Game of the Week: Derby Trailblazers v Loughborough Students Riders
Our Game of the Week sees Division 1 Derby Trailblazers host Division 2 Loughborough Students Riders in the last 16 of the National Cup on Sunday.
Riders promise to be a tough match-up for Trailblazers posing a threat for a cup upset, having won all 6 games they have played this season by 16 points or more.
The upset may be even more likely given a rash of injuries for Trailblazers, as explained by coach Jamie Maudsley: "We could be without up to three of our first team players. Miguel Leite, Martyn Gayle and Nick Rose have all been advised not to play this weekend, but we'll have to see how they are feeling nearer to game time."
Derby were victims of a cup upset last season as they lost 86-79 at then-Division 3 Newham Neptunes in the quarter finals, spoiling their bid for a third consecutive semi final appearance.
Maudsley was keen to emphasise the importance of the cup whilst tempering expectations of his team's performance: "We certainly view the Cup as an important consideration, because we want to win every game we play. That's not been possible so far and the Loughborough team we're playing is a very, very strong team.
"We're going to try and be as competitive as we can be, but the likelihood is we could be without all three of those guys. We're going to be undermanned, we're going to have to adjust and we're going to have to try a few different things as we try and grind out a win. They're going to be a really tough task for us. They've got some former internation U18 and U20 players who'll be very, very strong. They've got a lot of size and athleticism and with us being undermanned, it's going to be difficult for us to contend with.
"We'll give it our best shot and I know the guys are working as hard as possible. They've not quit on a game yet and we've been in every game we've played. We've probably not been as smart as we could be, but I'm confident we'll be better by this weekend and we'll make some adjustments concerning the things that have been going wrong.
"One thing we do have in our favour is our supporters and we really need them to come out in force and to make as much noise as possible to help us on our way."
Riders, under the guidance of GB Olympian Drew Sullivan, have won games in a variety of ways so far this season. They started the season by pouring in 110 points in a 28 point victory at Mansfield and the following week held London Westside to just 40 points as they won by 16.
As highlighted by Maudsley they have a number of players, such as John Stewart, John Gould and Connor Washington, who have been part of junior international squads and are major parts of their rotation.
With both teams facing league contests on the Saturday, the strength in depth of the Riders squad could prove critical as they strive for a quarter final spot against either Westminster Warriors or Worthing Thunder.