NBL season roars into life

NBL season roars into life

MASERU  – When a new season begins, everyone is a champion – or so the saying goes.
It is a time when all contenders start on equal footing, with similar odds of success and intoxicating dreams of glory at the end of the campaign.
For the National Basketball League (NBL), that long journey to victory begins on Friday night at Lehakoe Recreational Centre when defending champions Lerotholi Polytechnic get the 2018/19 campaign underway against NUL Rovers and excitement is at boiling point.

“We are expecting to see growth in our basketball competition-wise so that fans are also motivated when it comes to supporting the sport in the country,” Lesotho Basketball Association (LBA) deputy president Tefo Mosala told thepost on Tuesday.
There is definitely more anticipation this year than can be remembered for some time after Lerotholi’s fairy-tale run last season which culminated in a thrilling NBL finals win over Lichocha Shooting Rifles in June.

It was an electrifying finale which went down to the wire and advertised the NBL as an unpredictable, exciting league with an array of contenders.
Looking to stay top of the heap, Lerotholi spent the offseason reinforcing and amongst Fokothi’s additions were Khotso Khakhe from Bokamoso and Mothobi Mothobi from Lichocha Shooting Rifles.

But there are other powers hungry to snatch Lerotholi’s title.
2017 winners Bokamoso South and 2016 champions KTA All-Stars are always in the mix while it will be interesting to see what 2015 victors Bashana Baheso (BBH) come up with after missing the playoffs last season.

Meanwhile, Lichocha – runners up for the past two years – are no doubt desperate to finally reach the mountaintop.
This is what makes the NBL season so intriguing; this year at least five teams have genuine hopes of winning the title. Indeed, no team has won back-to-back NBL titles since KTA in 2013 and 2014.

“Even though right now it is difficult to say which team is the best, there several strong contenders and we are expecting fireworks this season,” Mosala said.
The league’s success on the court is helping its growth off it and this season the NBL will have its largest number of contestants – 14 – with T98, Roma and Tigers added to last year’s list of teams.
The expanded league means a change in format.

For the first time the NBL top-flight will be divided into two streams or conferences, similar to America’s world-renowned NBA league which has an East and West conference.
“We have 14 men’s teams and if we play the league the same way as we did last season then our league will not end in time, so we decided to divide the teams into conferences. We have a northern conference and a southern conference,” Mosala explained.

Each conference will have seven teams and at the end of the season the top two sides from each stream will contest the championship playoffs to determine this season’s NBL champion.
“Towards the end of the first round there will also be inter-conference matchups and teams will play each other according to their positions,” Mosala added.
“For instance, number one in the southern conference will play number one in the northern conference to make it interesting. At the end of the second round there will be playoffs across the two conferences unlike before when we had one league with the top four progressing (to the playoffs),” he continued.

Nkheli Liphoto

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