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NBA D-League Power Rankings: March 22, 2011

by Matthew Brennan, NBA

March 22, 2011: The Power Rankings return with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. Iowa retains the top spot after clinching the Eastern Conference title, while four teams are still in a battle to win the Western Conference. As of Tuesday morning, Iowa, Rio Grande Valley, Tulsa, Erie, Reno, and Bakersfield had all clinched postseason berths. Springfield and Sioux Falls are the only teams eliminated from contention so far.

The Energy swept a homestand and clinched the East Conference, taking their third straight title. They'll finish the season again without Othyus Jeffers, who signed with the Washington Wizards last week. Iowa is on the road for their final five regular season games as they look to lock up the number one overall seed.
The Bighorns, 7-2 in March, have closed to one game of the lead in the Western Conference after sweeping Utah on the road. They visit Sioux Falls this weekend, where they lost their last game back on December 4. Jeremy Lin is back on assignment from the Golden State Warriors and averaging 18.3 points in 18 games.
Like many teams in the NBA D-League, the 66ers are stumbling down the stretch with a 3-5 record in March. Locked in a tie for first in the Western Conference with Rio Grande Valley, they'll look to even the series at 1-1 with the Vipers when they meet on Saturday in Tulsa. The 66ers also host Austin and Texas this week as they complete their schedule with five straight home games.
The Vipers fell back into a tie for first in the West after a lopsided loss to Idaho on Monday night. 3-4 in March, they host the Stampede again on Wednesday before a huge game in Tulsa on Saturday. The Vipers can clinch the season series over Tulsa with a win. They'll have some extra firepower with Rockets center Hasheem Thabeet on assignment and top scorer Jerel McNeal back after a GATORADE Call-Up to the Hornets.
The Jam defeated Erie on Saturday to clinch their second playoff berth in team history and can move up into home-court advantage and choosing their first-round opponent with a few more victories. Their next four games are against teams with losing records, starting with a trip to New Mexico followed by a homestand against Maine. Star guard Trey Johnson set a new NBA D-League season high with 48 points in Friday's double-overtime loss to the BayHawks.
The BayHawks have won just four of their last ten and will need to improve their record over the last two weeks if they want home-court advantage in the first round. After a road visit to Fort Wayne tonight, the BayHawks finish their schedule with five games at home against Eastern Conference rivals. Forward Ivan Johnson continues to post big numbers, averaging 24.9 points and 8.0 rebounds in March over nine games.
The Flash have lost two straight after playing very well recently, but they can punch their ticket to the playoffs with a win over Maine on Tuesday night. Forward Brandon Costner continues to play well over the last half of the season, averaging 20.2 points over his last ten games.
The Mad Ants are still in command of the final playoff berth by one game over Texas and Idaho. 4-4 in March, they will be challenged with two games this week against the Erie BayHawks, who've already beaten the Mad Ants four times in five meetings this season. Former NBA D-League All-Star Ron Howard has returned to the team and is averaging 9.3 points after his first three games.
The Stampede are challenging for a playoff spot by winning three of their last four, including a blowout win on the road in Rio Grande Valley on Monday. Portland first-round pick Luke Babbitt has been a huge addition on assignment, averaging 20.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in his second tenure. The Stampede continue their Texas trip by facing the Vipers on Wednesday followed by two weekend games in Austin.
The Toros split four road games in Texas and Rio Grande Valley last week, and visit Tulsa on Tuesday before three home games. Austin is very much in the hunt for the final playoff spot and welcomed back All-Star center Marcus Cousin on Saturday after he played a ten-day contract with the Utah Jazz.
The Legends remain locked in a tight battle for the final playoff spot. They have two tough games this week, visiting Tulsa on Friday before a home game against Rio Grande Valley on Sunday. The Legends are a combined 5-7 against the two teams this season. Guard Justin Dentmon continues to heat up, averaging 23.1 points in March.
The Thunderbirds have lost seven of their last ten and are clinging to life in the playoff race. They host Bakersfield this week before an eastern road trip that sees visits to Springfield and Fort Wayne. NBA veteran forward J.R. Giddens is averaging 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds since joining the team 11 games ago.
The Wizards split a pair of games on the road in Idaho and are still technically alive in the playoff race. They're at home this week for three games, with Sioux Falls and Utah visiting Bismarck. Veteran Renaldo Major has been very effective on offense in March, averaging 19.4 points while shooting .604 from the field.
The Red Claws need to defeat Utah on the road Tuesday in order to stay alive for a playoff berth. It's the first game in a four-game road trip that also has a visit to Bakersfield. Forward DeShawn Sims continues to light up the scoreboard with 24.6 points in March.
The Armor ended a five-game losing streak on Sunday when they demolished Sioux Falls on the road. They'll look to keep the momentum going with another game in Sioux Falls Tuesday before their home finale on Saturday against New Mexico. Nets guard Ben Uzoh is averaging 12.3 points and 7.7 rebounds after his first three games on assignment.
The Skyforce will try to end a three-game losing streak when they host Springfield on Tuesday. A busy slate continues with a trip to Dakota followed by two weekend games against Reno. The Skyforce are out of the playoff race, but they'll still make an impact on the postseason with their last five games against teams in the playoff hunt.