NBL Division 1 Men - Late Season Preview

Division 1 Men

Team Solent Kestrels

Record: 17-3

Position: 1st

Points For Per Game: 81.3

Points Against Per Game: 72.6

Game this weekend: N/A

Games after this weekend: @ Rockets, @ Storm, v Crusaders, @ Spinners (P)

The equation for the Kestrels is as simple as can be. Win out and the regular season title is theirs. With a 1 game lead over Loughborough at the moment, a tied record with the Riders wouldn’t be good for Solent as they do not own the head to head here. Next weekend will provide a tough trip to a surging Rockets side, and Hemel will be dangerous despite their recent form but the Kestrels have already beaten both those sides this season. A home tie with Kent and the postponed game to rearrange with Lancashire should be more straight forward. The main take away here though, Solent’s fate is in their own hands.

Loughborough Students Riders

Record: 15-4

Position: 2nd

Points For Per Game: 82.2

Points Against Per Game: 66.5

Game this weekend: v Hemel – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Northumbria, v Thunder, @ Magic, v Magic (P)

To become regular season winners, Loughborough will need a slip up somewhere from Solent. A more pressing concern may be their tough run in with games against Northumbria and Worthing still to play. Thunder have account for 1 of Loughborough’s 4 losses this season, so that game will be difficult to say the least. Also, the games with Northumbria and Worthing will take place as a double header weekend, bringing fatigue into play. Playing both fixtures at home will help, but it’s an added dimension to consider. Manchester haven’t been up to their usual standard this season but as National Cup Finalists, and in reaching the Semi-Final of the Trophy, the North West side have the quality to win a game against the Riders. Still, no team has conceded fewer points per game than Loughborough this season so they’ll be strong regardless of opponent.

Worthing Thunder

Record: 13-6

Position: 3rd

Points For Per Game: 85.8

Points Against Per Game: 80.4

Game this weekend: @ Dragons – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Trailblazers, @ Riders, v Crusaders, v Magic (P)

The potential of winning the regular season title is out of reach for all but Solent and Loughborough most likely, but cementing a top 4 finish is still key in easing a team’s fixtures in the early sections of the post season. 3rd spot will be Worthing’s goal with 5 games to go and that is more than attainable for this team. As the #1 ranked offensive side in D1M based on points per game, a match up with the defensively porous Trailblazers should go well, as should the fixture with fellow strugglers Kent. The game in Loughborough against the Riders will be key, and could potentially unlock a top 2 finish if something left field happens in the closing weeks. The initial focus needs to be on this weekend’s game in Bradford though, Worthing only won by 6 when these sides met on the South coast in December.

Team Northumbria

Record: 13-6

Position: 4th

Points For Per Game: 81.9

Points Against Per Game: 74.2

Game this weekend: v Trailblazers – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @ Riders, @ Crusaders, v Rockets, v Warriors

After building a head of steam after the Christmas break, a road loss to Reading followed by last weekend’s defeat to Loughborough has all be extinguished Northumbria’s dreams of a 2nd consecutive D1M title. The North East side will need to better Worthing’s record to secure 3rd as they don’t control the head to head tiebreaker, but with games against the Riders and Rockets still to come, winning out is anything but assured. Also, this weekend’s opponents Derby have already defeated Coach Steutel’s men this season, securing an unlikely 89-73 victory to begin December.

Reading Rockets

Record: 12-7

Position: 5th

Points For Per Game: 82.0

Points Against Per Game: 76.2

Game this weekend: @ Warriors – Live Stats, v Trailblazers – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Kestrels, @ Northumbria, @Spinners

A double header weekend should be kind to the Rockets with both their opponents currently sat outside of the playoff places. Derby and Leicester failed to secure a win when they met Reading previously this season, so that also bodes well for the Berkshire outfit. With a pair of victories, the Rockets current win streak would hit 6, providing a stark contrast to the side’s 1-5 record before that run began. Their form after Christmas has cost them a shot at the title, but the momentum being built right now will make Reading a tough side to face in the coming weeks.

Hemel Storm

Record: 10-9

Position: 6th

Points For Per Game: 81.8

Points Against Per Game: 76.7

Game this weekend:  @ Riders – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Crusaders, @ Warriors, v Kestrels, v Trailblazers

After a hot start, a 3-7 record in Hemel’s last 10 games has meant they have fallen off the pace at the top of the division. With both Solent and Loughborough still to play, the Storm could yet have a big say on what happens at the summit of the standings. Games against Kent, Derby and Leicester should bring points and a reasonable post season seeding, but as National Cup Champions this side have already proved their worth in one and done basketball. They’ll be a tough match up regardless of who they meet in April.

