Raiders travel to unbeaten Leicester
Two of the teams expected to challenge for the BBL Championship title will come face to face at John Sandford Sports Centre this evening, when Leicester Riders entertain Plymouth Raiders.
The Riders are sitting top of the table having won their first seven Championship games of the season. The fifth-placed Raiders have only suffered one defeat from five games, and have plenty of games in hand over their title rivals.
Home-court advantage has proved the key in games between the teams over the past two years, with all six meetings going the way of the hosts. Plymouth won the series 2-1 last season to gain revenge for a similar series success for Leicester in 2010-11, and it is the Westcountry side who hold a 20-12 lead in the all-time series between the clubs.
The Raiders' head coach, Gavin Love, knows the size of the task facing his team in Leicester: "The Riders are the only unbeaten team in the BBL and have the deepest roster in the league," he said.
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"You wouldn't want to single out any off the Riders players as all are extremely talented, but the GB captain Andrew Sullivan is their leader and is having a strong start to their campaign."
The Raiders will be back in action tomorrow afternoon, when they take on Durham Wildcats at Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre.
The Wildcats are one spot lower than the Raiders, having won three of their seven league games so far.
The Devon side enjoyed their trips to Durham last season, winning both Championship games and also knocking the Wildcats out of the BBL Cup, before completing a clean sweep against the league debutants with a 96-85 home success at Plymouth Pavilions.
Despite that healthy record, Love will not be taking the Wildcats lightly tomorrow. The Raiders' boss said: "I'm yet to see the Wildcats play but it is obvious they are vastly improved from last season, already winning three games and putting in some great performances."
After winning away at Manchester in the Championship last week, the Raiders completed a good weekend by knocking Surrey Heat out of the BBL Cup. Love was clearly a happy man after that win, saying: "Jeremy Bell stepped up big for us in the fourth quarter and as usual Colin O'Reilly and Matt Schneck put in solid performances to lead us past the Heat.
"It's always important to progress in all competition and it's great to be in the semis it gives our fans a chance to see last year's cup final match-up on their home floor in the first leg," he added. "It's going to be a great event."