When the National Basketball League of Canada's 2012-2013 schedule first came out last summer, it became immediately obvious to followers of the Summerside Storm that the month of March would tell the tale of whether the second-year expansion franchise would find safe harbour in the playoffs for the first time.
And that scenario has certainly come to pass. Get ready for March Madness – Summerside style.
The Storm plays tonight in Oshawa, Ont., and then Saturday in London to wrap up their road schedule. London has been the best team in the league this season, and Oshawa has almost an identical record to Summerside as next best.
The Storm, as well documented, is AWOL from Credit Union Place for a 40-day period save for one game against Moncton a couple of weeks ago. The good news is that they finish their road schedule with Saturday's game in London, and mercifully head back home for their last five contests.
The first of those five is Tuesday night against their regular play-date partners – the Saint John Mill Rats. The Storm lead the Atlantic Division by just two games over the Mill Rats, and two and a half over the Halifax Rainmen.
They may be renaming the Mill Rats the Zombies. Last week they lost their best player, Anthony Anderson, to a team which plays in another league, in a much warmer climate, and which has bags of money that they showered on Anderson to come and play.
Then in their next game the Rats managed to score all of 26 points in the whole first half, at home against the Storm, to fall behind by 24 at intermission, and their obituaries were written and the funeral service just about complete.
However, the Storm went on holidays for the second half, and the Mill Rats climbed out of the coffin to win the game going away. Tonight they are in London, then Windsor tomorrow before coming back to Saint John to host Halifax Sunday. By then we should know if Tuesday night's game here will indeed be the Night of the Living Dead, or merely the most important game of the year.
The surest way for the Storm to make the playoffs is to win the Atlantic Division crown, as the two division winners automatically qualify, and then the team with the next best record. The teams with the next two best records will play a best of three series with the winner advancing to the semifinals to join those first three invitees.
If a team has visions of championships dancing in its head, it wants nothing to do with that first series.
The five playoff teams are essentially set, with London having clinched the Central Division long ago, and Summerside, Oshawa, Saint John, and Halifax having a distinct advantage over Windsor which still has an outside chance of becoming the fifth team.
However, the Atlantic Division crown is up for grabs between Summerside, Saint John, and Halifax, and Oshawa is desperately trying to wrest that important third-best record from one of the Atlantic teams. The Moncton Miracles are hoping their name rings true, as they are a couple of games out but with just one more to play.
After the collapse in Saint John, the Storm played their hearts out in a 118-114 overtime loss in London Sunday, despite playing short a potential 31 points without the injured Antonio Ballard and the scratched Omari Johnson. Johnson is back tonight, and the Storm hope they can muster the same effort against Oshawa.
Starting Tuesday, the Storm has those five straight home games to wrap up the regular season, and they are all against Saint John, London, Oshawa, and Halifax (2). It's Madness!!