A marquee matchup between the Tochigi Brex and SeaHorses Mikawa will headline the opening week of the B. League’s second season, the league announced Monday.
The Brex, who won the championship in a hard-fought one-off final against the Kawasaki Brave Thunders in the inaugural season of Japan’s top men’s basketball circuit late last month, will face Mikawa in a rematch of last season’s playoff semifinals. In that series, Tochigi managed to beat the SeaHorses in a decisive, 10-minute game to book a spot in the title game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
“These two teams played extremely hard against each other in the semifinals,” Brex guard Yusuke Endo said at a news conference at the league’s office. “So we are excited about it, and we would like to go into the game with the pride of being the first champions.”
The Brex-SeaHorses opener will be played on Sept. 29 — a Friday — along with three other matchups (the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins at the Kawasaki Brave Thunders; the Shiga LakeStars at the Yokohama B-Corsairs; and the Sunrockers Shibuya at the Ryukyu Golden Kings). The other five matchups (the Shimane Susanoo Magic at the Niigata Albirex BB; Levanga Hokkaido at the Toyama Grouses; the San-en NeoPhoenix at the Kyoto Hannaryz; the Alvark Tokyo at the Osaka Evessa) will begin their 2017-18 season the next day.
The Chiba Jets will take on the Nishinomiya Storks, who have been promoted from the second division for the new season, at the Storks’ home, but the dates and venue will be finalized at a later date.
Each series essentially consists of two games.
The league revealed the game schedule and venues for the first three weeks of both the first and second divisions. The schedule for the remainder of the campaign will be announced in early July.
SeaHorses guard Makoto Hiejima was surprised that his team would face the Brex again so early.
“To be honest, I wanted to face them a little later than that, but we would like to get ourselves ready,” said the national team guard.
Endo said that the Brex have the best fans in the league, and that opening at home will definitely boost their quest for a second straight title.
“Our Brex fans are the most passionate fans in the league, and we are happy about that,” said Endo, who was awarded the league’s best defender accolade last season. “Hiejima is one of the best scorers in Japan, but I would like to hold him to zero points (in the opener).”
Asked about Tochigi and Mikawa playing against each other so early in the season, league chairman Masaaki Okawa said that it was proof of the league being aggressive and living up to its motto of “Break the Border.”
With the formation of the new professional league last year, the mind-set of the players has seemingly developed. Going into the sophomore season, most of the players that attended the news conference were eager to make more media appearances.
“We should appear in the media a lot more,” said Albirex BB veteran guard Kei Igarashi, who is one of the most popular Japanese players. “I want our younger guys to challenge themselves to do that.”
The second division will tip off its season on Sept. 30. The Akita Northern Happinets, who were demoted from the top division, will square off against the Kumamoto Volters in the key matchup in Week 1.
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