My final column for The Japan Times:
Despite last Friday’s abrupt end to the B. League season, the campaign gave fans a number of memorable feats since its opening weekend last October.
What’s more, there isn’t a 2019-20 B. League champion. Instead, there are three division champs based on their final win-loss records before league chairman Masaaki Okawa announced the season was done due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This adds an interesting element to next season’s storyline. Technically, the Alvark Tokyo, back-to-back title winners over the past two years, will still be defending champions – though I think it’s fair to suggest that all teams will enter the upcoming season with a fresh outlook and a clean slate.
This season produced many what-ifs and countless questions, leaving an asterisk in this nation’s basketball history book.
First and foremost, of course, is this: Who would’ve won the championship trophy?
On a related note, would the Utsunomiya Brex, Chiba Jets Funabashi, Sunrockers Shibuya, Kawasaki Brave Thunders, Ryukyu Golden Kings, Osaka Evessa or any other playoff-bound team have found a way to get past the Alvark?
The coronavirus pandemic forced the B. League to suspend the season in late February and again in mid-March before calling it off for good with 19 games still to be played.
Longtime SeaHorses Mikawa sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru delivered a riveting performance on March 15, which turned out to be the final day of league’s fourth season. He buried 11 of 17 3-pointers en route to 45 points against the Yokohama B-Corsairs.
SeaHorses big man Davante Gardner topped the scoring chart with 23.4 points per game, edging the Brave Thunders’ Nick Fazekas (23.2) in the high-profile category.
Jets playmaker Yuki Togashi, the circuit’s most popular player, crafted an impressive stat line as a passer with a league-best 6.5 assists per game. With backcourt mate Koh Flippin, a rookie, emerging as one of the most exciting youngsters in the league, Togashi often thrived when he shifted to shooting guard and scored points in a hurry off the dribble and via the team’s patented pick-and-rolls.