Following a month-long break the EuroChallenge resumes on Tuesday with eight exciting clashes on the first day of action in the Last 16.
|Janis Timma and BK Ventspils are eager to start a new winning streak|
BK Ventspils suffered a narrow 66-65 loss to Barons kvartals in the Baltic League over the weekend, their first defeat after 19 consecutive wins across three competitions.
The team are looking to rebound from the slip-up and get back on the winning track when they face Joensuun Kataja on Tuesday.
After losing to Tampereen Pyrintö on 2 January the Finnish side made the most of their hectic domestic league schedule and have now won three in a row, the latest an 89-75 success over Lapuan Korikobrat on the road on Saturday.
The Finns have played four home games in the EuroChallenge so far (they had to go through the Qualification Round) and had only one slip up as hosts, a 96-86 loss to the mighty Krasnye Krylia in the Regular Season.
CS Gaz Metan Medias shuffled the cards in the last couple of weeks and made changes to the roster with Ivan Lilov, Zoran Krstanovic, and Kyle Shiloh joining the team, but they have not yet recuperated the freshness they showed at the start of the season.
The new recruits put in positive displays on Saturday, but Medias still slumped to a 79-68 defeat at CS BC Farul Constanta, who are penultimate in the Romanian LNB standings.
Pinar Karsiyaka on the other hand continue to look solid in the Turkish BEKO Ligi and deliver the same strong defensive performances that established them as the team that gave up the least points in the EuroChallenge Regular Season, 62.5 per game.
The Turkish side played six domestic games during the European winter break and won five, their only loss a 71-65 defeat at league leaders Anadolu Efes, and are therefore the strong favourites to start the Last 16 with a win at home.
Hapoel Holon finally have a good reason to smile after they halted a worrisome losing skid in the Israeli league midweek and then added a second win, 107-103 in overtime at Maccabi Ashdod, on Saturday.
They will need however to overcome fatigue from the extra effort and the trip to France fast, if they are to stand any chance against the in-form Paris Levallois on Tuesday.
The Parisians had a good rest during the Christmas period and returned to action looking every bit as good as before the break, with a more comfortable than the final result implies 94-82 success away to Cholet.
While both teams are well balanced and play good basketball as a group, inevitably the big match-up in the paint between Sean May of the hosts and Franklin Hassell of the guests provides extra spice to the clash.
The two Americans were perhaps the most consistent players during the EuroChallenge Regular Season, delivering one solid performance after the other and neither has shown any signs of slowing down during the interval of the European competition.
|Sava Lesic and his Khimik teammates need to control the rebounds in order to upset Tofas on the road|
This is a particular clash in that each team perhaps have to believe they can exploit their opponent's weakness rather than ride their own momentum.
The hosts lost a game they should not have in domestic league action at the weekend, 93-89 to direct rivals Erdemir at home, while Khimik were out-gunned 89-67 at Budivelnik in the Ukrainian Superleague.
If there is anything positive coach Zoran Martic took out of this game ahead of the trip to Turkey is that the result was effectively decided early and he could give playing time to 11 of his players.
Both teams though are capable of very good things when a given game goes their way and the guests could upset Tofas.
Their chances to pull this off would increase dramatically if they manage to contain point guard Steven Burtt below his season average, 12 points per contest, and win -or minimize losses- in the battle on the glass, as the hosts are the best rebounding team in the EuroChallenge with 41.8 boards per game.
The new recruits started off the bench in the weekend game in the domestic league at LF Basket and both made a meaningful contribution, yet Norrköping slumped to an 83-77 defeat.
The Swedish team will have to improve vastly over this performance if they want to take a road win in Samara.
Krasnye Krylia were one of the three teams that stayed unbeaten in the EuroChallenge Regular Season for good reason, and they are coming off a convincing 89-72 home victory over Lietuvos Rytas in the VTB League on Saturday.
Aaron Miles, who leads that competition in assists was extremely generous even by his own standards and dished out 13 assists while the main weapon on offence, Chester Simmons, was not on his best shooting night but still collected 20 points.
Overall, Sergey Bazarevich's team look to have improved even more during the break and even though power forward Andre Turner still needs to recover his rhythm after returning from injury, they are a formidable opponent for any team, much more so when they play at home.
EWE Baskets Oldenburg have been here before and they have certainly proved they can do it again: Bounce back from a painful loss within three days and register a convincing victory to keep their perfect EuroChallenge record intact, that is.
The Germans lost 95-91 at home to direct rivals for a BEKO Bundesliga top-four finish ratiopharm Ulm on Saturday, but Minsk cannot hope they will appear tired and worn out on Tuesday.
|Christopher Kramer leads Oldenburg in assists, averaging 5.2 per contest|
Oldenburg rotate efficiently, having used ten different players in their starting five so far this season and sharing minutes, and pass the ball around so well on offence, with 20.5 assists per game, that they can always find a player or players to step up on the day.
The Belarusian side are also coming off a painful loss, albeit for different reasons, on the weekend.
Minsk came very close to their first win of the season in the VTB League but eventually lost 55-54 at Nizhny Novgorod in Russia.
Newly arrived Vidas Ginevicius, a former Lithuanian international, did not feature on Sunday but the veteran shooting guard is poised to make his debut in Germany on Tuesday.
The Belgian side have not started the new year on the right foot, suffering a second defeat in 2013 over the weekend, this time at home, 75-70 to Liège Basket.
Aalst were out-rebounded by their guests and committed more turnovers and are now no longer at the top of the Belgian Ethias League standings.
They need to react fast to prevent this slide from developing into a crisis and their best guide in this quest right now seems to be Derek Raivio, who single-handedly raised his team's poor shooting percentages against Liège and finished with 24 points in defeat.
Bonn on the other hand took a much-needed 74-64 win over New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig in the BEKO Bundesliga on Saturday but what they have been lacking so far this season is consistency.
On a good day they are perfectly capable of winning against any opponent but they don't travel particularly well.
Their latest road game, last Wednesday at Bayreuth, developed into a minor catastrophe but it is definitely encouraging for coach Michael Koch to see that key players like Kyle Weems and Benas Veikalas have largely stayed consistent and delivered the goods.