Tofas SC Bursa are hosting on Tuesday the team that no one in the EuroChallenge wants to cross paths with right now, but the principal worry in coach Ahmet Caki's mind on the eve of the encounter is not how to exploit their -few- weak points.
Krasnye Krylia remain unbeaten after eight games in the competition, are on an excellent run of form domestically and arrive in Turkey well rested, since they were not in action at the weekend.
Tofas however, rather than examining holes in the Russian armour, are mainly preoccupied with their own team, and namely with whether their main offensive weapon, Steven Burtt, will be available for the clash.
To everyone's surprise, or certainly to that of TED Ankara Kolejliler, the point guard sat out the Saturday game against the team from the capital in the Turkish BEKO Ligi with a last minute injury.
If he is unable to take to the court also on Tuesday, Tofas will have to rethink and reshape within three days an entire game plan they have been following since the start of the season.
That is far from the ideal way to prepare ahead of a clash against any opponent, let alone one as in-form as Krasnye Krylia.
Tofas, who had finished the Regular Season with a 4-2 record, are at 1-1 in Last 16 Group K following last week's dramatic loss at Norrköping Dolphins, while the still perfect Russian outfit are the only team in the group that stands at 2-0.
With Burrt watching from the sidelines, Tofas fell 93-80 to Ankara at home at the weekend.
One could certainly argue that the main reason for the loss was not the absence of the point guard, since Caki's side did quite well on the offensive end but poorly on defence, but that would overlook the general disorienting effect a sudden change to a well assimilated game plan midway through the season can have on a team.
The positives that the Turkish side can draw from the defeat is that another key player, center Chinemelu Elonu, was at his usual best and collected a double-double of 14 points of 12 rebounds, while veteran Inanc Koc stepped up and led all Tofas scorers with 15 points.
Krasnye Krylia's latest game was last Tuesday's 77-69 victory at Khimik Yuzhne in the EuroChallenge and there were few noticeable variations to the successful recipe of coach Sergey Bazarevich.
As always, point guard Aaron Miles orchestrated the play and finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds while small forward Chester Simmons stayed close to his season average and led all scorers with 16 points, albeit on a not particularly good shooting night.
|Steven Burtt has been the go-to-guy for Tofas, but is questionable for Tuesday's clash with Krasnye Krylia |
SEASON SO FAR
There is little doubt as to which team between the two opponents that will take to the court on Tuesday night in Bursa look better in a head-to-head statistical comparison, based on the six games of the Regular Season and the first two of the Last 16 in the EuroChallenge.
The Russian side are defending better than their hosts, are superior in two-point shooting percentages, they are scoring more, protecting the ball better and sharing it around more effectively when they have it in their possession.
The two teams however are equally matched in three-point and free-throw shooting percentages, while Tofas average 39.6 rebounds per game to Krasnye Krylia's 37.
Burrt leads his team in scoring with 17.1 points and assists, with 4.4 per game, but also has the third-highest average of turnovers in the EuroChallenge, losing 3.7 balls per encounter.
His opposite number is a much more organising-orientated point guard. Miles is the competition's best passer, with an eye-catching 7.5 assists per game, and also leads his team in steals, 1.8 per game.
Simmons meanwhile leads the Russian side in scoring with 15.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field
The two teams coincide in regarding rebounding as a rather collective responsibility, with six Tofas and eight Krasnye Krylia players bringing down at least three boards each night.
Elonu (7.2 RPG) and Joshua Heytvelt (6.5 RPG) still combine for one third of Tofas' total rebounds though, while Nikita Balashov is the top rebounder for the Samara side with 6.6 per game and Andre Smith is a very close second, with 6.2.