Battle for BBL playoff spots heats up

With only a handful of regular season games to go, results in the remaining BBL Championship fixtures can still hugely affect the current standings in the league.

Tonight, and the rest of this weekend, could see a number of sides move in to helpful positions as we draw ever nearer to the post-season party.

Sport Central is where all eyes will descend tonight – even with Worcester Wolves looking in to see the result of Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks.

Newcastle would have one hand on the title should they beat Sheffield. They would then need to either win both their final games to definitely secure the title (away against the bottom two sides in Birmingham Knights and Surrey United), or hope Worcester Wolves were to then lose any of their remaining fixtures and then beat either the Knights or United.

If Sheffield win, then they must face another daunting task of taking on Leicester Riders on Sunday, but regardless, every game, in order to win the league, is must-win.

Worcester must win all their games also, and hope that both Newcastle and Sheffield slip up.

Leicester, effectively out of the title hunt due to their record against leaders Newcastle, still have games to upset the balance at both ends of the spectrum, and could place in either second, third or fourth, but Rob Paternostro will be driving his side to finish as high as possible.

The dual for fifth and sixth spots looks to be between London Lions and Cheshire Phoenix. The two sides have a back-to-back weekend, starting tonight at the Copper Box, and face each other again on Sunday back in Chester.

Lions will have the head-to-head should they win tonight, but again, other fixtures remain that could easily switch them around and change their playoff paths.

Speaking with head coach Vince Macaulay at the BBL Trophy Final last weekend, he felt the chance some of his players had to run out at the Emirates Arena in front of a packed crowd, may help to spur them on and change their recent run of form going in to the playoffs.

“Our guys loved it – we’re trying to change our psyche as far as a bad run in the last month or so, we had a positive result the other night against Surrey, and it’s all about positivity. I believe you can achieve whatever, if you will yourself to achieve.

Coming down to this weekend against Phoenix, Macaulay knows past experience, from last year in particular, could play a huge part in how his side go in to this back-to-back contest.

“We don’t really care who it is we are playing,” the playcaller said. “The good thing about the weekend is the back-to-back, it gives us a good look at the playoff situation. The situation we had against Manchester last season where we had to go out and win, so we’ll prepare for the Cheshire games just as we would a playoff game, and hopefully it will be a positive result.

Macaulay also felt that Glasgow Rocks were done as far as playoff hopes are concerned – and you’d be hard pushed to disagree with that, but anything can happen, and the inspiration of the last few weeks could turn around what was a disappointing start to this season for Sterling Davis’ men.

However, Durham, Plymouth and Manchester, who occupy seventh to ninth, will have plenty more to say about that.

Durham hold records over Glasgow and Plymouth, but not Manchester. The latter fight it out to decide who wins that head-to-head, with Glasgow only having the head-to-head over Manchester.

Glasgow may have more fixtures to play, but realistically, they will win two (vs Surrey), possibly three (against Phoenix – the less said the better perhaps?). Unless, of course, their mid-February form returns and they win the lot, but they really do have an uphill struggle to get to the BBL’s big dance.

So it would leave one of three to miss out from the Wildcats, Raiders and Giants.

Raiders have won just four games this calendar year, whilst Giants have fought hard to recover their season, and could so easily have been on a seven-game winning streak in to this weekend.

However, that is too close to call, and only after next weekend’s huge game between the Raiders and the Giants can anyone hazard a guess as to which side will fall.

What you can be certain of though is that this season is nowhere near over yet – the party is only just getting started…

  • Who do you think will take the title? Is it almost guaranteed to go back to Sport Central and the Eagles? Or perhaps the Sharks will sneak it? Can Worcester hold on to hope any more? What about the final two spots – is it more obvious than we are making out? Whatever you think – let us know! Comment below or tweet us @uk_sportsfans!

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