NBL Division 1 Men - Mid-Season Review

Division 1 Men

 

Loughborough Students Riders

Record: 8-1

Position: 1st

Points For Per Game: 80.8

Points Against Per Game: 61.8

Game this weekend: @ Worthing – Live Stats

The first half of the season couldn’t have gone much better for Loughborough. Beaten Playoff Finalists last season, this is far from an unexpected campaign for the Riders who have been very solid to date. A single loss to open the season against Bradford, Loughborough have been rolling ever since and will look to take that form into 2018. Top of D1M and Semi Finalists in the National Cup and National Trophy, there is serious potential for silverware this season.

Head Coach Mark Jarram, “We have had a tremendous start and are relatively happy with our record at this point.  We have gone through the process of figuring out this year’s group and what might work well for us and trying to find our identity and the style of basketball that fits us.  I have been most impressed with our strength in depth.  Statistically this group really share the load and on any given day a different player can step up and impact the game. We have to maintain focus on what matters and not get carried away.  We understand that every game is going to be very competitive and you can lose on any given day if we are unprepared or mentally not ready.  It's important that the second half of the year we continue to improve every single day and focus on the things that brought us success already.”

 

Team Solent Kestrels

Record: 8-2

Position: 2nd

Points For Per Game: 79.8

Points Against Per Game: 70.8

Game this weekend: @ Team Newcastle – Live Stats

After a string of impressive performances both at home and on the road, Coach Guymon's Solent have played to a high level so far this year and sit in 2nd place. A loss in the National Cup Final and a 5th place finish in D1M a year ago, the Kestrels are trending in the right direction as a programme and are deservedly in the mix at the top of the division. Joe Tagarelli has been a great signing so far, averaging 18.9PPG and 11.4 RPG.

 

Hemel Storm

Record: 7-3

Position: 3rd

Points For Per Game: 81.9

Points Against Per Game: 72.9

Game this weekend: v Leicester – Live Stats

Snow prevented Hemel from potentially sealing a trip to January’s National Cup Final last weekend, that will have to wait until the New Year, but it has been a very promising season to date for the Storm. Front runners in D1M for parts of the season already, the side has cooled off in recent weeks but still sits in a healthy position. A home tie with Leicester this weekend should deliver more points if everything goes to form, Hemel will then look to kick on once January comes.

 

Worthing Thunder

Record: 7-3

Position: 4th

Points For Per Game: 86.0

Points Against Per Game: 79.8

Game this weekend: v Loughborough – Live Stats

A slow start to the season left Worthing at 2-3 but 5 straight wins have since lifted the Thunder into contention. Zaire Taylor has played at a level most expected when he signed in the close season and he’s been unstoppable in parts, averaging 31.4PPG. Add in the signing of Jorge Ebanks and Worthing have 2 pieces of an already potent offence. No team scores more points per game than Worthing right now and it’ll be up to Loughborough to try and slow them down this weekend in what should be a great match up on the South Coast.

 

Reading Rockets

Record: 7-3

Position: 5th

Points For Per Game: 82.0

Points Against Per Game: 78.3

Game this weekend: N/A

Another team tucked in nicely heading into 2018 are Reading. Losses to Loughborough and Manchester have put a dent in their season, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rockets match up with both those sides in the 2nd half of the season. Reading do have a win over Hemel and Worthing though, so clearly have the quality most have come to expect from this programme.

Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces, “The season so far has had a lot of ups and downs, we are going to move into 2018 focusing on the positives. We're working over Christmas to be consistent and we are going to invest time now so we’re ready in January.

 

Manchester Magic

Record: 6-4

Position: 6th

Points For Per Game: 79.1

Points Against Per Game: 78.2

Game this weekend: v Derby – Live Stats

A tricky start to the season for Manchester with mixed results will leave Coach Middleton with plenty to work. Having already booked their place in the National Cup Final as well as the Semis of the National Trophy, there is room for positivity. But with 4 D1M losses, the Magic already have nearly as many defeats as they suffered in the entire of the regular season in 2016/17 (5). Perhaps that speaks to the parity in the league this year, but the North West side need to tidy up their league form if they want to challenge for the regular season title.

