National Trophy preview: Pool winners to be determined
The final full weekend of National Trophy action will see the pool winners decided and will go a long way to finalizing the quarter final line-up.
Hemel Storm v Essex Leopards
Saturday 20 October, 7pm, Sportspace
Top spot in Pool 1 will be decided in the clash between Hemel Storm and Essex Leopards on Saturday.
A win for Storm will give them a first place finish in the pool in their first ever foray into National Trophy competition, whereas a win for Leopards will hand top spot to Tees Valley Mohawks.
If Leopards win both teams will have matching 4-2 records and could finish anywhere between second and fourth in the pool depending on other results.
Leopards could miss out on a spot in the last eight if they lose and other results go against them.
Leopards coach Robert Youngblood has strengthened his backcourt with the addition of Ishmael Fontaine this week after the departures of Lukas Volskis and Josh Johnson. The 6'3" Leytonstone-born player joins after spending the last three seasons with MK Lions - having played with Youngblood as well as current Leopards Carl Josey and Lawrence Brown.
Westminster Warriors v Bristol Academy Flyers
Saturday 20 October, 4:30pm, Moberly
Bristol Flyers can secure top spot in Pool 2 on Saturday if they return from Westminster Warriors with a win.
Bristol's only loss so far has come at the hands of Reading Rockets and with Rockets already having two losses and every other team in the pool having at least one, a win for Flyers will secure them a first place finish.
Warriors are 0-4 in Trophy play thus far, but have only lost their two home games by a combined 11 points to Bradford and Northumbria. They can't make the Trophy quarters, but will be keen to build up some momentum prior to the start of the VCARS.co.uk Division 1 season.
Worthing Thunder v Brixton Topcats
Saturday 20 October, 7:30pm, Worthing Leisure Centre
Two teams that are eliminated from progressing in the Trophy will battle for their first win in the competition this season on Saturday as Worthing Thunder host Brixton Topcats.
Worthing have lost by an average of almost 22 points in the four Trophy games to date, whereas Brixton's average losing margin is just over 15 and they are coming off their best performance with a close 69-67 loss to Leicester Warriors last weekend.
Thunder will see this as a good test of how their new, young squad is progressing at this early stage of the season.
Medway Park Crusaders v Leicester Warriors
Saturday 20 October, 5:15pm, Medway Park
Medway Park Crusaders host Leicester Warriors on Saturday in a crucial clash for quarter final qualification.
If Essex Leopards defeat Hemel later in the evening, only one of Medway and Leicester will be to able to qualify for the quarter finals and the result on Saturday will determine which of the teams it is.
A Warriors win on Saturday will put them in the quarters regardless of the Leopards' result, whereas Crusaders will need a double digit win on Saturday to be sure to come out ahead in any tie-breaker scenarios.
Leeds Carnegie v Derby Trailblazers
Saturday 20 October, 6pm, Leeds Metropolitan University
Leeds Carnegie still have a slim mathematical hope of making the Trophy quarter finals, but they have to win both of their remaining pool games to stay alive.
That starts on Saturday when they host a Derby Trailblazers side that are 3-1 in Trophy play and can still top the pool if Bristol slip up at Westminster.
Derby coach Jamie Maudsley commented: "There are a lot of teams fighting for that second spot and the home advantage which it brings for the quarter finals. Leeds still aren't out of it either, so I’m sure they will be ready for us on Saturday night. They seem to have recruited fairly well and they’ve picked up a couple of really big guys. Rob Marsden's been playing really well for them this year and they’ve retained the core of students who’ve been playing pretty well for them over the last couple of seasons."
Reading Rockets v Bradford Dragons
Saturday 20 October, 6:30pm, Rivermead
Still with three games to play in their pool campaign, Reading Rockets control their own destiny in the Trophy this season.
Three home wins will definitely see them advance to the quarter finals and they start by hosting Bradford Dragons on Saturday.
Head coach Samit Nuruzade was positive about their performance last weekend: "I was pleased with the way we played against Derby, especially in the second half when we started defending a lot better, but we just ran out of steam in the overtime period and that's probably down to only having seven fit players and with it being early season.
"As long as we can build on our performances then I think we could have a successful season but at the minute we are really struggling with injuries but like all teams it is something we need to overcome and keep working hard on the practice floor.
"This weekend's game against Bradford will be another tough one for us. I have great respect for Chris Mellor and the way he gets the best out of his players. His team always plays hard and aggressive basketball and we will have to match all these parts of their game to be able to compete against them."
Dragons go into their double-header weekend knowing that one win will be enough to see them qualify for the knockout stages, but their confidence will be knocked by their big loss at home to Bristol last weekend which has given them a negative points differential despite their 3-1 record.
Derby Trailblazers v Bradford Dragons
Saturday 21 October, 4pm, Moorways
Derby and Bradford clash on Sunday with the winners definitely qualifying for the quarter finals. It is possible that both teams will already be confirmed in the last eight depending on their results on Saturday.
Derby were one of the teams that Bradford failed to defeat in their debut campaign at the top level last season and will pose a tough challenge again this weekend despite their overhauled roster for this season.
Maudsley stated: "Bradford have started the season really well. They’ve managed to retain a number of key guys from last year and they’ve picked up some guys from Leeds that have gone over to them. They’ve also just brought in a Lithuanian-American, so I think they're going to be tough as their record suggests.
"Fortunately, they’ll be coming into Moorways off the back of a double-header too, as they have to go to Reading on Saturday, while we only have to go as far as Leeds. If anything, that makes is slightly more difficult for them."
Brixton Topcats v Medway Park Crusaders
Saturday 21 October, 4pm, Brixton Rec
Brixton Topcats and Medway Park Crusaders wrap up their Trophy pool games on Sunday when they meet at Brixton Rec.
The game could be crucial for Crusaders' hopes of a quarter final spot depending on how they fare on Saturday. If they defeat Leicester in a close game on Saturday, they might need a win on Sunday against Topcats to avoid a tie-breaker situation that would not suit them.
Topcats will be keen to provide a tough test for Crusaders despite their winless record in the Trophy before their weekend games.