Two rounds into the competition, it's time for the first shootaround of the year. Firstly, some early impressions of each team and then a look at what advanced statistics tell us about the best performances of the competition so far.
Townsville Fire (2-0)
Having powered to a pair of fairly comfortable wins, including a TV game defeat of the highly fancied Boomers, the Fire have every reason for optimism. Dig a little deeper, however, and the Fire’s start begins to look downright ominous for other teams. They’re yet to get import Sydney Wiese on the court and Batkovic is unlikely to have another 1-11 shooting line, as she did against the Boomers. New import Lauren Mincy looks at home and Cayla George has picked up right where she left off, snaffling every rebound in her vicinity and hitting outside shots. Both George (200 games) and Mia Murray (150 games) celebrated milestones this round, highlighting this squad’s valuable continuity and experience.
Melbourne Boomers (3-1)
Despite some prolonged cold stretches in their loss against the Fire, the Boomers will be well satisfied with their form overall and they have cruised to blow out wins over the Spirit and Capitals. O’Hea is crashing the boards like no other wing in the competition and Cambage has been rampant despite playing restricted minutes. Louella Tomlinson (injured finger) will bolster their already miserly frontcourt defence when she returns. They have allowed 63 points in three consecutive games and grudged just 61 in the season’s opening clash.
Adelaide Lightning (2-1)
Signs have been healthy for the completely revamped Adelaide side, with Bishop already back in stellar form (her game against the Lynx was a statistical outlier, see below) and new signings Ruth Hamblin, Lauren Nicholson and Nicole Seekamp all making major contributions, while Nat Novosel’s ability to move the ball has revitalised their offence. A finger injury to Laura Hodges will eat into their depth, though being able to bring Colleen Planeta off the bench is a luxury.
University of Sydney Flames (2-1)
The defending champions trailed for much of an entertaining, high intensity match with Dandenong, but a couple of big plays down the stretch, particularly from Asia Taylor, Ally Wilson and Belinda Snell saw them snatch a home win. They miss the bench scoring that Tahlia Tupaea provided, however, and without the injured guard their bench have tallied 7,8 and 0 points. Fatigue may be a factor long-term if the starters need to play big minutes every night.
University of Canberra Capitals (2-2)
Capitals have certainly had a tough schedule to date, being one of only two teams to play four games and coming up against the against the two most impressive teams so far in round two. Consecutive losses have returned them to the pack. Points in the paint were crucial in both this round’s games: Fire outpointed them there 40-26, while Boomers dominated the paint 50-24.
Bendigo Spirit (1-2)
The Spirit will be collectively breathing an emphatic sigh of relief after their first win against the Lynx. A 43-point explosion in the third quarter, where Nadeen Payne, Betnijah Laney and a previously struggling Rachel Banham all run amok, hints at a lofty offensive ceiling. The hard-working Payne may be in for a breakthrough campaign, while Ebony Rolph, a real defensive disruptor at SEABL level, has earned more court time this season.
Dandenong Rangers (0-2)
Winless, but far from hopeless, the Rangers were actually troubling the Flames with Pedersen’s mobility and their ability to find mismatches for much of their round 2 loss. They have gone a combined 7/29 (24%) on three-pointers in their two games, a figure which is likely to climb significantly in coming weeks as this new look team finds its rhythm.
Perth Lynx (0-3)
While Courtney Williams (23.33 ppg) has been every bit the dynamic scorer the Lynx had hoped for, an inability to get stops has hampered last year’s semi-finalists. Teams have particularly hurt them from the three-point line, with the Flames shooting 9/22 (40%), Lightning going 10/22 (45%) and the Spirit putting up a ridiculous 12/21 (57%) from long-range. Blocks aren’t always a great measure of how well players are protecting the rim, though no team wants to record a lone block in a game as the Lynx did against the Lightning. Look for the long and defence-minded Nat Burton to play more minutes as they try to shore up their defence in time for a suddenly vital return matchup with the Spirit.
Best individual performances by Performance Indicator Rating:
Using the Performance Indicator Rating (PIR) metric, the best individual games to date have come from two of the competition’s marquee names. Abby Bishop’s hyper-efficient 35 point, 10 rebound performance against Perth just shades Cambage’s dominant showing against Canberra, where she monstered her way to 27 points and 9 rebounds in less than 25 minutes. Both games scored above 40 by this metric. For context, a score of around 10 is average, while 20 is a very good individual game. In European competition, where PIR has been used to determine individual awards, an average of around 25 is often the MVP level.
Abby Bishop v Perth Lynx 45
Liz Cambage v UC Capitals 42
Leading players by raw plus/minus:
So far, this metric (also known as ‘on/off’) shows the dominance of the Boomers and the Fire, with other Melbournians Bec Cole, Kalani Purcell and Jenna O’Hea also racking up healthy differentials. Lauren Nicholson (+9.7) and Ally Wilson (+6) lead their respective teams.
+/- differential per game
Cayla George +16
Maddie Garrick +15.5
Liz Cambage +15