Bradford Dragons

Record: 9-11

Position: 7th

Points For Per Game: 78.6

Points Against Per Game: 79.6

Game this weekend: v Thunder – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @ Magic, v Spinners, v Trailblazers

This weekend’s game with Worthing may be tough for Bradford, but the Dragons need to ensure they still pick up as many wins as possible in their last 4 games. With the trapdoor out of the playoffs just 2 points away, both Kent and Manchester could leapfrog the Yorkshire side if they begin to falter. With Bradford averaging over 90ppg last season, their offence has slowed considerably this year. Talented guard Marcus Gooding has struggled to make the same impact he did previously, and injuries have played a part across the roster. Still, if Bradford can finish strong and claim a playoff place, it will have been a solid campaign.

Manchester Magic

Record: 8-9

Position: 8th

Points For Per Game: 78.9

Points Against Per Game: 79.9

Game this weekend: v Spinners – Live Stats, v Warriors – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Dragons, @ Trailblazers, v Riders, @Riders (P), @ Thunder (P)

No side is going to be busier between now and the end of the season than Manchester. Going deep in the National Cup and National Trophy, plus the recent poor weather has left the North East side with 7 games still to play. That will put a strain on a roster that is already under .500 this season and 2 games against Loughborough and a trip to Worthing will also be difficult to navigate. Add in the possibility that fatigue and travel could lead the side to slip up in one of their other remaining games, Coach Middleton will have a big task on his hands to make sure this team still secures a playoff berth.

Kent Crusaders

Record: 8-11

Position: 9th

Points For Per Game: 75.3

Points Against Per Game: 79.6

Game this weekend: v Newcastle – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @ Storm, v Northumbria, @ Thunder, @ Kestrels

At the turn of the year, Kent looked to be struggling but some key wins in 2018 have allowed the side to gather momentum. Victories against Manchester, Derby, Hemel and Leicester have all fortified the Crusaders impressive home form of late, that is something Newcastle may struggle to overcome this weekend. Kent will also be pleased to have picked up so many good results in the last few months because their end of season fixtures are brutal. With games against 4 of D1M’s top 6 sides before the end of the regular season, securing wins after the weekend will be a big ask.

Leicester Warriors

Record: 7-12

Position: 10th

Points For Per Game: 74.4

Points Against Per Game: 77.68

Game this weekend: v Rockets – Live Stats, @ Magic – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @ Newcastle, v Storm, @ Northumbria

A valuable win against Worthing in early January, coupled with some solid victories against fellow strugglers in Derby and Lancashire have given the Warriors just enough life to keep their heads above water. Rodney Sanders has been a leading light in the division and could still receive MVP consideration despite Leicester’s current position. The remaining 5 games on the Warriors’ schedule are all pretty tough, with a trip up to Newcastle looking like a key game. If the Midlands side can find a win from one of their games this weekend, they’ll feel much better about their end of season run.

Team Newcastle University

Record: 7-15

Position: 11th

Points For Per Game: 71.2

Points Against Per Game: 73.6

Game this weekend: @ Crusaders – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: v Warriors

With just 2 games remaining on the season, one thing Newcastle won’t have to worry about is fatigue from consecutive games. A long trip down the country to face Kent this weekend may leave them leggy for other reasons though. As their first season in D1M draws to a close, the Knights have no doubt learnt a lot from the experience and will know what they need to do in order to be more of a force next year. Once big plus they can take from their campaign is their defensive prowess. Despite their position and record, Newcastle currently rank 3rd best in points allowed per game. That is a great platform to build from.

Derby Trailblazers

Record: 6-12

Position: 12th

Points For Per Game: 72.7

Points Against Per Game: 77.8

Game this weekend: @ Northumbria – Live Stats, @ Rockets – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @Thunder, v Magic, @ Dragons, @ Storm

Derby, like the teams around them, will no doubt have been buoyed by the recent news that after London Lituanica’s withdrawal this season, only 1 side is likely to be relegated from D1M (pending applications for promotion). Still, it has been a tough year for the Trailblazers who have been more accustomed to better campaigns in recent times. This weekend is unlikely to provide any solace as tough trips to Northumbria and Reading await, and next weekend’s trip to Worthing falls into a similar category.  Still, Coach Shaw’s team will more than likely have the opportunity to bounce back next term.

Lancashire Spinners

Record: 0-20

Position: 13th

Points For Per Game: 62.5

Points Against Per Game: 92.7

Game this weekend:  @ Magic – Live Stats

Games after this weekend: @ Dragons, v Rockets, v Kestrels (P)

Lancashire are long since confirmed as being unable to escape 13th place but they still have 4 more opportunities to snag a maiden win this season. A derby with Manchester is always a fixture to look forward to on the D1M calendar, and the potential is always there for an upset when local pride is at stake. It has been hard work for the Spinners this season but the end is in sight. If the club can find a way to retain the service of Harold Trobo, Loick Pouale and Allie Fullah, their prospects of promotion straight back to the top flight will be much brighter.