PREVIEW - March Madness in the NBL as the regular season enters final month!

NBL Division One

 Leicester Warriors v Essex Leopards 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 3.00pm

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A six-game slate will see 12 of the 14 NBL Division One sides take to the floor in a jam-packed Saturday of top flight action, with only Thames Valley and Manchester enjoying a weekend off after the postponement of their game. The busy day of fixtures tips off with the Leicester Warriors playing host to the Essex Leopards - an encounter featuring two playoff sides jostling for position. After a tricky start to the campaign, the addition of mid-season reinforcements has done the East Midlands' side a world of good, having recently gone on an impressive 5-0 run that has included wins over Thames Valley and Reading. With their recent run of form, Coach Karl Brown's squad has pulled themselves out of the relegation battle to now hold the eighth and final playoff spot, but a win in this one would bring them level with the Rockets and Leopards who sit above them.

Meanwhile, the Leopards team that is making the trip to Braunstone Leisure Centre has been on their own run of solid form, going on a four-game win streak until they picked up a loss against table-topping Worthing Thunder last weekend. Coach Thomas Baker's side kept things interesting at the Essex Sport Arena, behind an excellent performance from Lee Hodges, but the Big Cats came up just short in a four point loss. With just six games to go in their regular season, the Leopards have positioned themselves well to pick up one of the final berths into the post-season - a tough team to match up against for any of the top dogs who find themselves hosting the Leopards when knockout action begins. 


 Team Newcastle v Bradford Dragons 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 3.00pm

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A squad that is well and truly in need of a result this weekend is Team Newcastle, as Coach Ian Hewitt's side are in the middle of a torrid run of form that has seen them drop their last six matchups. There's recent reasons to be hopeful for the North East squad, as they picked up narrow single-digit losses in last weekend's double-header against playoff sides Reading and Thames Valley - competitive in both encounters, but unable to take home the spoils. Tosan Evbuomwan rediscovered his form for Team Newcastle in his return to the side, pouring in 36 points last Saturday in an overtime loss against the Rockets. Coach Hewitt will need similar contributions this weekend if his side are going to pick up what could be a crucial result against the 11th placed Dragons.

Bradford's difficult start to the calendar year continued last weekend, as the 2019 slump for the West Yorkshire side extended to their eighth loss in a row. Having been unable to piece together a victory since the festive break, the Dragons have seen themselves slide down the Division One standings, and they now sit precariously just one victory above the drop zone. Matching up against fellow strugglers Team Newcastle in this one, Coach Chris Mellor's side have the talent to get the job done - but this encounter may come down to whichever team wants it more in their plight to end their slump. 


 Reading Rockets v Team Solent Kestrels 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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Reading's overtime victory over Team Newcastle last weekend marked the first time the Berkshire-based side had won back-to-back games since their 12 January encounter with the Derby Trailblazers. Inconsistent form has been the story of the season for the perennial challengers, and their recent hot streak will be sternly tested on Saturday when Team Solent Kestrels visit Rivermead. Having been relatively reliant on the play of US imports AJ Carr and Trae Pemberton, Coach Alan Keane will have been pleased to get much more out of Sydney Donaldson and David Chive in recent weeks, while Adrian O'Sullivan continues his gradual return to bolster the Rockets' back-court even further. 

Heading into this weekend sitting in second place in the standings will be unfamiliar territory for the Kestrels, following their loss last to Derby last weekend which allowed Worthing to edge ahead at the top. Solent fans will be quick to point out that the Southampton-based side still hold the head-to-head advantage over their south coast rivals, but as the season goes right down to the wire the Kestrels cannot afford any more slip-ups. Having not had the services of guard Nick Lewis in recent weeks, the Solent bench has looked a little weaker - so Coach Matt Guymon will hope that his eight man strong roster can get the job done over the final few weeks of this exciting season.


 Hemel Storm v Barking Abbey Crusaders 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 7.00pm

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The late games on Saturday night begins with a battle of two sides precariously close to the drop zone at the foot of NBL Division One, with Hemel and Barking holding the 10th and 12th spots, respectively. Having seen an uptick in their play since the mid-season arrival of TrayVonn Wright, Hemel went an even 3-3 in a busy February - with two of their losses adding to their laundry list of single digit disappointments this campaign. With a stretch run that includes a number of matchups against playoff-bound teams, this encounter presents the best opportunity for Coach Robert Youngblood's side to pick up points and add some breathing room between themselves and the danger of the bottom two.

