The excitement is continuing to build as we enter the final month of the regular season. With 42 games left across the competition, there is still a huge scope for movement up and down the standings. We’ve got 9 games on the slate for this weekend, 4 teams are also facing a double header so there is plenty to get through. As usual in our preview, we’ll provide the score of the previous game that teams have played this season in D1M. With the primary tie breaker between two sides being their head to head record (including points difference) between each other over the 2 fixtures in a season, teams are not only looking to win but also secure any potential tiebreakers should two sides be equal on points come the end of the regular season.
Since the decision to announce the departure of Head Coach Daniel Hildreth at season’s end, Worthing have yet to pick up a victory. With the timing of that announcement still looking like a curious one, if a positive response from the playing squad was the expected result, it hasn’t materialised. Losers of 5 straight, Worthing are still sat in a potential relegation spot. They’re going to need a big push in their last 5 games to get out of trouble and that starts this weekend with a potential stand at home. The previous meeting between these sides was competitive up in Derby, so this result isn’t a foregone conclusion.
With 7 games remaining on their season, Derby still have a distance to go and will have a busy month ahead of them. A game up on Solent in the race for 4th and owning the head to head against the Kestrels, the Trailblazers still need to keep their momentum up if they’re to secure a home tie in the 1st round of the playoffs. Matt Ward-Hibbert has been a real spark since his signing in January, look for the former Minot State standout to keep powering this team down the stretch. With the increase in output from Maxwell Morrison, Brian Amabilino-Perez and Oliver Stanley, this team is really starting to hit its stride after a mid-season wobble.
Previous meeting – Derby Trailblazers 77 v 73 Worthing Thunder
Oliver Stanley had 18 points last weekend against London Lituanica - Alan Mousley/AGM Pics
The Warriors continue to keep their heads above water, picking up just enough points to keep a buffer between themselves and the relegation scrap below. Points aren’t being picked up so frequently as to put them in the picture for a playoff spot as yet, but Leicester will play both Essex and Lancashire before the month is out. Add in a game with the team above them in 9th placed London Lituanica and the potential is still there to make a run.
Needing to chase down Derby if they’re going to avoid an away day to open the playoffs, the Kestrels do have some favourable fixtures to end their season. Trips to Leicester, Worthing and Lancashire are all potential wins against struggling opposition, plus Solent have a postponed game hosting the Spinners yet to rearrange. The South Coast side may need Derby to slip up somewhere if they’re going to make a move, but they should be able to hold up their end of the bargain with plenty of points between now and the end of the regular season, including 2 here against Leicester.
Previous meeting – Team Solent Kestrels 74 v 72 Leicester Warriors
A loss to Northumbria last Sunday was a big blow to Manchester’s title hopes, but defeat only puts the Magic 1 game back of the current league leaders in the grand scheme of things. A bigger problem is that Northumbria now hold the head to head over the current Champions, so Coach Middleton’s men will need Northumbria to drop some points down the stretch to get another look in. They’ll also need to win out, and that’s easier said than done when they still have to overcome some tough fixtures, like this Sunday’s visit from Solent.
It's a similar story for Solent, who do have some winnable fixtures as detailed above. But finishing the season strong will be easier said than done when they still have to overcome this trip to Manchester plus an away day in Northumbria. Someone’s season goals are going to take a hit in this one and with both teams on double header duty this weekend, fatigue could play a part for either side.
Previous meeting – Team Solent Kestrels 77 v 79 Manchester Magic
With a double loss weekend last time out, Loughborough may need to content themselves with a 6th seed in the post season. Tied with Solent on 12 wins, the Kestrels have 2 games in hand and may prove tough to catch in 5th. Still, being 4 wins ahead of the line to potentially miss the playoffs entirely, the Riders should be happy with their maiden D1M season regardless of what seed they potentially secure. This is a tough match up after losing a couple of matches on the bounce and with Derby and Reading scheduled for next weekend, this could be a tricky stretch of games for the Riders to navigate.
A hard way to start a double header weekend, a trip to Loughborough is a game the Magic need to win if they are to build momentum and knock off Solent on Sunday. Manchester beat Loughborough earlier in the season by 19 and will be able to use that game as evidence that they can top this Riders team when playing at their best. With Northumbria showing little sign of dropping points, Manchester more than likely need to win out to stand a chance of retaining their title. That starts tomorrow in Loughborough.
Previous meeting – Manchester Magic 69 v 50 Loughborough Student Riders
Levi Noel has been a solid contributor for Loughborough since the turn of the year - Joe Pinchin
2 wins in their last 3 games have helped the Spinners to climb up the D1M table and create 2 points of separation between themselves and a potential relegation spot. A road win against Derby last Sunday was massive and it will take another huge effort to get a result in this one against a red hot Rockets team. Still, if the Spinners can get Mark Rangeley going they can give any team a contest, he’s been the offensive catalyst in both of their recent wins.
