WNBL1 Preview: Week 14 (30/31 January 2021) - new season structure, stats

The WNBL returns after a lockdown related pause to the season, with the division now sporting a new schedule that leads to a potential play-off final in late May.

With the country entering another hiatus as January 2021 began, WNBL1 also pushed the stop button on league play but most teams are now ready to safely begin their season once again.

To provide as much flexibility as possible during these difficult times, all teams have been given the opportunity to withdraw from the 2020/21 season should they wish to. One side, Bristol Academy Flyers, have made the decision to pull out and we look forward to seeing them again in 2021/22.

Adjusted league structure

In order to fit the remaining fixtures into the coming months, a number of changes have been agreed to the schedule for all WNBL teams:

  • All teams will complete 10 games by the weekend of 27/28 March 2021.
  • At this point, all teams will have played each other once either home or away. Because of the number of games some teams have already completed, this allows for a staggered return to play during the coming weeks.
  • The standings will then will be frozen as of 29 March 2021, with teams to be split into two pools based on current placings. All points gained up to 29 March 2021 will carry over into pool play.
  • Following a one-week break for Easter, the teams placed first to sixth will continue to play each other for a second time, either home or away (depending on where the teams met during the first 10 games of the season).
  • The teams placed seventh to 11th will also play each other one more time (either home or away), to decide which teams finish seventh and eighth.
  • The teams placed first to sixth will all advance to the play-offs using their final position as their seeding, as will the teams that finish seventh and eighth.
  • The play-offs are set to provisionally begin on the weekend 15/16 May 2021, with the play-off final taking place on the weekend 29/30 May 2021. The playoffs will run in their usual format.
  • A WNBL Division One league champion will be crowned once the second phase of games have been completed, and a WNBL Division One Playoff champion will also be decided.
  • The emphasis remains on playing as many games as possible in a safe and secure environment.

To get the ball rolling once again, there is one WNBL game this weekend and all eyes will be on East London as the Lions host the Riders on Saturday afternoon.

BA London Lions II (0-4) v Loughborough Riders (5-2)

Bottom side Barking host second-place Loughborough on Saturday as the Riders look to extend their unbeaten run to five games.

The Midlands side finished 2020 on a roll with wins over Thames Valley, Cardiff, Nottingham and leaders Ipswich and will try to keep that momentum going at a venue they found success in last season, winning 94-65.

American Makana Stone is currently enjoying a WNBL seventh-best 17.2ppg to go with 15.8rpg, making her one of the premium forwards in the league this season. Katie Januszewska and Robyn Ainge have also played well in support, helping Loughborough's climb up the standings.

It has been a difficult start to the season for the Lions, who have only been able to play four games so far and haven't been on court since mid-November. Losing by an average of 36 points per contest, Coach Balogun and his staff remain hard at work with this young roster to continue their development.

Forward Leia Edwards has enjoyed some positive performances despite her young age (11ppg, 7rpg), as has Kian Omer-Jones (9.5ppg, 7.5rpg).

This weekend's fixtures:

Saturday 30 January

2pm - BA London Lions II v Loughborough Riders - LIVE STATS

Main image credit - Loughborough basketball