|Benjamin Woodside leads Gravelines Dunkerque in both points and assists|
Gravelines In Fine Fettle
For a team that lost one game in the EuroChallenge by the eye-popping, jaw-dropping score of 98-58, BCM Gravelines Dunkerque find themselves in a very strong position.
The French team overcame that Regular Season wobble at home to Sparta Saint-Petersburg on November 23 to advance to the Last 16.
Going into Tuesday night's home game against BK Ventspils, Gravelines are 2-0 in Group K and looking very good bets to reach the Quarter-Finals.
When asked for a prediction ahead of the game, Gravelines point guard Ben Woodside tweeted: "Hopefully a good game defensively for us and the rest will take care of itself."
Woodside is one important reason why the French club has been successful in Europe.
The 25-year-old Minnesota native leads his team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, and his assists average (5.1) is also tops.
Ventspils won't be easy opponents.
The Latvian outfit won its Last 16 opener by 35 points over a Sport Lisboa e Benfica team that Gravelines then struggled against last week, yet Ventspils slipped up in their second game against Norrköping Dolphins, falling 77-75 in Sweden.
One player in the backcourt that Woodside will come up against is Janis Strelnieks, an exciting 21-year-old point guard that does a little bit of everything for his team.
He averages 12.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Both Woodside and Strelnieks understand the importance of hitting free-throws.
In their three-point triumph in Portugal last week, Woodside drilled nine of 10 at the charity stripe.
Strelnieks, however, was just two of six against the Dolphins.
There is also the very important matter of Oritseweyinmi Efejuku, who recently joined Ventspils but has been given some time to find his feet before being pressed into action.
Ventspils expect the player that led Barons to last year's Latvian title to get minutes against Gravelines.
As for Benfica, they need a win in a big way.
They are 0-2 going into their home clash with the Dolphins (1-1).
"After two defeats in our first games, it is true that we do not have much leeway," said Benfica's Portugal international Miguel Minhava.
"We are aiming to win all four remaining games."
Minhava appealed to the club's fans to show up in force on Tuesday.
|Miha Zupan's Spartak suffered a painful domestic league defeat at the hands of BC Triumph on the weekend|
"These European games are complicated and fans can make a difference," he said.
"If they help us, the chances of winning go up."
Spartak Saint-Petersburg were not happy campers after losing for the second time this year to BC Triumph in Russia.
Zvi Sherf's team has won both of its Last 16 games heading into Tuesday's Group I clash with Maccabi Haifa, and he'll be expecting a big performance to ease the frustration of the weekend setback at Triumph.
Spartak, meanwhile, have issued a statement to quash speculation that big man Pero Antic could be about to move to a different club.
The Saint-Petersburg outfit said: "The contract of the player with the club is in effect until the end of this season, and Antic, one of the leading players of the club, remains a player at BK Spartak."
Haifa (1-1) go into the clash after last week's gritty win at Netanya.
Lukoil, who fell at home to Spartak, know they'll be facing a Netanya team that will be ready.
"This is a dangerous team," warned Lukoil coach Jovica Arsic on the club's website.
"They play very aggressively and their lower height gives them an advantage - they are faster.
"They look like the style of Lugano (Basket), but better."
There will be a glitzy Group J encounter in Turkey between Pinar Karsiyaka and Dexia Mons-Hainaut.
Karsiyaka are 2-0 in the Last 16 but were soundly beaten at the weekend by Galatasaray.
Dexia, 1-1 after a thrilling victory against the Antwerp Giants, fell by just one point to Spirou Charleroi at the weekend.
Antwerp are 0-2 going into their clash at KRKA Novo Mesto (1-1) in Slovenia.
The Giants did win over Leuven Bears in their weekend clash.
KRKA bounced back from their defeat to Pinar Karsiyaka by claiming a two-point triumph at Red Star Belgrade.
The win improved KRKA's record to 12-7, level with first-place Partizan Belgrade and second-top Union Olimpija.
Alexander Dzikic, the Krka coach, said of his team's performance in the Adriatic League: "We remain in the hunt for the final tournament, which nobody expected before the start of the season."
In Group L, BK Prostejov (0-2) are at home to Lokomotiv Kuban (1-1) while BC Oostende (2-0) travel to face KK Zadar (1-1).
Prostejov coach Peter Balint knows his team have an uphill battle to advance and it's going to be a big ask to win against Lokomotiv.
"The Kuban team is definitely a favorite and I think also one of the favorites throughout the competition," Balint said.