The Frankfurt Skyliners have been an organization that have been used to winning since they entered the Beko BBL in 1999. Except for a weak phase between 2005-2007 where the team struggled to win games the way Spanish soccer teams did this week in the Champions league against German teams, Frankfurt was always in the playoffs and won the cup in 2000 and championship in 2004. However the last two seasons have been untypical for a club that was mostly successful as the last two years had high and lows and no playoffs. Last season, the Fraport Skyliners had a miserable first half, but bounced back in the second half of the season finding their rhythm and beating most of the top teams only to go home for the summer unsatisfied missing the playoffs on the last game in a do or die loss in Bonn. This season Frankfurt had a similar first half like last season, but had difficulty following up their strong second half this season. Injuries and some players that didn´t work out and had to go helped for the inconsistency. The arrival of ex LTi Giessen 46er Americans Ryan Brooks and Laquan Prowell were more of a help than the departed Americans Ted Scott and Dion Dowell, but because too many loses in the second half of the season had been as fat as a turkey on Thanksgiving day, the season for the Fraport Skyliners comes down to a do or die game on Saturday against the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg. If Frankfurt hadn´t celebrated big wins over top teams Berlin and Bamberg in March, then the team could already have booked dates with PRO A teams like Cuxhaven, Crailsheim and Heidelberg next season.
After the bitter loss against TBB Trier last weekend, I was a bit surprised to see some negativity about the chances of Frankfurt in this do or die game as some had missing confidence. The Neckar Riesen have had a very poor season as well being neighbors with Giessen all season long in the cellar mostly at position 17. The club brought in coaching fox John Patrick who came into a new type of situation for him as a kind of fireman to help rescue the burning ship. He had been used to building up lower ranked teams like a BG Goettingen or Wurzburg and bring them to new heights that nobody had ever imagined before with incorporating his special brand of basketball. He brought improvement to the team by stabilizing the defense, but also got four new players late in which the integration didn´t to lead to instant wins, but that wasn´t expected so late into the season.
Frankfurt has been in one do or die game to stay in the league back in April of 2006. They had to beat Oldenburg to stay in the Beko BBL and did under the guidance of Charles Barton 70-58. In that game, the team came together one last time led by American Kavossy Franklin with 22 points and German national player Pascal Roller with 18 points giving a spirited team effort. So with their second do or die game approaching, why can´t Frankfurt win again? Their biggest advantage is that they have the home court advantage. When they are cooking, then they are very difficult to beat at home as countless teams had witnessed the last two seasons as Bamberg and Ulm lost twice. They have the ability to beat any team on any day. They have had consistency eliminating the top teams, but what is frightening is their problems of discharging of poorer teams. Another disadvantage is not having American point guard Dawan Robinson. Other point guard Devin Gibson practiced this week and should be able to play. The Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg may be a tad stronger on paper when it comes to scoring, but they don´t have two players combined that can equal the offensive firepower and scoring in bunches craze and consistency of a Zach Peacock and Ryan Brooks. Ludwigsburg have the more balanced attack with guys like Lucca Staiger, John Turek, Marquis Blakely, Eric Coleman, Derrick Zimmermann or Wayne Bernard that can all score in double figures on the same night, but that is where the best weapon of Frankfurt comes into play with their defense. Frankfurt will have to present their typical Katzurin aggressive defense which has been their trademark the last two seasons. They didn´t defend as well the last two games against Trier and Bonn giving up an average of 79 points, but need to get back to their disciplined defense of seven games before that where they gave up an average of 67 points.
John Patrick is a danger also in that he belongs to the top coaches in the Beko BBL and one can never be really sure what he will bring to the table. Who could forget how he led the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg past Alba Berlin in the playoffs last season totally handicapping their game with the annoying Patrick style. This is like a Eurochallenge final 2010 revisited for Patrick. He will want to win this game like there is no tomorrow. Frankfurt also will have to be aggressive on the boards as Ludwigsburg has the slight edge here as well. Zack Peacock will have to play his game on the base line, but also not forget to rebound. Every Skyliner will have to help out under the boards. The point guard position also will be a key spot. Ludwigsburg have a very experienced Derrick Zimmermann who has shown with Ludwigsburg that he is the classic point guard that can fill up the stat sheet as he showed in the loss against FC Bayern Munich with 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Frankfurt with Gibson will also need the full support of young German Konstantin Klein and Max Merz. Klein is always good for his aggressive defense and when he is on can be a boost on offense. Merz showed a great game against TBB Trier scoring six points, making intelligent decisions and playing with a self confidence that he must of learned from his teammate Klein. Only with strong point guard play can Frankfurt find a rhythm on offense.
Both teams have their advantages and disadvantages, but only one team can stay in the league. I expect it to be a hard fought game, but if the Fraport Skyliners can get hot early with the home crowd energy cooking as they showed against Oldenburg recently then it could be a short night for Ludwigsburg. However I expect the game to be a battle where there will be no gifts for either teams. In do or die games, it is usually, Heart, effort and execution that matters the most. Frankfurt is the better defensive team while Ludwigsburg have a slight edge on offense. I see the chances 60-40 for the Fraport Skyliners. Frankfurt is playing in their own living room and will need to use that to their advantage. If the game is close, then a Quantez Robertson just could make a difference in crunch time with his athleticism and hustle plays. Skyliner legend Pascal Roller most likely will be in the arena doing TV for Sport 1 and just his presence might remind the kind basketball god in the Fraport arena that Roller once survived a do or die game in this arena. This will be a historic game for the Fraport Skyliners where one will see many tears at the end, but hopefully tears of joy for Frankfurt.