A week before the B. League’s top flight gets underway, the second division opens its 2018-19 campaign on Sept. 28.
The promoted Hachioji Bee Trains play host to the Earthfriends Tokyo Z and the Ehime Orange Vikings face the visiting Hiroshima Dragonflies in the evening’s two lid-lifters.
A day later, all 18 B2 clubs are in action.
After steamrolling the competition in the second division last season, the Akita Northern Happinets (54-6) and Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka, who beat them in the playoff finals, were promoted to B1. Fukuoka was a powerful force a year ago, too, winning 47 of 60 contests before a successful run in the postseason under bench boss Ryuji Kawai.
The Iwate Big Bulls were demoted to B3 after a 7-53 campaign.
After enduring disappointing 2017-18 seasons, the Nishinomiya Storks (12-48) and Shimane Susanoo Magic (11-29) failed to keep their spots in B1 during the playoff-relegation competition in May. They’ll now occupy spots in the B2’s revamped Central and West Divisions.
Parity was a chief trait of the second tier this past season with nine clubs finishing with winning records, including the Kumamoto Volters (41-19), Fighting Eagles Nagoya (39-21), Fukushima Firebonds and Ibaraki Robots (both at 38-22), Hiroshima Dragonflies and Ehime Orange Vikings (with identical 33-27 records) and Gunma Crane Thunders (32-28).