The Miles Basketball Minute: 2016 Beko BBL Final Playoff Preview: Brose Baskets Bamberg-ratiopharm Ulm 3-0

If anyone wants to doubt that the Brose Baskets Bamberg aren´t a genuine German basketball dynasty that was briefly derailed by FC Bayern Munich in 2014 obviously have been clouded by the seemingly never ending healthy arrogance of Germany´s most famous club or just been not paying good attention to the Beko BBL season by season. Facts don´t lie as the Brose Baskets Bamberg have won five of the last six Beko BBl titles and if nothing seriously goes wrong in the next two weeks where key members of the team are inflicted with massive food poisoning or ratiopharm Ulm all of a sudden acquire super basketball powers that not even Lebron, Curry or Durant possess then the Bavarian city that likes to call itself Freak City will win their sixth league title in seven years and second in a row. The team has always been stacked with overwhelming talent and an undeniable strong team basketball and chemistry that just grew over the years. That also has been the case last season and this season as the team has had the best overall talent and deepest bench in the league and one Brad Wanamaker who has led the club to success with his prosperous playmaking and leadership qualities that are one of a kind in the Beko BBL. After a stellar career at Pittsburgh(NCAA), he turned professional and played his first two seasons in Italy, D-league and France before making that first step in the 2013-2014 season with Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia (Italy-Lega Due). Since 2014, he has been in Germany in the Beko BBL and belongs to the absolute superstars of the league. Ex Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic even called him one of the three best players that ever played in the Beko BBL. The two time Beko BBL MVP is on the verge of leading Bamberg to a second consecutive league title and the question is can he make the next step to the NBA this summer? Current Portland Trailblazer Brian Roberts who has played 279 NBA games won three league titles and three cups from 2009-2012 with Bamberg before making the jump to the NBA and didn´t have as much of an impact on his team as Wanamaker does. If Wanamaker doesn´t make the jump to the NBA, he definitely should be kept in Bamberg at any expense, because the name Wanamaker is like a synonym for dynasty, but head coach Andrea Trincheri knows that. Most important now is to be focused and win the title even if everybody really is thinking sweep and by just how many points Bamberg will beat ratiopharm Ulm game by game?

As defending champions, one may have thought that there might be some added pressure this season to repeat, but in the regular season, The Brose Baskets Bamberg have proven that they have been the best team by a long shot. They finished the regular season with a potent 31-3 record and swept top teams Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich and only lost to Frankfurt, Giessen and Oldenburg. They were perfect from December to April and lost their third game recently against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. They could have been scratching at a perfect record had they not lost in Giessen by one point and in Frankfurt by two points. Bamberg not only has a powerhouse lineup, but also played like one making a name in Europe by reaching the Euroleague top 16 and with a little more luck here and there might have been able to reach the quarterfinals. When you are the second best scoring team in the league with 89 points per game and second in points allowed with 70, there won´t be many nights where you will have difficulty winning a ball game. The biggest strength of the team is their amazing sense of togetherness and lethal team chemistry. They kept a small core of players with Brad Wanamaker, Janis Strelnieks, Daniel Theis Darius Miller and Elias Harris and did a good job finding the missing pieces to help compliment their five remaining players. By bringing in Nicole Melli and Nikolaos Zisis, the club brought in old and new, but two Euroleague players that boosted the club like no other two players in the past. The development of ex Boston College(NCAA) guard Patrick Heckmann and late addition of Leon Radosevic have also panned out to be successful acquisitions. Besides their overwhelming team chemistry and never die attitude on defense, their other big strength is their overpowering offense where their ball movement is out of this world. There is seldom a night where their offense isn´t on as they scored 80 points or more in 28 of 34 regular season games.

Ratiopharm Ulm has always been that type of team that had very solid players that were good enough to make the playoffs, but not talented enough to make a run and survive a five game series. The club now has reached the playoffs five years in a row, but only reached one final in 2012 and semi-final in 2013. They have reached two cup finals in 2013 and 2014 and their hunger to win a title continues to grow. This season the club finished the regular season in seventh place with a record of 21-13, but came into the season winning only two games of their first seven games. However with tough injuries to Carlon Brown and Taylor Braun, the club had to react and got ex NBA player Chris Babb and then bang the team started winning getting 13 victories in their next 14 games which put them in good position of reaching the playoffs. It isn´t always easy to start a season strong when the club starts from scratch as nine new players were signed to build a new roster around Ulm identity figure Per Guenther who has been around since 2008. The club got a mix of balance of inside and shooting and athletic players. The club has a very sold versatile game in the front court with Raymar Morgan, Augustine Rubit and Phillip Neuman and good back court players with Chris Babb, Pierra Henry, Taylor Braun, and David Brembly. Head coach Thorsten Leibenath has the luxury of having many guys that can play multiple positions causing unending mismatches. They were fifth best in scoring netting 82 points per game, ninth in points given up at 79ppg and second best rebounding team at 33 per game. They didn´t fair as well against top teams as Oldenburg did having a 6-10 record, but did beat FC Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin. Their trio of Per Guenther, Raymar Morgan and Augistine Rubit are the main scoring threats, but also get solid production from Chris Babb, Da Sean Butler, and Taylor Braun.