Barking Abbey find themselves in a similar predicament to the Storm, but with fewer games remaining to pick up the points they need to guarantee safety. Having won the previous encounter between these two sides, the Crusaders hold a seven point advantage in the head-to-head. Needing victory in this one to put breathing room between the East London side and the relegation zone, a narrow loss that maintains their head-to-head advantage might also pay dividends when the mathematics of the end of season permutations begin to come into play. 


 Derby TrailblazersLoughborough Riders 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 7.15pm

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An impressive 2018/19 campaign thus far has seen the Derby Trailblazers rise from a disappointing second-bottom finish a season ago to this year being right in amongst it at the top of the standings. In third place as things stand, the Blazers have given themselves a good chance of a top four finish - but having already amassed seven losses, the games in hand for the Riders and Cavaliers may pay dividends as the stretch run of the season continues. With three of their final five games coming against fellow top five squads, the Blazers will need some big performances against their closest competitors if they are to maintain home court advantage in the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the opposition making the short journey for this all-East Midlands derby game are a Loughborough Riders side that are 5-1 in their six matchups throughout February. This good run of form has seen the Riders climb up the table to break into the top four, and with a mixed run of games to close out their season they should continue to challenge right at the top of the standings. An impressive double-header of victories last weekend has Loughborough on a two game win-streak that Coach Mark Jarram will hope to extend as the Riders travel to the Blazers and Dragons this weekend. 


 Worthing Thunder v Nottingham McDonalds Hoods 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 7.30pm

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The final game of a busy Saturday in NBL Division One sees Worthing make their return to the Thunderdome after two weekends spent on road trips. Victories over both Barking and Essex on their travels has seen a change at the top, as the Thunder leapfrogged south coast rivals Solent, after their slip-up against the Blazers. With the Kestrels still holding the head-to-head advantage over the Thunder, it remains vital for Worthing to stay perfect down the stretch, a tough ask with three remaining games against fellow top five teams.

The road team in this one making the trip down to the Sussex coast are a Nottingham McDonalds Hoods side that went 2-3 in the month of February, dropping out of the playoffs due to Leicester's hot streak. With breathing room between the Hoods and the teams fighting it out in the relegation battle, the stretch run of this campaign should see the East Midlands side fighting for contention for the final playoff spot. Coach Ryan Westley's squad have a number of games remaining against fellow non-playoff sides, so there should be points on offer for the Hoods to make jump and compete in the race for 6th-8th place. 


 Essex Leopards v Hemel Storm 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 4.00pm

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The Essex Leopards return home to tip-off Sunday's action and complete their double-header, facing off against the Storm who also complete a back-to-back. Back at their former full-time home, the Brentwood Centre, a victory in this one for the Big Cats could see them draw level with Thames Valley and Loughborough who sit above them. Meanwhile, Hemel are straight back into action after a late on against Barking Abbey, with Coach Robert Youngblood hopeful of at least a split of this weekend's fixtures to give the Storm valuable points in the race for survival. The Leopards were 99-101 winners in the recent reversal of this fixture, so there could be another close one on the cards in Brentwood.


 Reading Rockets v Nottingham McDonalds Hoods 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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Sunday's action in NBL Division One continues with Reading playing host to Nottingham, as the Hoods complete a southern road trip. The East Midlands squad will make the short journey up to Rivermead from the Sussex coast after facing off against Worthing, while Reading enjoy the comforts of home in front of their loyal Rockets fans both Saturday and Sunday. With the two sides separated by just two wins in the standings, this could be a close one that has implications on the final playoff seedings near the bottom of the bracket - so look for both squads to bring their A game in this encounter. 


 Team Solent Kestrels v Loughborough Riders 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 6.00pm

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The final action of the NBL Division One weekend sees two more sides completing double-header weekends, as Team Solent and Loughborough face off for the first time since back in October. The Kestrels grabbed a solid victory on the road in that one, putting in a good defensive performance to limit Loughborough's scoring threats. With the Kestrels needing to stay perfect to claim the league title, a couple of wins for Riders this weekend could put them right in amongst it in the top three, still with an outside chance of competing for the title - leaving the Thunder to control their own destiny down the stretch.


WNBL Division One

 Bristol Academy Flyers v Southwark Pride 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 3.30pm

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After a pivotal weekend in WNBL Division One last weekend, which saw Bristol drop their game against Anglia Ruskin, the Flyers are back in action with a home tie against Southwark. The South West side still sit atop the standings for now, but with the Rhinos pinching the season head-to-head and tying up their loss record - the final few games are now crucial for Bristol. There's not only Anglia Ruskin to contend with in their race for the top spot, with the Kestrels breathing down their neck in second place with an 11-4 record. Three games remain for Coach Gareth Till and his squad - with all three against top six sides, it could be an interesting climax to the campaign for the Flyers. 

