NBL1 weekend preview: Rivalry Round heats up
AFTER a week to refresh and prepare for the second half of the season, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 competition is back in a special Rivalry Round. While the Round 10 fixture features 20 games across both men’s and women’s competitions, less than most other rounds, it is one that will get plenty of fans to the games as they hope to take down their rival.
From the NBL1 men’s perspective, there are two massive top four clashes to get fans excited in what could genuinely be a preview for the finals ahead. Top-of-the-table Ballarat Miners dropped a rare game last week but remain a game clear of their opponents, third placed Geelong Supercats, with two games in hand. The Supercats are 5-2 at home, while the Miners are 7-1, with these two sides the top scorers in the competition, while the Miners can exploit the Supercats defence, while maintaining their own which is ranked first for least points conceded. The other big game is between Nunawading Spectres and Melbourne Tigers with the second and fourth clash also set to shape the ladder leading into finals.
With Kilsyth Cobras and Dandenong Rangers taking on bottom three sides – Knox Raiders and Southern Sabres respectively – wins in the top-four battles are crucial. Rounding out the teams in the top eight, Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence plays just its second home game against Frankston Blues who have charged up from nowhere to sit inside the top eight. The winner will at least remain inside the finals positions, making it important to take home the points with so many teams chasing them. One of those sides is Waverley Falcons, with the tenth placed Falcons taking on bottom two team Ringwood Hawks. A victory will at least have them percentage out of the eight, much like Bendigo Braves if they can come back from Albury Wodonga with the points. The loser of Hobart Huskies and North West Thunder will find it hard to make finals, while the same can be said for the clash between Diamond Valley Eagles and Eltham Wildcats who are on five wins apiece.
In the women’s competition, the clash between Kilsyth and Knox is sure to provide plenty of highlights as the Cobras push for a top four spot, while Knox holds onto the precious third spot, with games in hand. One side that desperately needs a win is Dandenong Rangers, a team that has dropped its past three games, but a match with bottom two side Southern Sabres should surely break the streak. Sixth placed Nunawading Spectres has a chance to break into that top four group with a win over tenth placed Melbourne Tigers, while Ringwood Hawks can stay in touch with the top four if they overcome Waverley. The top two sides face teams in the bottom eight, with Bendigo Braves looking to extend on their five-game winning streak and hand Albury Wodonga Bandits their fourth straight loss, while the 11-game red-hot run of Geelong Supercats is predicted to continue when they host twelfth placed Ballarat Rush.
In other games, Frankston Blues have the opportunity to remain in touch with the top eight given they have a clash with bottom three side, Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, while the all-Tasmanian derby between Launceston Tornadoes and Hobart Huskies will rule out a side from finals. Eltham Wildcats are a game adrift of seventh and one game clear of ninth, and are expected to retain the breathing space with a match against the cellar-dwelling Diamond Valley Eagles. A Sunday clash with Knox Raiders makes the Saturday fixture a must win. There is plenty on the line for all sides in a relatively even competition outside the top three sides, in a league that certainly has a mid-table log-jam.
Round 10 Fixture:
Saturday, June 15:
Albury Wodonga Bandits vs. Bendigo Braves
Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence vs. Frankston Blues
Dandenong Rangers vs. Southern Sabres
Eltham Wildcats vs. Diamond Valley Eagles
Geelong Supercats vs. Ballarat Miners/Rush
Kilsyth Cobras vs. Knox Raiders
North West Thunder/Launceston Tornadoes vs. Hobart Huskies
Sunday, June 16:
Nunawading Spectres vs. Melbourne Tigers
Knox Raiders vs. Eltham Wildcats
Waverley Falcons vs. Ringwood Hawks