BBL preview: Curtain raised on new season
A brand new BBL season tips off this weekend and there could barely be a more intriguing opening night match-up.
For several years, the lack of a BBL club in both Manchester and London has been perceived as a real Achilles heel for British Basketball; but the 2012/13 campaign sees that particular issue rectified in glorious fashion - for the re-born Manchester Giants host London Lions in one of three curtain raising games on Friday night as another exciting season gets underway.
Nobody could be happier than one of the longest serving protagonists in British Basketball, Lions' Vince Macaulay, who is preparing to pick up a coaches clipboard again this season. It isn’t just the buzz of holding the coaching reins which is exciting him - he also sees the importance of the bigger picture.
He said: "I am pleased to always be part of the forefront of what happens in the British Basketball League.
"Manchester and London are names that need to be in the BBL and, it is paramount that both organisations create an impact and help to reach the thousands of hoops fans in our respective cities."
Elsewhere, Newcastle Eagles being the defence of their BBL Championship crown with a mouth-watering fixture against arch rivals Glasgow Rocks at Sport Central. Both clubs are being widely tipped to challenge for silverware having retained a core of players so there will be plenty of old scores to settle on the court.
Also jumping out on Friday are One Health Sharks Sheffield who entertain the ambitious Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders, another team expected to again compete at the top of the table. However, unlike Rocks and Eagles, head coach Rob Paternostro has seen his starting five decimated - aside from the return of Great Britain star Andrew Sullivan.
On Saturday night, four teams get to take to the floor for the first time with Worcester Wolves attempting to replicate or improve on their best ever BBL season.
Their program begins with a home clash against Durham Wildcats who finished bottom of the pile last time around but will be confident of making progress in their all-important second year in the top flight.
Rebranded as Surrey to attain broader appeal, the Heat will be expected to get their new era off to a winning start when they welcome Mersey Tigers - which is likely to be a real test for the young visitors.
Meanwhile on Sunday, a quartet of BBL teams all play a second game of the weekend with both Rocks and Eagles facing tricky road trips which will provide an early test of their title credentials.
Glasgow heads back to the north east to face Durham who are always capable of producing a surprise at Newton Aycliffe whilst Newcastle makes the long trip to Crystal Palace to face the Lions and that could be an early pressure game if Eagles slip at home in their opener to the Rocks.
It certainly promises to be a fascinating first weekend.