With a full slate of D1M games to enjoy, plus two National Cup semi-finals, there's lots for NBL fans to get their teeth into in week 16!
Our game of the week focus shifts to the bottom end of D1M, with an important fixture for 13th place Essex & Herts Leopards tomorrow.
A visit from 8th place Bradford represents the first of back to back home games that the Leopards need to pick up points from if they're to start making moves to avoid the D1M trap door.
Following tomorrow's match up with Bradford and a tilt against fellow strugglers Westminster next week, Essex then enter a stretch of four games against three of the division's top four sides in Hemel, Reading and Thames Valley, with a game against 7th place Derby squeezed in for good measure. If Coach Baker's side fail to pick up a win or two before that stretch, the calendar moves into March before the Leopards take on fellow relegation candidates Liverpool.
For Bradford, they're currently sat in the 8th and final playoff place, though they're tied on points with Leicester below them. Last week's 84-77 win over the Warriors helped push the Dragons to their current position, and the tandem of David Walsh (15.8ppg) and Rihards Sulcs (15.5ppg) is currently paying dividends for the Yorkshire side.
They'll no doubt be hoping to continue Essex's poor of run of form for at least one more week, helping their post season push in the process.
11th place Barking Abbey (3-10) picked up a valuable win last weekend when they beat Westminster, but a home tie against unbeaten leaders Team Solent Kestrels (15-0) is a long shot to bring further points tomorrow.
Likewise, 14th place Liverpool (2-13) go up against high flying Thames Valley Cavaliers (10-4) in a match up that is unlikely to bring success for the hosts. 121-67 victors when these sides last met in October, the Cavs will no doubt fancy their chances of doing the double here.
It could be a lean weekend for the division's bottom sides as Westminster Warriors (3-12) welcome 2nd place Hemel Storm (12-3) in another tough encounter. The Storm are on a four game win streak at present, which includes a victory over 3rd place Reading, so Coach Spinks' side will be hopeful they can make it five in a row.
Saturday's action finishes in the Midlands as Derby Trailblazers (9-5) welcome Worthing Thunder (10-4) for what should be an entertaining encounter. The Thunder claimed a narrow 81-77 win when these teams met on the South coast in October, Derby would love to get some revenge for that result no doubt.
Sunday's only fixture sees Leicester Warriors (6-9) make the short trip to Nottingham to face the Hoods (5-11). 1-3 in their last four games, the Warriors would like an uptick in form before they drift too far from the playoff places, though the Hoods will be motivated by the fact a win here will put them into a tie for a playoff spot should Bradford also lose to Essex.
Four teams are looking to book a spot at the University of Essex Sport Arena next month, providing NBL fans with two high stakes semi-finals that are sure to excite.
Defending champs Loughborough are still in with a chance of retaining their title, though they'll to do what no team has done so far this season if they're to seal a place in the final. Opponents Team Solent Kestrels are unbeaten in all competitions this year, and have already defeated the Riders 99-85 in D1M back in November. That makes Coach Guymon's side the likely favourites on Sunday, but anything can happen in the cup!
In the other semi, Myerscough College are flying the flag for D2M as they take a trip to D1 side Reading. Having already beaten a pair of top flight sides in Liverpool and Westminster, Myerscough have no issue with playing against some of the NBL's best, but 3rd place Reading will be a tough nut to crack.
4:00pm - Barking Abbey v Team Solent Kestrels - LIVE STATS
5:00pm - Liverpool v Thames Valley Cavaliers - LIVE STATS
5:30pm - Westminster Warriors v Hemel Storm - LIVE STATS
5:45pm - Essex & Herts Leopards v Bradford Dragons - LIVE STATS
7:15pm - Derby Trailblazers v Worthing Thunder - LIVE STATS
5:00pm - Nottingham Hoods v Leicester Warriors - LIVE STATS
Main image credit - Alex Daniel Photography
18 Jan 2021