With the long summer months and L Lynch Trophy pool games now wrapped up, NBL Division One can raise the curtain on the regular season with every team is in action tomorrow. That includes the first NBL Live broadcast of the season from Worthing as the Thunder host Essex Rebels.
With yesterday's announcement of D1M's playoff structure, all 14 teams will know a top-eight spot will guarantee a post-season berth after a change to last season's format.
To get us underway, we take a look at all the weekend's games below, with links to live stats and live streams at the bottom of the page.
Defending league and playoff champions Solent get their title defence underway with a tricky visit from Reading tomorrow.
Based on their L Lynch Trophy games in the last few weeks, the Rockets' retooled roster seems to be clicking for new head coach Dan Pearson.
That includes a 93-87 win against last year's #2 seeds Thames Valley last weekend, with new signings AJ Basi (21pts) and Tyler Cartaino (8pts, 11reb) both making an impact.
No doubt the Berkshire side will be hoping to continue that type of form on the South Coast in what is undoubtedly going to be one of their toughest games of the season.
For all Reading's improvements, it may not be enough. Solent don't appear to have lost any kind of momentum after winning a third-straight D1M league title, with another productive off-season under their belts.
Three wins from three in the L Lynch Trophy against Worthing, Essex and London Lions II suggest this unit is already beginning to gel, with American guard Cole Gentry averaging 25PPG as he steps in to replace the outgoing Ian Smith.
Genty comes in alongside Kemel Archer, Max Richardson (from Worthing) and a returning Elliott Sentance, who re-joins the club after a single season in the BBL with Plymouth.
Adding those kinds of players to a Solent roster that has dominated D1M in recent years doesn't bode well for anyone looking to knock the Kestrels off their NBL throne.
Six other games fill the D1M schedule, with all of them taking place tomorrow.
Last year's runners up Thames Valley Cavaliers get their season underway at home to Derby Trailblazers, which could be one of the games of the weekend.
TVC will have to make do without last year's star man Taylor Johnson, who has moved to Hemel, but Rollins College alum Jakobi Bonner will no doubt be trying to fill those shoes.
Derby will also be feeling an important loss, with club captain Oli Stanley leaving the club due to work commitments, but the addition of BBLers Sol Rolls-Tyson and Raheem May-Thompson will aim to pick up the slack.
One of the most exciting teams heading into the season are last year's basement dwellers Nottingham Hoods. After a stunning off-season, the Hoods look to be a long way from their woes after winning three from three in their L Lynch Trophy pool.
One of those victories was a 95-55 W against tomorrow's opponents, Loughborough Riders. The Riders have lost some key players in Kyle Jimenez (Hoods) and Jonas Dieterich (Trailblazers), leaving an opportunity for the likes of Joe Bielak to come to the fore.
Worthing Thunder begin their new season with a home tilt against Essex Rebels, that will feature our first NBL Live broadcast of the new season.
Both teams finished last season with identical 9-10 records, so it remains to be seen which team had the more productive summer to strengthen their roster. Based on last weekend's clash in the L Lynch Trophy though, the early advantage could be with the Thunder following their 110-84 victory.
You can tune into all the action from that one using the stream below.
One team that might not be wanting the season to begin are Oaklands Wolves. After a trio of heavy defeats in the L Lynch Trophy, including a 123-68 mauling by tomorrow's opponents Hemel Storm, this could be the start of a tough campaign for Oaklands.
The loss of last season's star Morakinyo Williams to rivals Nottingham has left Leicester Warriors with a hole to fill on their roster, but recent outings suggest Delaney Powell could be the man to keep the Warriors offence ticking. The Midlands side host London Lions II this weekend, looking to improve on their 0-9 start from a year ago.
Team Newcastle University will look to build on their impressive debut D1M campaign in 2020/21 with another solid outing this year. The former D2 North winners were a surprise package, finishing 13-6 and locking up the #5 seed. They welcome Bradford Dragons to the North East, with NBL fans hoping for a repeat of last weekend's 91-89 OT thriller.
Finally, there is some bonus action on Sunday as the remaining game in the L Lynch Trophy's group two plays out, with Hemel Storm taking on Reading Rockets. A Storm victory would create a three way tie atop the group, but a Reading W would see the Rockets through to the quarter-finals, with Thames Valley joining them.
3pm - Oaklands Wolves v Hemel Storm - LIVE STATS
3pm - Leicester Warriors v London Lions II - LIVE STATS
5pm - Team Newcastle University v Bradford Dragons - LIVE STATS
6:30pm - Thames Valley Cavaliers v Derby Trailblazers - LIVE STATS
Main image credit - Luke Simcock
16 May 2022
09 May 2022