UCU Canons Credit: Tsaubah Stone

2019 NBL Finals | UCU Canons vs. City Oilers | Lugogo Indoor Stadium

  • Game 1: Wednesday, November 27 | 8:30pm
  • Game 2: Friday, November 29 | 8:30pm
  • Game 3: Sunday, December 1 | 6:30pm
  • Game 4: Wednesday, December 4 | 8:30pm
  • Game 5*: Friday, December 6 | 8:30pm
  • Game 6*: Sunday, December 8 | 6:30pm
  • Game 7*: Wednesday, December 11 | 8:30pm

UCU Canons are into the National Basketball League Playoff finals for the second time in their history. The buzz among the players, coaches, and the Canon faithful was visible from Thursday night when they ejected Power, 3-1.

However, there’s no time for the squad making the championship round for the first time (except Fadhil Chuma) to celebrate as the seven-game playoffs finals start tonight at Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

The young Canons go into the finals with nothing to lose having surpassed everyone’s expectations (and probably their own) as finals have come a year earlier.

Fadhili Chuma defends Landry Ndikumana

How will UCU Canons turn out?

Offensively

The UCU Canons are probably the best transition team in the league. The university side enjoys scoring on transition using the athleticism of the youthful players from the guards to bigger players as Fadhili Chuma, David Deng and Titus Lual.

David Deng and Fadhil Chuma Credit: Tsaubah Stone

In the three successive semifinal victories, Power’s transition defense was bleeding with their inability to balance the court and slow down the pace of UCU in their own half.

The speed with which UCU turn their defense into offense could give limping City Oilers trouble especially if it’s the guards who will lead the breakaway and are not slowed down.

UCU may not have the presence down low as they did four years ago with only Chuma able to post up and probably Peter Sifuma off the bench but the length in their frontcourt will give Landry Ndikumana and James Okello some work to do whenever the Canons slow down their offense a little bit.

Fayed Bbaale drives past Ben Komakech

City Oilers will fancy setting their defense as they did against Warriors given UCU’s set offense is not as good as their transition but in Fayed Bbale, Canons have a point guard who can create play out of nothing. UCU will need the 3-point shot and if Bbale can harness the scoring potential of swingman Isaiah Ater and Jerry Kayanga who can cook from deep as well as get the entry passes to Chuma and Sifuma, Canons will give themselves a chance.

Defensively

Nick Natuhereza’s preference of zone defense will be tested against City Oilers as the champions can be devastating from 3-point range on their night.

Natuhereza will set up his zone to keep Ndikumuna and the aggressive Okello away from the basket but if Jimmy Enabu, Tony Drileba, Ivan Muhwezi and Josh Johnson, as well as Ben Komakech, are firing, the Canons may have defensive nightmares.

How UCU switch defenses will be key in limiting the second-best team in the country at the moment but with a championship experience unmatched.

UCU Canons Credit: Tsaubah Stone

How will Oilers turn out?

Offensively

Without doubt, City Oilers have the most offensive options of the two sides. The six-time champions can score on transition, go down to Ndikumana and Okello or have Muhwezi, Drileba score from 3-point range and occasionally from Johnson and Komakech as well as Enabu who will attack the zone.

City Oilers forward James Okello Credit: © Kawowo Sports | JOHN BATANUDDE

James Okello has grown into Oilers’ top offensive contributor with his aggressiveness in the lane but may find it tough to work from his office against UCU whose interior defense has been quite solid throughout the season.

Key to Oilers offense is the passing ability and patience of the team on offense that gets players wide open for shots and easy looks at the basket. UCU may lock the interior but Oilers will find a way of unlocking it. Ndikumana is a big man who can do a little bit of everything with the ball and comfortable inside out. The Burundian may draw Chuma or Lual outside and given his triple threat, he could be a real thorn in UCU’s flesh.

Jimmy Enabu Credit: Tsaubah Stone

Jimmy Enabu gives Oilers the pace with his quick feet and long hands. Enabu’s drives to the basket may unsettle UCU’s defense and earn him a few trips to the line where he is efficient, especially in the clutch.

The maturity and experience of Josh Johnson and Ben Komaketch may give the defending champions an edge on the backcourt offensively.

Defensively

Any coach would naturally direct their defensive strategy at slowing down UCUs transition offense, limiting Deng, Lual and Chuma as well as their provider Fayed Bbale.

Landry Ndikumana, Jimmy Enabu and Ivan Muhwezi of City Oilers look on

Ndikumana and Okello will not have to stand any pounding at the post but will definitely be drawn to the perimeter and have to keep out of foul trouble.

Oilers’ court balance on offense will be key to making defensive stops on UCU’s transition.

Franklin Kaweru is the Editor in Chief of Kawowo Sports. He is an ardent basketball enthusiast.

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