Meanwhile, making the journey to SGS WISE Arena on Saturday are a Southwark Pride squad that took a 10 point loss against Team Solent on their home floor a week ago. Despite the continued excellent play of Megan Haines, who top scored once again for the Londoners, the Pride couldn't quite get it done as their impressive comeback fell just short. Southwark also have just three games remaining this season, and will need to pick up points in this one if they are to have any chance of a top four finish this campaign.


 Team Birmingham Elite v Sevenoaks Suns II 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 6.00pm

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A good run of form in their last four outings has seen Team Birmingham pick up two wins, along with two single digit losses that could have gone either way. The month of February saw the West Midlands side triple their win tally, as their victories over Ipswich and Barking Abbey added crucial points to their season tally. With the withdrawals of Nottingham and Oxford Brookes potentially protecting Elite's WNBL Division One status for next season, Birmingham may still be able to make a push for the playoffs if the threat of relegation is removed from their worries. Elite will need to pick up points against Sevenoaks and Reading if that is to be the case, with two tough fixtures against Anglia Ruskin to complete their season. 

Making the trip up to The Factory is a Sevenoaks Suns II team that enjoyed a week off last weekend following a postponement against Reading, their last action coming in a lop-sided loss against Loughborough. It has only been a month the last time these two teams met, in an encounter where Sevenoaks took the spoils in a narrow single digit victory. With the Kent-based side holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot as things stand, picking up a win in this one could see them climb to seventh depending on results elsewhere - with Reading, Barking and Birmingham all still in playoff contention. 


 Loughborough Riders v Barking Abbey 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 7.00pm

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A team to watch down the stretch in WNBL Division One are the Loughborough Riders, as the East Midlands side have a couple of games in hand over their closest competitors - which could see them make a late climb up the standings. Their current 8-5 record is for fifth place as things stand, but a perfect end to their season could see things shake up a little differently at the top. With games remaining against both Bristol and Anglia Ruskin, the Riders will surely play their part in deciding both their own fate and the eventual destination of the league title.

Before they can attend to a potential run towards the playoffs, the Riders first face off against Barking Abbey on Saturday, a team that should not be overlooked despite a recent run of tough results. Having had a fortnight off, the East London squad should be refreshed and ready for action, looking to make up for their disappointing six point loss last time out against Birmingham. With just two games remaining against tough opposition in Loughborough and Team Solent, Barking may need to pick up points in this one if they want a shot at the eighth and final playoff spot.


 Sevenoaks Suns II v Anglia Ruskin University 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 1.30pm

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Sevenoaks Suns II take to the floor on Sunday to complete a busy double-header weekend, and after a long road trip to Birmingham on Saturday they return home for a tough matchup with Anglia Ruskin. With a winnable game on the cards against Elite to begin their back-to-back, the Suns will come up against a fresh Rhinos' squad that is in need of victory to maintain their run at the league title. Anglia Ruskin took a comfortable victory last time these two faced off back in November, so the hosts will be hoping to put up a better fight on their home floor to complete the season series. 


 Reading Rockets v Ipswich 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 2.15pm

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Reading Rockets will wrap up the WNBL Division One weekend on Sunday afternoon when they play host to Ipswich. The National Cup runners-up currently reside in the seventh spot with a 4-8 record, giving them six games remaining to make their mark on the league standings. On paper, the easier matchups of the Rockets' stretch run come when they face Birmingham and Sevenoaks - and they may need points from those two with tough games to come against Loughborough and Team Solent.

The first of Reading's tough matchups to close out the season comes on Sunday, when Ipswich make the journey to Rivermead. The fourth-placed squad from Suffolk have had an up-and-down campaign, but with the business end of the season now arrived - the month of March could see Coach Nick Drane's side with a renewed focus as they chase a top four finish. Just three games remain for Ipswich to make their mark, needing all the points they can get the secure home advantage when the post-season begins. 


NBL Division Two

 London United v Derbyshire Arrows 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 4.00pm

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Getting things started in NBL Division Two on Saturday is a matchup between two playoff-bound teams; as things stand. London United sit comfortably in third place with just four games remaining, a 9-7 record keeping them just above Sussex, Myerscough and Greenhouse. A busy double-header last weekend saw United split their games, grabbing a hard-fought win over Ipswich but losing out to undefeated league-leaders Liverpool. A tight race for 3rd-6th means the West London side need to pick up as many points as possible, with a slip-up here against Derbyshire opening the door for one of the chasing pack. 

