The 2014 BUCS Basketball Final 8s are set, with a number of tantalising match-ups to be played in the quarter final games to be held at UEL Sports Dock on the weekend of March 15-16.
Durham, Sheffield Hallam, London South Bank, and UCL, all received a bye through to the Final 8, having finished top two in the Premier North and Premier South, whilst Northumbria, Worcester, Loughborough and Leeds Met Carnegie all booked their places with wins on Wednesday.
It means the North’s recent dominance of BUCS continues, with six of the last eight from up North, exactly the same ratio as last year.
It is perhaps no surprise, as all the teams in the North have BBL club links (Leeds Met Carnegie will have a BBL franchise commencing next season), along with funding for scholarships, whilst the Southern clubs have been left in the dark.
Worcester will be going for their fourth straight BUCS title, as they take on newcomers UCL in their quarter final match-up.
Worcester dismantled Bath 104-48 on Wednesday (without Will Creekmore), despite finishing the season 5-5 in fourth place in the North; no major worry for them after not being amongst the regular season leaders for the majority of their titles.
Led by American Creekmore, who has also been dominant in the BBL this season, as well as Kalil Irving, and Daniel Belgrave, Paul James’ Worcester will once again be fielding a strong team.
UCL will be in their first (ever?) Final 8s in recent years, going 7-3 on the season to finish in second place in the South.
Durham and Northumbria will take each other on in a repeat of one of last year’s quarter finals. Last year Durham steamrolled past Northumbria, in an extremely physical game, and based on this season’s form will be hoping to do the same again.
However, their final match-up of the regular season saw Durham escape with just a five point win, meaning it may not be as one sided as people think.
Northumbria appear in the Final 8s despite going 1-9 on the season and finishing bottom in the Premier North, still beating Oxford (6-4, third in the Premier South) 81-78 in their Sweet 16 match-up.
Northumbria have been going through a transition phase, having lost a core group of players that led their rise to prominence, and now in the process of rebuilding. There remains but a couple of holdovers (Jamie Glen, Jack Thompson), with new key players in Matt Martin, Ricky Fetske and Jack Preston who has returned from a year in the States.
Durham, made up primarily of their BBL squad and coached by Wildcats Ralph Bucci, are the Premier North leaders (8-2), their only two losses coming at the hands of Sheffield Hallam, who after climbing their way through the leagues over the past couple of seasons, are taking the opportunity in the Premier North by the scruff of the neck.
Loughborough, in just their second season in the Premier North, are seeking revenge after being knocked out in the semi-finals last year with a short handed squad due to Leicester Riders commitments.
With both Conner Washington and Jamell Anderson expected to be in attendance, along with Riders big man Barry Lamble who enrolled on a post-graduate course this year, Loughborough will be looking to go at least a step further than last year.
They will match-up with London South Bank who finished the season top of the South at 8-2. One of their losses was a walkover awarded to Brunel, whilst the other a two point defeat at the hands of fellow Final 8 team UCL in the last game of the season.
South Bank are the only team from the South to return to the Final 8s this year, a former champion who have been suffering since the reduction of their scholarship budget.
The last quarter final will see newcomers Sheffield Hallam against Leeds Met Carnegie. Hallam, who are led by last year’s core of GB U20 Nick Lewis, along with Zach Gachette and Colin Sing, won the Trophy last year and will be aiming to make their first appearance at the Final 8s a good one, after gaining promotion for this season.
They have one major addition this year in BBL veteran Mike Tuck, who will no doubt player a major role
Sheffield Hallam undoubtedly have to be favourites heading in, having beaten Carnegie in both their match-ups, however, both weren’t total blowouts (first victory was just five points, second by 14), meaning anything can happen on the day.
Hallam finish the regular season at 7-3 in second place in the Premier North, logging two wins over league leaders Durham, but suffering two losses to Worcester and one in the last game of the season at Loughborough.
Leeds Met who got through the season at 4-6, dominated Brunel 84-60 in their last 16 game, further testament to the strength of the North compared to the South.
Met, have boosted their squad this year, adding a British core of GB U20 Rowell Graham, former GB U20 Darrell Bethune, plus former England U18 Josh McGinn, plus a 6’8″ Croatian wing in Branimir Mikulic, to 6’10” American big man Russell Permenter. They join BUCS veteran Armand Anebo (has anybody player in more Final 8s than this guy?!), plus captain Jack Stannard.
After the two finalists are known, the final will be played at Surrey Sports Park on March 26th, as part of ‘Big BUCS Wednesday’.
Durham vs Northumbria
UCL vs Worcester
LSBU vs Loughborough
Sheffield Hallam vs Leeds Met Carnegie
Thoughts? Who do you think will take it?