The Brose Baskets Bamberg arrived in the final sweeping rival FC Bayern Munich and outscored them by 60 points. In the first two games, FC Bayern Munich were creamed by 15 and 14 games, but in the final were pounded into the ground by 31 points. The Brose Baskets Bamberg had their usual potent offense averaging 91 points in the series and played great team basketball limiting the strong FC Bayern Munich offense to only 71 points per game. In a semi-final that could easily have had the glamour of a final, it didn´t feel like an intense and back and forth series, but moreover like a game between the guys and the gals as Bamberg wasn´t a class better but easily two classes better. They were better than FC Bayern Munich in all phases of the game each game. Bamberg shot the ball better in each game as FC Bayern Munich never really found the kind of rhythm that they needed to be successful from the field or from downtown and except for game one, had the upper hand on the boards. A big issue was taking care of the ball as Bamberg won the turnover game 20 to 39 as FC Bayern Munich almost had double as many turnovers as Bamberg. Bamberg also got more guys involved as Brad Wanamaker had three solid games and they also got big production from German national player Daniel Theis who scored in double figures in all three games. The Bamberg team chemistry just took apart the hapless FC Bayern Munich who now will go back to the drawing board as this should be a very interesting summer in terms of where their future will be going. In the other series, ratiopharm Ulm upset the little darlings of the league Fraport Skyliners 3-1. The Fraport Skyliners went into the series as the favorite, but like the EWE Baskets Oldenburg didn´t quite bargain with the feistiness and consistent play of the 2013 Beko BBL finalist. Ratiopharm Ulm took the quick 2-0 series lead getting a huge 90-86 victory on the road where Per Guenther sealed the win with two three pointers in OT and then beat Frankfurt in game two at home in a close game until the last two minutes where ratiopharm Ulm escaped out on a 10-0 run to secure the 83-72 win where Augustine Rubit exploded for 33 points. Frankfurt head coach Gordon Herbert wasn´t overally pleased with the Ulm 78-42 dominance in free throw attempts. The Fraport Skyliners came back strong in game three playing their usual brand of Skyliner basketball totally destroying ratiopharm Ulm 85-54 as they gave a total team effort where nobody scored more than 12 points, but 11 players figured in the scoring. Frankfurt did a good job keeping Morgan and Rubit to five points and keeping Per Guenther under wraps for the most part of the game. In game four in another do or die game for Frankfurt, it was ratiopharm Ulm that pulled a Frankfurt defensive performance holding Frankfurt to a bitter 22 points at halftime. Ratiopharm Ulm almost had to go back to Frankfurt as they let the game slip away in the fourth quarter relinquishing 37 points, but held on with a 73-72 win. Ulm got solid production from Per Guenther with 18 points and Butler and Morgan scored in double figures. Frankfurt got 43 points combined from Theodore and Robertson, but too little elsewhere as the German twin towers of Johannes Voigtmann and Danilo Barthel and Philipp Scrub combined for 5 points. If Frankfurt had been able to make better adjustments a bit sooner, then there most likely would have been a game five in Frankfurt. Ratiopharm Ulm was the first successful team this season to scout Frankfurt properly and even after the game three massacre make adjustments and come back and win again. Over the four game series, ratiopharm Ulm simply had more heart and wanted it more than Frankfurt. Frankfurt had a long successful season winning the Fiba Europe Cup and one could make excuses that they were tired, but ratiopharm Ulm was in the same boat and played with a thinner rotation and survived.

Everyone will be hoping that this will be an exciting and close series, but the question now will be when exactly will Brad Wanamaker be booking his flight home. A week earlier or a week later? The Brose Baskets Bamberg swept the season series in Ulm 93-83 and crushed them 100-67 at home. On the road they clobbered ratiopharm Ulm 36-18 on the boards and had six guys in double figures. In the big home win, the Brose Baskets Bamberg had five guys in double figures and hammered home 12 three pointers while coughing up the ball only six times and getting six possessions more to help raise their scoring on that day. One could really see the unbelievable offense strength of the team as Brad Wanamaker shut off his scoring in the two games scoring only eight points and turned on his playmaking skills dishing out 14 assists. Ex NBA player Darius Miller had a strong series with 15 points and 11 boards and 16 points while Daniel Theis and Patrick Heckman also scored in double figures in both games. With all due respect to ratiopharm Ulm, but they can be very proud to have had a superb Beko BBL season, but the final is their last destination. After all is said and done this season, many will proclaim this Bamberg team as one of the best ever and they won´t go out without another title. Bamberg will win this series simply by wearing down ratiopharm Ulm. It doesn´t matter what numbers one dishes out, Bamberg have the advantage everywhere. Ratiopharm Ulm might have a lot of heart, but they won´t have the energy to withstand a Bamberg team for 40 minutes each game. Bamberg is deeper at every position and will sweep ratiopharm Ulm and end the season with an amazing 40-3 record in the Beko BBL.

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