National Cup preview: Division 1 teams wary of upset
One of the oldest competitions in English Basketball, the Men's National Cup, tips off this weekend as the first round gets underway around the country.
In January 2012, Essex Leopards won the Cup title after defeating 2010 champions, Bristol Academy Flyers, at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield, the home of this season's final on 29 January 2012. For the fifth time this season, specialist sports insurance brokers Sportscover will sponsor the Men's and Women's National Cup finals.
With lower division teams having to face Division 1 and 2 clubs in more than 20 first round games this weekend, there are undoubtedly some supporters of the underdogs pulling for an upset. Even with the the top teams from last season's Cup getting byes to the next round, there are still seven top level teams who could be out of the tournament come Monday.
Many of this weekend's ties are local derbies as well with no team having to travel too far to get their Cup campaign under way.
Of the seven Division 1 teams in action, four hit the road for their 1st round tie. Westminster Warriors travel to namesakes Hertfordshire Warriors, Hemel Storm go to Ipswich, Worthing Thunder are in Southampton to face Solent Kestrels and Bradford Dragons cross the pennines to play Stockport Spartans.
The Division 1 teams with home games are Leeds Carnegie (v Sefton Stars), Brixton Topcats (v Ealing Phoenicians) and Team Northumbria (v Middlesbrough Lions).
There are six fixtures in the first round that do not feature a team from either Division 1 or 2, and with PAWS London Capital already having forfeited to Hackeny White Heat, there will be at least seven teams from Division 3 or 4 in the second round looking to make a cinderella run.
National Cup History
Currently a knock-out tournament for all teams in the men's senior national league (from EBL Division 4 to Division 1), the first National Cup was won in 1936 in Birmingham when Hoylake YMCA defeated London Polytechnic 32-21. Since that time, the National Cup final has been played in venues as well-known as the Albert Hall and Wembley Arena to smaller leisure centres such as Moorways in Derby.
It's difficult to pinpoint a particular team that has been continuously successful in the National Cup, as the tournament has featured champions from the very amateur level (Liverpool Police, 1970) to the professional (Brighton Bears, 2003). There are, however, several clubs who have multiple National Cup titles including London Polytechnic, Central YMCA, Kingston and more recently Sheffield Sharks and Manchester Magic. To see the full list of National Cup winners, runners-up and venues since 1936, please click here