Whoever did the draw at Australian NBL headquarters certainly has a sense of the dramatic.
Opening up with the latest instalment in the Breakers-Wildcats rivalry is the hoops equivalent of having James Bond toss the Queen out of a helicopter.
It is a fabulous way to showcase the launch of the new season.
These two great rivals from the furthest flung outposts take up right where they left off in the final game of the 2011-12 campaign.
We can only hope we're in for more of the same.
At the end of that memorable night last April at Vector Arena there was blood on the floor and delight in the air as the New Zealand Breakers outlasted their Perth rivals with a memorable 79-73 victory to claim back to back championships in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Funnily enough, the more things change the more they stay the same.
The league has undergone a ripple of change, with the Gold Coast blaze dropping out and the extra talent consolidated throughout the chasing pack of a now eight-team competition.
But the Breakers and the Wildcats are more or less identical - they have made one significant roster change each - and to the practised eyes remain the sides everyone in this competition will be chasing. Again.
Between them they have won the last three championships and provided the lion's share of the league's most memorable matchups over that period. Though their clashes sometimes waver dangerously close to that fine line between fair and foul, they are almost always physical, frantic, furious and thoroughly captivating.
And tonight at what should be a sold-out North Shore Events Centre we should get as good an indication as any just where the balance of power lies as the Breakers begin their shot at becoming just the second club in league history to threepeat.
The Breakers and Wildcats both understand the importance of continuity, not to mention the value of retaining quality talent. Not coincidentally, they start further down the track than all their pursuers.
The Breakers go for the hat-trick having made just one major change, cutting the outstanding Gary Wilkinson free to allow Alex Pledger his shot at starting centre.
There's risk attached, but the addition of new import Will Hudson as backup provides a pretty handy insurance policy. Other than that it's the same old gang, though Corey Webster is back off his year-long ban to replace BJ Anthony in what really is an upgrade.
A slimmed down, psyched-up Webster is ready to contribute in the back-court, whereas the injury-plagued Anthony was a passenger last season.
Similar story Wildcats. They've also let a quality big go - seven-footer Luke Nevill to, would you believe, the NBA - and have replaced from within. Kiwi Jeremiah Trueman is expected to back up Matty Knight in the pivot, and the remainder are all back.
Nothing's changed with the Cats, reckons Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis. In other words it should be another scrap to the bitter end against a club that's made 26 straight post-season appearances.
"Perth still play as Perth do," said the NBL's coach of the year. "They're very aggressive, they challenge you to guard their penetration, they shoot the three well, and they smash the hell out of the offensive boards.
You've also got to deal with their pressure defence and not turn it over against them. The keys remain the same."
They're the team the Breakers love to beat.
But also love to play. "There's mutual respect," says Kiwi power forward Dillon Boucher. "But once that whistle goes everything's out the window. It's whoever brings it on the night, and you know whichever team doesn't is going to lose."
Adds Breakers guard Daryl Corletto: "I respect Perth and the way they play. They've got guys like Damo (Damian Martin), Kevin [Lisch], Shawn [Redhage] and Matty Knight who play hard every day.
We've got guys like Dillon and Mika who do exactly the same. We know what we're going to get, and it's about matching their intensity for the full 40."
Tipoff is just after 7.30pm (live SkySport 2) and the championship banner will be raised in the build-up.
That won't help the Wildcats' demeanour in the slightest.
BREAKING IT DOWN: 2012-13 AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE
Champions: Breakers complete the three-peat. Break out the champagne.
Runners-up: Perth Wildcats. Nothing changes.
Beaten semifinalists: Adelaide 36ers, Townsville Crocodiles.
Team: Cedric Jackson, C J Bruton, Daryl Corletto, Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, Leon Henry, Mika Vukona, Dillon Boucher, Alex Pledger, Will Hudson.
Coach: Andrej Lemanis.
Player to watch: Alex Pledger. The "Chief" gets the chance to morph from best backup big man in the league to best starting centre. Big challenge.
The skinny: Only one personnel change (Will Hudson for Gary Wilkinson) for the back-to-back champs and that makes them the team to beat once again.
Team: Damian Martin, Kevin Lisch, Brad Robbins, Everard Bartlett, Cameron Tovey, Drew Williamson, Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff, Greg Hire, Matt Knight, Jeremiah Trueman.
Coach: Rob Beveridge.
Player to watch: Normally you'd say league MVP Kevin Lisch. But ex-Breaker Shawn Redhage is finally fully healthy and ready to deliver.
The skinny: Nothing changes, with the Cats chasing a 27th straight post-season appearance. Personnel all but unchanged and they'll come with that relentless pressure to be there or thereabouts once again.
Team: Adam Gibson, Jason Cadee, Nathan Crosswell, C J Massingale, Stephen Weigh, Mitch Creek, Anthony Petrie, Daniel Johnson, Luke Schenscher, Pero Vasiljevic.
Coach: Marty Clarke.
Player to watch: Boomers guard Adam Gibson was the big recruit but improving big man Daniel Johnson shapes as the scoring weapon for the tooled-up 36ers.
The skinny: The biggest movers between seasons, picking up three players from the Blaze and ex-NBA centre Luke Schenscher, it's finally time for Adelaide to deliver.
Team: Gary Ervin, Michael Cedar, Chris Cedar, Mitch Norton, Peter Crawford, Todd Blanchfield, Jacob Holmes, Larry Abney, Ben Allen, Russell Hinder.
Coach: Paul Woolpert.
Player to watch: Look no further than 2010-11 MVP Gary Ervin. The ex-Hawk import point guard was a late addition but could take the Crocs to the next level.
The skinny: Looked out of sync pre-season but, after sacking their initial imports, have restocked with Ervin and 2012 Southland Shark Larry Abney. Playoff contenders.
Team: Jamar Wilson, Aaron Grabau, Kerry Williams, Clint Steindl, Shane Edwards, Cameron Gliddon, Brad Hill, Alex Loughton, Cameron Tragardh, Dusty Rychart.
Coach: Aaron Fearne.
Player to watch: Jamar Wilson. The classy American point guard will need to spark the Taipans to get them into the top-four mix.
The skinny: Addition of noted scorer Cameron Tragardh should up the offensive firepower but big questions about whether the Snakes can defend like in their recent past.
Team: Kevin Braswell, Nate Tomlinson, Chris Goulding, Bennie Lewis, Luke Walker, Tommy Greer, Liam Rush, Adam Ballinger, Seth Scott, Matt Burston.
Coach: Chris Anstey.
Player to watch: Seth Scott. The quality American big man may have to carry a load for the Tigers to contend.
The skinny: Will need ex-Breaker Kevin Braswell to turn back the clock at the point – and that could be a big ask.
Team: Rhys Martin, Adris Deleon, Lance Hurdle, Tyson Demos, Glen Saville, Tim Coenraad, Oscar Forman, Larry Davidson, David Gruber, Daniel Jackson.
Coach: Gordie McLeod.
Player to watch: The Hawks have gone with an all-import guardline but will rely on former Breaker Oscar Forman.
The skinny: Veteran-heavy squad.Should start well but sustaining the challenge will be the hard part.
Team: Corin Henry, Aaron Bruce, Ben Madgen, Luke Martin, Kevin White, James Harvey, Darnell Lazare, Tom Garlepp, Graeme Dann, Ian Crosswhite.
Coach: Shane Heal.
Player to watch: Power forward Darnell Lazare looks a talented sort and will need to come up big.
The skinny: Look guard heavy and lack the depth to compete with the better teams. Also-ran status once again.
- © Fairfax NZ News