkaido’s Takehiko Orimo, 46, has him beat by a decade.
Tabuse’s age was brought up during a post-game chat with reporters on Sunday at Funabashi Arena after his club had dismantled the Chiba Jets for the second time in as many days.
The former Phoenix Suns player was asked if there’s anything different about his approach to the game now compared to years ago.
Although Tabuse didn’t say that he’s a different player than he was a decade ago, he did admit his love for the game remains as strong as ever.
“Every week,” he said, “I’m energized playing.”
A key to success: Brex coach Tom Wisman pinpointed the makeup of his team’s roster as one of its strengths after an impressive fourth-quarter fueled Tochigi’s stellar finish against the Jets. He cited the fact that key veterans Kosuke Takeuchi and Tommy Brenton didn’t see court time in the fourth quarter, when the Brex went to a zone defense for the first time and held Chiba’s offense in check.
“We went with a unit that we thought was going to be good with the zone early and they were,” Wisman told reporters, “and they did the job and they were scoring, so there was no need for us to change.”
He added: “We trust our depth. We trust our bench.”
Point producers: Through Sunday, these are the top-five scorers in the B. League: Kawasaki’s Nick Fazekas (27.5 points per game), Niigata’s Clint Chapman and Shiga’s Julian Mavunga (20.0), Nagoya’s Justin Burrell (19.5) and Niigata’s Davante Gardner (18.5).
By the numbers: After two weeks, here’s a rundown on other key individual statistical leaders:
Rebounding — Osaka’s Josh Harrellson (14.0), Mikawa’s Isaac Butts (12.0), Toyama’s Sam Willard (11.8), Tochigi’s Ryan Rossiter (10.8) and Kyoto’s Kevin Kotzur (10.5), followed by Tokyo’s Joji Takeuchi at No. 6 (10.3).
Assists — Kawasaki’s Ryusei Shinoyama and San-en’s Tatsuya Suzuki (5.3), Mikawa’s J.R. Sakuragi (4.8), Shibuya’s Kenta Hirose (4.5) and Niigata’s Kei Igarashi, Shiga’s Julian Mavunga and Kyoto’s Genki Kojima (4.3).
Steals — Nagoya’s Seiya Funyu (2.8), Tochigi’s Jeff Gibbs (2.3) and Sendai’s Tshilidzi Nephawe, Tochigi’s Yusuke Endo, Chiba’s Tomokazu Abe, Tokyo’s Daiki Tanaka and Nagoya’s Taito Nakahigashi (2.0)
Blocks — Osaka’s Josh Harrellson (2.5), Chiba’s Hilton Armstrong (2.0), Chiba’s Michael Parker (1.8) and Hokkaido’s Daniel Miller and Mikawa’s Gavin Edwards (1.5).
On the docket: The Kawasaki-Niigata two-game series begins on Friday. Seven more weekend sets commence on Saturday (Nagoya vs. Osaka), Tochigi vs. Sendai, Ryukyu vs. Mikawa, Tokyo vs. Chiba, Shibuya vs. Toyama, San-en vs. Yokohama and Shiga vs. Kyoto), while the Hokkaido-Akita series starts on Sunday).
Second-division spotlight on . . . Shimane Susanoo Magic: Second-year coach Michael Katsuhisa’s team has the most victories (four) of any team in the 18-team second division.
The Susanoo Magic opened their season with 101-64 and 80-59 wins over the Ehime Orange Vikings two weeks ago. Last weekend, Katsuhisa’s club recorded 86-66 and 81-66 decisions over the Kagoshima Rebnise.
Shimane puts its perfect record on the line this weekend against the host Kumamoto Volters, who are one of seven B2 teams with 3-1 records.
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