It wasn´t long ago where s.Oliver Baskets head coach Doug Spradley was toiling around with the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven near the end of his four year tenure where he must have had almost more nightmares than Tom Brady still has with his two lost Super Bowls against the New York Giants.In his last season with Bremerhaven, the frustration of the lack of success seemed mind boggling as like so many other times, the club had great talent and experience, but were unable to form that needed team chemistry and also not having the right mix of players seemed to leave a sour taste in his mouth as well as everyone else affiliated with the organization. In his first season, he had almost reached the Beko BBL final in 2010 losing a tough five game series to Frankfurt and three years later was about as far from a playoff spot as Wurzburg´s amazing point guard Dru Joyce is too magically getting invisible wings and being able to fly and dunk over childhood friend Lebron James on a playground in Akron, Ohio. That last season in Bremerhaven really left Spradley at a crossroad in his coaching career that he felt the need not to jump back in the shark infested Beko BBL coaching tank, but took a year off to find himself again mentally. That year off really did wonders as he returned back to the scene signing a contract with the s.Oliver baskets Wurzburg in 2014 and was back at a location where his job was too lead a team back into the Beko BBL the way he did Paderborn in 2006. He found instant success with Wurzburg in the pro A and may not have eclipsed the 50 win in a row season with Paderborn, but also easily led his team back into the Beko BBL. This season, Wurzburg and Giessen together with the Fraport Skyliners formed a trio that were the little darlings of the league. Frankfurt with their team basketball moved up to the big teams like Bamberg and FC Bayern Munich in terms of regular season success while Wurzburg and Giessen who´s season goal was too just remain the league were battling for playoff spots all season long. On the last game day, Giessen was denied, but Wurzburg clawed on to that last spot putting Spradley back into the playoffs. Now he has the most difficult task of having too perform a miracle against Euroleague top 16 team Brose Baskets Bamberg. Just having reached the playoffs is a major accomplishment for the organization and nobody expects a miracle, but one should not forget that he once led a little Paderborn squad of unknowns to almost beating the big mighty Alba Berlin in the 2009 quarterfinals probably giving Alba Berlin Marco Baldi then his first major midlife crisis. Almost anything is possible in basketball, but for Wurzburg to be able to defeat Bamberg in a 5 game series or even win two games is about as unlikely as Dirk Nowitzki dressing up for his Bavarian home team in the series.
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 games.
After moving down to the Pro A in 2014, the s.Oliver Baskets Wurzburg didn´t waste any time moving back up as they tore up the second Bundesliga and came back to the Beko BBL happy to be back and little expectations in the 2015-2016 season except for not moving back down again. In the past head coach Doug Spradley didn´t have luck right away moving up to the Beko BBL with Paderborn in 2006 and reaching the playoffs right away, but nobody in their mind would have thought that Wurzburg would be playing through May except for maybe the most hardcore fans of the Bavarian team. The team didn´t waste any time getting off to a great start winning seven of their first eight games and were driven in the second game at home with an amazing 104-101 OT win against Giessen. At that time, if anyone had predicted that these two teams would be battling for the playoffs the entire season head to head, one would have called you a dumb idiot. Wurzburg did have a down period losing eight out of ten games in midseason, but escaped their hole winning the games they needed to at the end against Bremerhaven and the Telekom Baskets Bonn and finishing in eighth place at 17-17. Their biggest wins of the season was against Alba Berlin, Oldenburg, Frankfurt and ratiopharm Ulm. The reality that Doug Spradley had serious misfortune in his last season with Bremerhaven getting the wrong mix of players was long forgotten when he came to Wurzburg as once again he had a free reign and got the right players. One could call him a master of reeling in the right players as the only players that remained from last season were the young Germans and the rest nine imports were Americans that proved to be the right fit. The two key players were Dru Joyce who seems to be getting better with age as he averaged the most assists in his career in the Beko BBL with 6,9. The other key signing was Brendan Lane who came as a guy where everyone asked can he make the adjustment from Japan to the stronger Beko BBL and he did belonging to the top 10 centers in the league as he averaged 14,3ppg and 5,5rpg. His consistency was his trademark as he scored in double figures in 28 of 34 games. Spradley also got solid players with veterans Cameron Long and Lamonte Ulmer that helped keep the ship a float and rookie Seth Tuttle proved to a potent scoring threat averaging 10,7ppg, 5,5rpg and 3,1apg as well as helping in all areas of the offense. The club ranked ninth in scoring points at 80 and gave up 82 points per game which was 11th best.
In New York, one calls the Yankees-Mets series the subway series while one could call the Bamberg-Wurzburg series the Bavarian neighbor series as it is a short one hour trip. If there isn´t anything that goes totally wrong for Bamberg like suddenly getting a few injuries and Wurzburg miraculously presenting Dirk Nowitzki in a game, then Bamberg should be able to sweep this series and get some rest for their possible showdown with FC Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. Bamberg swept the season series 80-61 and 80-67. Bamberg is the complete package and should dominate this series. Wurzburg have nothing to lose, and will play to try to force that second home game to keep their season going at least a few more days and to put something added into the cash box. If Bamberg is able to play their game the way they have all season and not allow an upset like in Giessen, then they will sweep this series. They have more talent, and a bench that every team would die for. Wurzburg has to defend as if their life was on the line and show heart. Heart sometimes can do wonders. If Wurzburg has a perfect day and can sneak out a win, then that will be an added bonus to a spectacular season, but overall just having reached the playoffs was the biggest gift that the team got, something that was only a seemingly hopeless dream at the start of the season.