With Reading’s win streak continuing to grow after double success last weekend, Rockets Head Coach Manuel Peña Garces’ main task at the moment is to keep his players focussed on the task at hand with 7 games to go, “I am really pleased we were able to record another two wins against two tough, physical teams [last weekend]. This pleases me and keeps our run and confidence going as we head into the next game against Lancashire. We are aware of what is happening in the league, it would be silly to suggest otherwise, but what is important for us is to keep taking our season game by game and focusing on the next job we have to complete and that is exactly what we are doing day by day, week by week, “ he said. “Complacency is often a word thrown around in sport when teams experience winning and success but I remind us all that we have not won anything yet and the hardest work is still to come.” With Bikram Rana and Fidel Gomez De Enterria Lopez both suffering ankle injuries that could keep them out for 2-4 weeks, Reading will be without a couple of their solid Academy players for most of March. Expect the Rockets to lean hard on their experienced stars, meaning extended time for Carter, Ponder and Hooper.
Previous meeting – Reading Rockets 96 v 73 Lancashire Spinners
A big win away at Loughborough last weekend means that the Dragons are still on course to secure a low playoff seed with 5 games to go. With 4 of those remaining fixtures taking place in Bradford, all 4 games are against teams placed 8th or lower in the table. With just a trip to Manchester added in to wrap up their season, expect Coach Mellor’s team to try and finish on a roll and secure a post season berth.
What a big weekend this is for Essex. 2 losses last weekend stretched the Leopard’s losing streak up to 8 games and they need to turn that form around quickly if they are going to move away from trouble at the foot of the D1M table. With a double header weekend here, Essex will have played their game in hand over Worthing by Sunday night. They badly need a win this weekend, and their 1st opportunity is this game on Saturday. Narrow winners when the sides met in Essex, the Leopards need to draw from that fixture to if they’re going to put up a solid performance here.
Previous meeting – Essex Leopards 83 v 79 Bradford Dragons
Essex will still be happy to know their D1M future is still very much in their own hands. After this weekend, the Leopards will play vs Leicester, @ Lituanica, @ Lancashire and @ Worthing. With all 4 of those sides placed 9th or lower, the closing section of Essex’s fixture list could be a lot harder. If they can get wins from those games though, that remains to be seen. If points are forthcoming, look for a solid effort from Darrell Bethune. The former Leicester Warrior has top scored in 3 of the Leopard’s last 4 games.
Back at the start of the year, this fixture could have been billed as a relegation scrap. But these teams have gone in opposite directions in 2017. With the Leopards posting 8 straight losses, Hemel at 6-2 in that span and look good value for their 8th place right now. With a tough run in, the Storm’s form will be tested before the end of the month. @ Derby, @ Manchester, @ Bradford and vs Derby make up the last 4 games of Hemel’s season, but they will hope they’ve done enough to this point to cling on to a playoff place regardless of how they finish the regular season.
Previous meeting – Hemel Storm 88 v 83 Essex Leopards
Darrell Bethune's form for Essex could be key to their D1M survival down the stretch - Essex Leopards
A trip to Essex on Sunday might be a welcome sight for Hemel after they’ve entertained the league leaders at home on Saturday. A tough match up for any team, the Storm will be hoping that a loss still doesn’t derail the positive run the team have put together since the turn of the year. When the sides met in the North East, Northumbria won easily. This is a different Storm team though, and they’ve found a way to win behind Khapri Alston. Look for Sportspace to be rocking in this one with an upset win up for grabs.
An in form Hemel team will be a tough obstacle for this Northumbria side to get past, but they have time and again found ways to win tricky fixtures this season. A 10-point win in Manchester and close victories against Loughborough and Bradford before that are all good examples, the league leaders are toughing things out during a difficult stretch of road games. If Coach Steutel’s men can get a win in this one, the side can enjoy a weekend off before a massive game in Reading on the 18th. If Northumbria can win out, the title is theirs. That’s proving to be more than adequate motivation right now.
Previous meeting – Team Northumbria 91 v 73 Hemel Storm
With Lituanica dropping 5 in a row, they’re now 4 points back of Hemel in 8th. A good tonic for that kind of form could be back to back games with Westminster as the teams play this Sunday and then Thursday night. A resurgent Warriors side enjoyed their 1st win recently, but Lituanica will still fancy their chances in this one and badly need to snap their losing streak if they are going to stand a chance of getting back into the post season mix.
Westminster still have 7 games to go on the season and realistically need at least 6 wins in order to avoid relegation. That means the Warriors could be confirmed as 14th placed finishers as soon as Thursday night, but at least the London side can be pleased with their 1st win of the season last weekend. With this Lituanica side on a serious slide, there is plenty to suggest the Warriors could pick up a win in these next 2 games, so don’t count them out yet.
Previous meeting – 1st game this season