Continuing last season's tremendous success, this year's Super Basketball League season will kick off with a rematch of last season's championship finals between the Dacin Tigers and the Yulon Dinos this afternoon at 5pm at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium, to be followed by the battle between the Bank of Taiwan and the ETTV Antelopes at 7pm.
Part one of the two-part season preview will feature two of the seven clubs in this year's competition.
For those fans who followed last season's play, several offseason transactions have made their way to the headlines this year, starting with the controversial signing and the subsequent nullification of former Dinos great Chen "Airman" Hsin-an by the Antelopes (three years for NT$15 million), which left the undisputed top player of the league without a team.
The inability to acquire Chen was not the Antelopes only problem, as they also lost All-Star center Wu Dai-hao to a US college, leaving the tough task of anchoring the Antelopes interior defense to second-year man Wu Jung-hsiung
The unexpected departure of Videoland Hunters' head coach Chong Chih-mong, who became the team's senior advisor, left the responsibility of leading the club on the floor to long-time coaching assistant Chou Hai-rong.
YMY's recent acquisition of the former Sina Lions rounds out the list of offseason happenings, as the deep-pocketed commercial giant is likely to use their deep pockets to upgrade their training facilities and groom a group of up-and-comers that include Chen Shih-jeh, Tso Tsong-kai, and Chien Jia-hong.
Despite the absence of Chen Hsin-an, defending champs, the Dinos, are clearly the favorites to accomplish a threepeat this year because the gap between the Dinos and the rest of the league is simply too big for them not to win and win big.
All-Star center Tseng Wen-ding leads a balanced attack that features outside shooting threats Chou Shih-yuan and Lee Hsueh-lin, who have been regular starters for the national team over the past three seasons, to complement a defense that rarely surrenders more than 70 points a game.
Coach Lee Yun-kuan should be able to breeze through the regular season with no more than a handful of losses and enjoy the benefit of being the top-seeded team in the postseason for the third straight year. The question is not "will the Dinos win?" but "how much will they win by?"
Building on their first-ever postseason appearance last May, Taiwan Beer will pose the most serious threat to the Dinos with the league's top scorer in Lin "the Beast" Chih-jeh leading a lineup consisting of swingman Ho Sho-cheng, who can play tough inside the paint or pull back with his deadly outside shooting, rebounding specialist Ha Hsiao-yuan and former Antelopes center Shang Wei-fang.
Field general Chen Shih-nian should have more than the Beast to dish the ball off to this year with the addition of Shang and a new-and-improved Ha.
The arrival of Shang should also provide some much needed help to the beermen's ability to defend the middle of the paint, which cost them a ton of grief last year.
"Shang will help us clog up the middle on "D" to take away some easy baskets from out opponents and perhaps generate some fast-break opportunities," new assistant coach Chiou Da-chung said.