German Bavarian town Bayreuth is known for it´s famous Festspiele which goes about a month from late July until late August and something the city gears up for early on as well as music lovers from all around the world get excited about already in May, but this season the basketball fanatics from the 72,000 populated city actually have something very special to get all psyched about and that’s playoff basketball. The basketball is very popular in that area so why not adopt the March Madness theme from the States and name it May madness in Bayreuth. The last time that the club was in the BBL playoffs, American president Bill Clinton was having a secret relationship with Monica Lewinsky that the world would first get wind of when the team was back in the second Bundesliga, Kevin Garnett played a solid rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and wasn´t a household name yet and young medi Bayreuth German Moritz Trieb wasn´t even born yet. The year was 1996 when fans experienced playoff basketball the last time there and now they are back and hungry to make serious history again. This is the biggest basketball news story in Bayreuth since the rumored arrival of NBA superstar Kevin Durant in November 2011 that never happened.
For the EWE Baskets Oldenburg, it has been an underachieving season so far with the biggest news story of the season being the recent contract extension of Oldenburg son and legend Ricky Paulding. The well known speech from John F Kennedy in Berlin where he uttered the famous and unforgettable words “ich bin ein Berliner” may be more than 53 years old, but that remains something that every kid learns about in the history books from Englewood, New Jersey to Brisbane, Australia and Rickey Paulding recently let “Ich bin ein Oldenburger” slip his tongue and got standing ovations for minutes in the EWE arena in Oldenburg after the contract extension was announced. Paulding’s 4 words won’t ever get the world wide press or rememberance as Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”, but in Oldenburg Paulding will always be their Kennedy. The reason for the long standing ovations and fuss about Paulding was on account of the announcement that he will remain in Oldenburg until 2019 which would give him 12 years in the BBL with one team which is as seldom seen in the BBL as it is teammate Brian Qvale attempting more than one trey a game which he did against the Telekom Baskets Bonn this season and hit both and brings his total of three point attempts in 6 professional seasons to only 14. It is just not a given in todays age of where money rules and the game is a business that a player will remain with one team for that long a period. At the end of this contract extension he will have eclipsed the longevity of Fraport Skyliner legend Pascal Roller who was 11 years with Frankfurt. With the EWE Baskets Oldenburg he has won two titles including the 2009 BBL league title and 2015 cup. He has been a 6 time BBL allstar and is in the top 5 all-time in scoring in the BBL. His middle name could be prolonged to Rickey Mr Oldenburg and consistency Paulding as he gives that name a special new meaning as he has averaged double digit scoring every season in the BBL and is having his best scoring season averaging 16,0ppg showing that he isn’t slowing down with age as he is 34 years old.
In Ulm one could debate who has had the biggest Cinderella season them or medi Bayreuth, but taken the circumstances that no one expected them to reach the playoffs while Ulm has been a BBL finalist before, the Bavarian club easily takes the cake in this category. Medi Bayreuth didn´t take long to get into the groove and get all of basketball Germany turning their eyes to them as they reeled off an amazing 10 game winning streak after losing the opening game to ratiopharm Ulm and from then on taking that swing through out the season. Even if the team couldn´t get another huge winning streak going after that, the club proved that they didn´t let that early season success go to their heads and were always able to stay focused after loses and at the end of the season take the fourth position. The biggest strength was their head coach Raoul Korner who already displayed his coaching capabilities in Braunschweig the year before almost bringing them to the playoffs. With Bayreuth, everything fit in place as he did an excellent job getting the right pieces for the team success and chemistry something that the club has had problems doing since they came back to the BBL in 2010. The other big strength was Korner´s vision of not necessarily getting players that did could do many things well on the court, but concentrating on each player doing one thing especially well. He had strong players at each position as American guards Kyan Anderson and Joseph Lewis panned out to become excellent BBL players and being the leades on the team, while the inside game with Assem Marei and Andreas Seiferth did a solid job taking a load of the three point game when shots weren’t falling while Nate Linhart who could possibly be the best pickup the team has had since 2010 was the glue guy keeping the team together. The club also had great role players with Steve Wachalski, Demon Brooks and Bastian Doreth that brought their own special quality to the team. The club shot a strong 41,0 from outside and belonged to the strongest teams form the free throw line sinking 81% of their shots. On the defensive end, they grabbed the most steals in the BBL and were the eighth best team in the league in points allowed at only 79 points per game.
After finishing the regular season last season in second place, the EWE Baskets were way off the mark this season as they finished only in fifth place and that only because they had a good finish to the season as they easily could of landed in seventh or eighth place had it needed weeks earlier. This would have be the equivalent of a Bamberg or FC Bayern Munich not making the playoffs simply because the club always has great rosters with talent, experience and most important a healthy kept team chemistry so this season´s fifth place was an underachieving accomplishment that probably kept club CEO Herman Schuller experiencing some unwanted headaches at times. The club started off losing three of their first five games and were never really able to find a healthy rhythm. Their best stretch came from the end of November to mid-February where they won eight of ten games, but then they served up a four game losing streak displaying their inconsistency in their season. They were unable to defeat one of the three big B´s and only had 4 wins against playoff teams, but did sweep the Telekom Baskets Bonn. Their big strength is their team chemistry as they held on to 9 players and their overwhelming experience. The presence of Rickey Paulding and Chris Kramer is already half the rent and without them the club may already been visiting café´s in May instead of still playing competitive games. The team has an all-around sound roster and have quality at each position with guys like Philipp Schwethelm, Vaughn Duggins, Maxime De Zeeuw, Vladimir Mihalovic and with Brian Qvale a top three center in the league. Other strengths in the team is their team shooting as they shoot at a high percentage from the field at the two point range at 53% and 38,7% from downtown. The club also move the ball well dishing out 18,3 assists per game and cough up the ball only 12,3 times per game.
Both teams split the season series as medi Bayreuth won at home during their 10 game winning streak 80-71 as they totally dominated the boards 40-25 and shared the ball well having 5 players scoring in double figures. In the return game, the EWE Baskets Oldenburg used their home court advantage to crush medi Bayreuth 83-64. Oldenburg played a strong offensive game dishing out 25 assists, had six extra possessions and displayed their aggressive defense that kept medi Bayreuth on their heels all night long not getting an efficient rhythm. This could be one of the more exciting series and one that is difficult to predict as both clubs could easily advance to the next round. The best theme to describe this series is Cinderella vs Experience. Can medi Bayreuth continue to live through the playoffs and continue their magical run? The EWE Baskets Oldenburg are a very good defensive team that allowed only 77 points per game n the league which was sixth best. Medi Bayreuth was the fourth best scoring team averaging 83 points per game, but didn´t have the best ball movement dishing out only 16 assists per game which was 16th best. If Oldenburg can play a very consistent defensive series, then they should be able to move on. What speaks for medi Bayreuth is that they have nothing to lose and have that invincible playing instinct. Both teams will come into the playoffs fresh as they both finished the season strong as Oldenburg won three of it´s last four and medi Bayreuth two of it´s last three including a gigantic home victory against the mighty FC Bayern Munich. A big question mark with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg is how well their two work horses Rickey Pauldinga nd Chris Kramer hold up in a long series especially in crunch time as they are the two motors of the team exceeding 30 plus minutes per game. If medi Bayreuth can do a successful job keying in on them and not let Brian Qvale get easy touches down low and dominate then they could win this series easily. However the EWE Baskets Oldenburg have the valuable experience and deeper bench that will help them make the upset.