 

Team Northumbria

Record: 5-4

Position: 7th

Points For Per Game: 78.2

Points Against Per Game: 74.2

Game this weekend: v Kent – Live Stats

Another team still alive in the National Trophy, it might be the best route to success for Northumbria this year. Like Manchester, stuttering form in D1M has left Northumbria some way off the pace compared to the competition’s leading lights. Malcolm Smith is still in the sort of form that saw him crowned MVP a season ago, the American averages 19.4PPG so far this year.

 

Bradford Dragons

Record: 4-6

Position: 8th

Points For Per Game: 78.7

Points Against Per Game: 80.2

Game this weekend: @ Lancashire – Live Stats

No side has been harder to figure out this season than Bradford, who have flirted with the sublime and the substandard in equal measure. On their day they are a match for anyone, they’re the only side to have beaten Loughborough so far and have a victory over Reading to boot. But losses to newly promoted Kent and Team Newcastle will leave fans scratching their heads about which Dragon’s side they’ll see the rest of the way.

Head Coach Chris Mellor, “We've been inconsistent in the first half of the season. We've played some really good basketball on some nights but also played very poorly on others. I think we know who we are now and how we have to compete every night on the defensive end of the floor to get things done. The goal now is to find that consistency and hopefully secure a playoff spot.”

 

Team Newcastle University

Record: 4-9

Position: 9th

Points For Per Game: 70.3

Points Against Per Game: 73.2

Game this weekend: v Solent – Live Stats

Newly promoted to D1M to start the season, it looked like it may be a long campaign for the Knights as they fell to a 1-7 start. But wins against Bradford, Derby and Kent have helped lift the side up the standings and offer hope that they can stay in this division and even sneak a playoff place come the end of the regular season. Newcastle have also played more games than any other side in D1M so that should allow their roster a little more time for rest and recovery moving forward.

Head Coach Ian Hewitt, “We’ll have played 14 games after this Saturday so we are looking forward to a much lighter schedule in 2018.  The first part of the year has been about us gelling, getting used to D1M basketball and building our identity.  Our aim is to continue the work and finish high as we can in the league.  Realistically, making the playoffs will be a real challenge now, but we want to do everything we can to try and do that in our first year.”

 

Kent Crusaders

Record: 3-6

Position: 10th

Points For Per Game: 73.5

Points Against Per Game: 75.2

Game this weekend: @ Northumbria – Live Stats

As the other newly promoted team in the division, Kent started brightly to split their opening 4 games 2-2. Since then though, the Crusaders have been on a 1-4 slide that has seen the side tumble down the D1M standings. A mammoth trip up the country to Northumbria will make for a tough game this weekend and if Kent can’t secure a W this weekend, it’ll be their 5th loss in a row. That isn’t the sort of form you want to be carrying with you into 2018.

 

Derby Trailblazers

Record: 3-7

Position: 11th

Points For Per Game: 71.3

Points Against Per Game: 73.8

Game this weekend: @ Manchester – Live Stats

A 16-10 side a year ago, and one that excelled at this stage of last season behind the efforts of now Leicester Riders player Josh Ward-Hibbert. The Trailblazers are 10-16 since the start of 2017, suggesting somewhat of a downturn in form over the last 12 months and the side have certainly struggled to begin this season. In the first 4 weeks of 2018, Derby will play Lancashire, Kent and Leicester. You feel those games might be key to their final position in D1M this season.

 

Leicester Warriors

Record: 3-7

Position: 12th

Points For Per Game: 68.9

Points Against Per Game: 76.7

Game this weekend: @ Hemel – Live Stats

Leicester have struggled so far this year but still have an ace up their sleeve in the shape of American Rodney Sanders. Averaging 21.67PPG on a side that scores just 68.9 points per contest, Sanders is clearly integral to the Warriors plight. Losing Martyn Gayle early in their campaign was clearly a blow, but Leicester will be doing everything they can to avoid being in the bottom 2 come the end of the regular season.

 

Lancashire Spinners

Record: 0-10

Position: 13th

Points For Per Game: 55.3

Points Against Per Game: 88.4

Game this weekend: v Bradford – Live Stats

It has been tough viewing in Lancashire so far this season. No team scores fewer points per game than the Spinners, and no team concedes more. They’re a fair way off the next closest team in both those categories and their winless record is hardly a surprise in that regard. Loick Pouale has been their standout with 18.4PPG, but you feel he needs more help if the Spinners are going to climb away from the foot of the D1M table.

Main photo credit - Kyle Hemsley Photography