Meanwhile, Derbyshire head into this one on a two-game skid - after dropping tough games against top six opposition; Liverpool and Greenhouse. The Arrows sit in eighth place with a 5-10 record, five games remaining to clinch that final playoff spot. Ipswich and Greenwich are not far behind, just one victory down, so Derbyshire need to find some results within a tough stretch run which sees them face four encounters against top five opposition.


 Liverpool v Myerscough College 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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Saturday's exciting NBL Division Two action continues with an all-North West matchup in Merseyside as Liverpool play host to Myerscough College. The all-conquering Liverpool squad began their season with a victory over Myerscough in the Patrons Cup pool stage, and haven't dropped a league game since the NBL Division Two campaign began. Their record of 15-0 with five games remaining has the league title all but wrapped up, but after two relatively competitive games against their North West rivals this season - there could be life in this encounter on Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Myerscough College enter this one having gone 3-1 through the month of February, a stretch that has included a number of exciting close games for the Lancashire-based academy. Five games remain for Coach Neal Hopkins' squad, and this matchup against Liverpool is one of three outings against the top three teams in the league. This tricky run-in through March may make the final few weeks of the regular season a tough ask for the North West side, but having shown they are more than up to the challenge in a debut NBL Division Two campaign, they may yet still pick up the results they need for a top four finish.


 Ipswich v Westminster Warriors 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 5.30pm

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In a replay of the recent Patrons Cup final held at UEL Sportsdock, Saturday's Division Two action continues when Ipswich play host to Westminster. Ipswich find themselves on a five game skid in league play, having picked up back-to-back losses against London United in two close encounters over the last fortnight. Despite their recent struggles, the Suffolk-based squad are just one win out of the final playoff spot, and may yet be able to secure post-season action if they can pick up a couple of results in their final five outings. 

Just six games remain for Westminster, as Coach Jon Johnson looks to utilise the Warriors' stretch run to solidify second place and end the regular season as runners-up to Liverpool's historic campaign. Three of their final six matchups sees the Warriors up against fellow top five opposition, including an opportunity to host Liverpool and put an end to their unbeaten run. First up, Westminster will look to recreate their success in the Patrons Cup final, where an impressive second half effort saw the Londoners pull away down the stretch.


 London Westside v London Greenhouse Pioneers 

Saturday 2 March 2019 - 6.15pm

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Saturday's NBL Division Two schedule comes to a close with a cross-capital derby, with the Pioneers making the short journey across the city to face Westside. As the team currently most likely to be the sole outfit to face the drop, following Lancashire Spinners preseason withdrawal, London Westside trail their closest competitors by two victories and are in desperate need of a couple of results as the regular comes to a close. With all their remaining games coming against playoff-bound teams, as things stand, time may be running out for Westside as they face the prospect of NBL Division Three South basketball next campaign. 

Meanwhile, after a torrid start to 2019, London Greenhouse Pioneers finally got back to winning ways last weekend when they picked up a hard-fought win on the road at Derbyshire Arrows. The Pioneers slide down the standings came to a holt in sixth place, with Coach Predrag Krneta's side now having just five games left to prove once again that they belong up in the top four. With a few matchups against bottom half teams remaining on their schedule, Greenhouse need to take advantage of these opportunities - such as this matchup with Westside - if they are going to improve their seeding heading into the post-season.


 East London All Stars v Greenwich Titans 

Sunday 3 March 2019 - 5.00pm

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The final action of the NBL Division Two weekend sees East London All Stars take to the floor at UEL Sportsdock when they host fellow East London side, the Greenwich Titans. With both sides in their first season of NBL Division Two play, it has been two different stories for the two East end outfits. The All Stars have put together a solid campaign thus far, with their 7-9 record good for seventh place and likely securing a playoff if they can pick up a couple more results.

On the other hand, Greenwich have struggled for the majority of the season, before picking up three wins in four tries in a good run of form that spanned late January and early February. Their 4-10 record leaves the Titans with just enough breathing room to be safe of the drop as things stand, but there's few easy games remaining for Coach Thomas' squad. Victory in this one may see Greenwich leapfrog Ipswich into ninth place, setting up a crucial matchup with the Suffolk-based side next weekend.


For full Scores & Schedules for this weekend's action, click the link below: