|Vilmantas Dilys has transformed Tartu Rock into a serious Final Four contender since joining the club|
The EuroChallenge Last 16 resumes on Tuesday after a short break and any participant who is caught off guard at this crucial point of the season might suffer severe consequences.
Gaz Metan Medias and JDA Dijon are entering their respective Tuesday games with their backs to the wall as they will abolish any chance of advancing to the quarter-final play-offs in case they do not succeed in registering a first win in the Last 16.
Bakken Bears Aarhus are also in a precarious position but their fate is a bit more complicated than that of the other two teams who currently stand at 0-3.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tartu Rock and Royal Hali Gaziantep will punch their ticket to the play-offs should they emerge victorious from their respective Tuesday clashes, while Ural Ekaterinburg are also undefeated and in an advantageous situation but securing qualification as early as this week does not depend entirely on them.
In the first part of our Last 16 Week 4 preview, we break down the Tuesday encounters in Group I and Group J.
Recent Form: Tartu WWWWW - Krasnye Krylia LLWWW
Key Match-Up: Vilmantas Dilys vs. Michal Ignerski
Dilys had collected a double-double of 13 points and 13 boards in the reverse fixture in Samara to lead Tartu to a 75-74 win in overtime. There have been a lot of personnel changes at Krasnye Krylia since that game, and one of them is the arrival of Polish power forward Ignerski, who could make life for Dilys more difficult this time around in their direct match-up.
Key Stat: Tartu are the best team in the EuroChallenge in field goal percentage, shooting 49.2% from the floor, and are better than Krasnye Krylia in most major statistical categories. The Russian side however have a better steal to turnover ratio, 7.8 to 10.3, compared to Tartu's 4.1 steals to 12.9 turnovers per night.
Game Notes: Should they win this game, Tartu will secure a spot in the quarter-finals. The Estonian team is riding a seven-game winning streak in the EuroChallenge, with their fortunes transforming radically since Dilys joined the team midway through the Regular Season. Swingman Larry O'Bannon is poised to make his first EuroChallenge appearance with Krasnye Krylia, after a promising debut in the VTB United League last week.
|Slavisa Bogavac is an important all-round weapon for Medias|
Recent Form: Medias LLLLW - Antwerp LLWWL
Key Match-Up: Slavisa Bogavac vs. Ryan Pearson
Bogavac does a bit of everything in the Medias frontcourt and averages 12.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and one assist per game. In Pearson, he will go up against a player who has made a sizeable impact since arriving in Antwerp during the winter break and contributes 17 points and seven boards per contest.
Key Stat: Antwerp average 35.7 rebounds per game while Medias bring down 32.1 boards per contest. While the Belgian side's advantage on the glass is rather slim, it gains an enormous importance if we consider that the Giants have won every game in this EuroChallenge season when they rebounded better than their opponents and ended up losing every contest whenever they lost the battle around the rim.
Game Notes: In case they lose on Tuesday, Medias will become the first team in Group I to exit the race for a spot in the quarter-final play-offs.
|Justin Holiday has the ability to wreak havoc, an attribute his teammates will hope shines bright when they take on Reggio Emilia|
Recent Form: Szolnoki LWWWW - Reggio Emilia LWWWL
Key Match-Up: Justin Holiday vs. James White
Both small forwards are capable of wreaking havoc if left to their own devices and they are both coming off excellent displays in domestic cup competition at the weekend. White will have to assume an extra load on offence due to Reggio Emilia's absences and he will need help with containing Holiday on the defensive end.
Key Stat: Reggio Emilia only average 31.6 rebounds per game in the EuroChallenge, the second-lowest of any team which competes in the Last 16, while Szolnoki bring down a solid 37.3 boards per night. Yet in the reverse fixture the Italian side managed to close down their paint and out-rebounded the much bigger Hungarians 37 to 35 en route to a comfortable 90-68 win.
Game Notes: Szolnoki won the Hungarian Cup title at the weekend and the last time they achieved this feat, in 2012, they also made it to the EuroChallenge Final Four. Andrea Cinciarini and Greg Brunner are both sidelined with injury and will not be able to assist Reggio Emilia on Tuesday.
|Christopher Booker needs 10 rebounds to claim the sixth-highest number of rebounds in EuroChallenge history|
Recent Form: Cholet WLLWL - Krka LWWWW
Key Match-Up: John Cox vs. Edo Muric
In what is developing into a rather turbulent season, Cox has been a stable value for Cholet as he spends 32 minutes on the court on average and contributes in every facet of the game. On Tuesday his main task will involve limiting the action of Muric, who has recovered his previous form after returning from injury and leads Krka in both scoring and rebounds.
Key Stat: Krka scored a joint season-high 80 points in the reverse fixture in January and enjoyed a comfy 80-63 success largely because Cholet did little to prevent them from circulating the ball freely until they found the open man. The Slovenian side finished that game with 23 assists, by far their most altruistic display this season.
Game Notes: Christopher Booker of Krka could reach a EuroChallenge landmark on Tuesday as he needs nine more rebounds to draw level with Serbian forward Milutin Aleksic in sixth place of the competition's all-time rebounders list. Aleksic, who has not featured in the competition since 2010 (with Donetsk), had corralled a total of 325 rebounds in the EuroChallenge.