So here we are, we have arrived at the final round of the 2019 Sal's NBL season and once we get to 9pm on Sunday evening only four teams will progress through to the biggest weekend of the year.
But before we cast our eyes towards Horncastle Arena and the four-way showdown between the Saints, Rams, Hawks and Sharks, let's take a look at the five biggest questions in R14.
FAST FIVE - Question 1
Q: Is it an advantage for the Sharks that they are the only Final 4 team that doesn't have to travel this week?
A: Depends who you talk to, but it's arguably a scenario the Saints, Hawks and Rams would prefer as they prepare for the Final 4. The Saints travel to Auckland, which isn't too bad, the Rams travel to Hawke's Bay, also a reasonable scenario if the weather doesn't close in, but the Hawks have to head across international waters to Tasmania and as we have already seen many times this season it only takes one delayed or cancelled flight and it can become a very long road trip. One downside for the Sharks is they don't play until 7pm Sunday evening, which means they will have the shortest break before their game on Saturday at 3:10pm at the Final 4. Despite the lateness of their R14 game the Sharks will much prefer their situation to that of the other three finalists.
FAST FIVE - Question 2
Q: What impact will the final round have on the Hawks given they have to travel to Australia to play the Huskies?
A: The game against the Rams will be status quo, however expect big changes for the trip to Tasmania where EJ Singler, Brandon Bowman, Jarrod Kenny, Dion Prewster and Ethan Rusbatch will all stay behind in NZ. It's also tipped that coach Zico Coronel will also stay home. Whilst this is far from what the Huskies or the League wants to see, it will provide the Hawks second unit with an abundance of big minutes on the eve of the Final 4. So will the travel impact on the Hawks? Well, it won't impact on their starters that's for sure.
FAST FIVE - Question 3
Q: What does the last round mean for the five teams that can't make the Final 4?
A: Plenty! The Huskies, Giants, Airs, Rangers and Jets all finish up for the season this weekend, however all five will want to finish 2019 with a bang and take some confidence away from it all. The Huskies wrapped up fifth place last week and should be too strong for a second-string Hawks team, the Airs and Giants battle looms as a ripper, the Jets will be hoping for a reversal in recent form when they head to Invercargill, while the Rangers were admirable for the most part last week against the Hawks and will hope for more of the same against the Saints.
FAST FIVE - Question 4
Q: Will the Hawks and Rams go hard or will they keep their cards packed away and save it all for next week?
A: Don't expect either team to show their hand ahead of their Semi Final clash a week later. While both Zico Coronel and Mick Downer won't want to tinker too much, neither coach will be going all out to deliver 'everything' and it could lead to some interest rotations. At the same time expect glimpses, albeit short, of a few little wrinkles they may look at for the bigger clash ahead. Once both teams settle in expect some bruise-free basketball as well as both teams will want to come through unscathed. Each team's starters will play some solid minutes in the first and third quarters, but how much they play beyond that will be interesting.
FAST FIVE - Question 5
Q: It is time to start getting excited about the Final 4?
A: Absolutely! The build-up has been filled with both excitement and anticipation. The best four teams have made it through and anything can happen from here. The Horncastle Arena provides a great backdrop to it all and with the Rams in action the local fans should be out in full voice. And while everyone thinks the Saints will win it all, no one is 100% sure as on their day the Rams, Hawks and Sharks can do some very special things. With daily tickets from just $12 and weekend passes from $23 how can you not want to be there for all the action? Bring it on!