The Miles Basketball Minute: 2016 Beko BBL Playoff Preview: FC Bayern Munich-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg 3-1

Can three be a charm this season for head coach John Patrick and the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg? It really doesn´t matter where MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg head coach John Patrick has coached in the last nine years in Germany, whatever team he was in charge of, he made better a feat which isn´t necessarily self-evident. With BG Goettingen, he made a second division team into a genuine Beko BBL team that made the playoffs on a regular basis and crowned his existence there with the 2010 Eurchallenge win. In all his time there, he had lesser known players and NCAA players that he groomed and one into a Euroleague player with Taylor Rochestie. He also discovered current Fraport Skyliner John Little and brought him to Goettingen as a rookie and today is the only player to have won two German international club titles. Next he moved to Bavaria and coached the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg which was a huge project at the time made it into another playoff team that defeated top team Alba Berlin in the 2011 playoffs and gave him in a short time legendary status. His possibly biggest challenge was saving the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the 2012-2013 season keeping them in the Beko BBL coming in as a fireman and then in the last two years forming playoff teams that annoyed FC Bayern Munich and the Brose Baskets Bamberg. With Ludwigsburg, the experienced coach has had the best talent ever far eclipsing what he had to work with in Goettingen and Wurzburg the last two seasons as having an NBA player on the floor at all times like with Coby Karl, DJ Kennedy and Mustafa Shakur was about as typical in any game as seeing Jon Brockman hauling down an offensive rebound with his undeniable physicality. However in the last two seasons, the club just didn´t have that extra piece to the puzzle to get over the hump against FC Bayern Munich losing 3-1 in the quarterfinals two years ago and last year being swept by the Brose Baskets Bamberg, but playing them tough losing by eight points twice and once with five points. Now Patrick and co have that rematch again with FC Bayern Munich that at times are like night and day as they can stink up the arena and lose to a poor team like the Mitteldeutscher BC and on the next game manhandle the Brose Baskets Bamberg. Ludwigsburg played FC Bayern Munich very tough two seasons ago and Patrick surely can still remember that series where they had to replay a game. Can the MHP Riesen seek revenge and make the upset this season with the personal and character on the team?

It has been two years since FC Bayern Munich last won the Beko BBL title and for Germany´s most famous team, this feels like an eternity because nothing but the best is always expected. After losing in the cup final to Alba Berlin and losing in the Eurocup quarterfinals, the club wants to save it´s season by at least giving head coach Svetislav Pesic that last title before he moves on, but it will take extreme hard work as Bamberg will be in the way in the semi-finals. However before the club can think about freak city and the boisterous crowd, it has to dispose of Ludwigsburg who won´t just lie down and surrender as they will give FC Bayern Munich a hard series as nothing else is expected from a club led by John Patrick. FC Bayern Munich finished the regular season in fourth place with a record of 26-6 and had a very strong 9-5 against the playoff teams that were in the hunt as they split with Alba Berlin and Frankfurt, but lost both games to the Brose Baskets Bamberg. During the season they were able to post winning streaks of seven and eight games, but then again had loses against teams like ratiopharm Ulm and the Telekom Baskets Bonn that would have been wins on a normal day. The low point of the season was being embarrassed against the Mitteldeutscher BC who moved back to the Pro A losing 93-90 in Leipzig. Nobody can really complain about not keeping a healthy core of players as they kept six players with top players Anton Gavel, Bryce Taylor, Anton Gavel and Nihad Djedovic who are all players that any other team would drool over. The club fortified their club with guys like Alex Renfroe, Deon Thompson, and Maxi Kleber, but the German missed some months due to injury. Like any other team, the Bavarian side had to fight injuries to not only Kleber, but probably their best player Nihad Djedovic. It also didn´t help the team chemistry that they lost KC Rivers in the middle of the season and Vasiilije Micic. The club bolstered the roster by getting American Justin Cobbs who was instrumental in helping the club get by Bamberg in the cup semi´s and has been a solid back up to Renfroe. Recently the club got sharp shooter Chad Toppert who never met a basket he didn´t fancy and athletic high flyer Vitalis Chikoko. With an offensive attack like that, it didn´t surprise anyone that they had the best offense in the league scoring 90 points per game and ranked fifth in points allowed at 77 and sixth in rebounds with 32. With possibly the deepest bench in the league, the club still should have been able to perform better during the season despite the roster fluctuations and injuries. The team was unable to make the needed adjustments to rack up more wins. Their biggest strength is their firepower, bench and ability to give a top defensive performance when they need to.

The MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have been reborn since the arrival of John Patrick as there were many years where the club was as far away from the playoffs as Crailsheim is from ever being rewarded with a post season invitation. Patrick has led the club into a third consecutive playoffs and finally want to get past the quarterfinals. The club finished the season in fifth place with a 23-11 record. This was their best finish in the club´s history and a big improvement over the last two seasons where they just slipped into the playoffs. In the Eurocup, they also were able to sell themselves well reaching the last round of 32. Despite having eight new players signed, the club had little problems getting off to a quick 8-1 record and were near the top after two months. A big help was that some of the new players signed like Jason Boone, David Mccray and Rocky Trice were BBL veterans and knew the league. Then after a three game losing streak where they lost to Frankfurt, Bamberg and Munich, they found on track again winning eight of nine games. They lost some focus at the end losing two of three games to Giessen and Bonn. Patrick kept a good foundation with ex NBA player Jon Brockman, experienced Adam Waleskowski and defense specialist Shawn Huff. He added a good mix of talented players like Tekele Cotton, Royce O´Neale, Alvaro Munoz, Brad Loesing and Kerron Johnson who came late to the club after having played there last season. The signing of ex NBA player Mustafa Shakur turned out to be a big plus as he had a superb season, but it was cut short to injury as he played only 15 Beko BBL games. The club could have been able to have squeezed out 2-3 more wins with him on board. At any rate, Patrick was able to get by the loss of the point guard and get the needed support from everyone. The team has a balanced mix of offense(sixth 77ppg) and defense(seventh 77 points given up). They are led by their work horse Jon Brockman who belongs to the top three centers in the league and have potent scorers with Trice, Johnson, Huff and Cotton. Their bench is also very well bolstered as he can put in BBL veteran Chris Mcnaughton at any time as he doesn´t see many minutes, but would definitely be playing  a lot more on lesser teams. The teams biggest strength is their mix of banging inside game with Brockman and Boone and crafty guards that will make you go crazy for 40 minutes with their defense

FC Bayern Munich swept the season series, but it was a tale of two completely different games. In the first meeting, FC Bayern Munich escaped their own floor with a narrow 95-92 win. Ludwigsburg were the better team outhustling the red on the boards and shooting at a higher percentage from downtown, but in the end, Munich profited from the seven more possessions. In the second meeting, Ludwigsburg were creamed on their own court 100-71. FC Munich definitely did their scouting better this time shooting a lot better, dominating the boards and coughing up the ball an amazing four times which is a feat against the nasty Ludwigsburg guards. Two years ago, Ludwigsburg gave FC Bayern Munich a good run and are they a better team now to stage the upset? They proved that they can block out all obstacles in the Audi Dome and play a spirited game for 40 minutes, but now they will have to win at least one game on the road. The key for FC Bayern Munich will be just to wear down Ludwigsburg with their deeper bench and overall better talent. It could be very possible that Ludwigsburg surprise Munich with their heart and never die attitude. Ludwigsburg will have to defend well and just make as much difficult for the Munich offense, but in two tries this season, it failed. Patrick can always look back at the Alba Berlin series with Wurzburg in 2012 where he sent them home and remind them that it is possible and you need to believe as Jason Boone will be able to contest to that. This could be a very exciting series if Ludwigsburg can catch Munich of balance and steal a game on the road.





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