|16 December 2013|
The final day of the EuroChallenge Regular Season is a rare treat for all those who enjoy watching a straightforward do-or-die basketball clash, but hate bringing a calculator to the fight.
Ten teams remain in the running for the last six berths in the Last 16 of the competition and every single one of them holds their fate in the own hands, without the need to depend on results elsewhere or scratch their heads with complicated tie-braking equations.
The main focus is on groups A and C, where both tickets to the Last 16 are still up for grabs, while one more team will qualify from each of groups E and F.
We break down every single encounter that takes place on Tuesday, the final day of the Regular Season.
|Lee Cummard has stepped up for Okapi Aalstar when the team needed him the most with Derek Raivio sidelined |
Okapi Aalstar (3-2) vs. Team TEHO Sport Kotka (2-3)
Recent Form: Aalst WLLWW - Kotka LLWLW
Key Match-Up: Lee Cummard vs. Sharaud Curry
Cummard has elevated his game to help his team cope with injuries to Derek Raivio and Travis Releford and is now averaging 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The diminutive Kotka point guard on the other hand averages 18.8 points and a competition-best 7.3 assists per game.
Key Stat: Both sets of players hate sharing the ball, as they average 11.4 and 11 assists per game respectively, the lowest in the competition. Okapi are also a side that almost never recover possession, stealing only three balls per game.
Game Notes: Only one of these two teams will advance to the Last 16. Okapi will go through if they win or if they lose by up to two points. Kotka will go through if they win by three points or more.
GasTerra Flames Groningen (1-4) vs. Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (4-1)
Recent Form: Groningen WWWLW - Reggio Emilia WWLWW
Key Match-Up: Jeffrey Robinson vs. Greg Brunner
The two players deliver their best performances in the EuroChallenge and lead their respective teams in both scoring and rebounds.
Key Stat: Reggio Emilia are the best team in the competition when it comes to three-point shooting percentage, as they drill 43.6% of their shots from down-town. Groningen on the other hand only make 24.5% of their 3-point attempts, which is the third-lowest conversion rate in the EuroChallenge.
Game Notes: New arrival Rimantas Kaukenas made his debut with Reggio Emilia at the weekend in the Italian Serie A, but the club have decided that he will play in the EuroChallenge when the Last 16 tips off.
Krka Novo Mesto (3-2) vs. Tofas SC Bursa (3-2)
|Marcus Denmon and Tofas are looking to eliminate the 2012 champions from the title race |
Recent Form: Krka LLLWW - Tofas LWWLL
Key Match-Up: Edo Muric vs. Marcus Denmon
Muric, Krka's top scorer, returned from injury last week and appears to be recovering his sharp-shooting form. Denmon has provided Tofas with a consistent offensive threat since the start of the season, averaging 16.8 points per game.
Key Stat: No other team that has secured a berth or is still in the race for a place in the Last 16 scores as little as Krka, whose offensive output comes to only 70.8 points per game; Tofas by comparison score 78 points per contest. The Slovenians make up for this short-coming with the fourth-best defence in the competition, as they only allow 67.4 points per game.
Game Notes: Whichever team wins this clash will accompany Ural Ekaterinburg into the Last 16. Former Slovenian international Sani Becirovic is poised to make his EuroChallenge debut with Krka after joining the club last week.
Fortress Jaszberenyi (0-5) vs. Ural Ekaterinburg (4-1)
Recent Form: Jaszberenyi LLLLL - Ekaterinburg WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Rastko Dramicanin vs. Lance Harris
Dramicanin is a power forward who can drill a shot from anywhere on the floor while Harris is a small forward who likes to attack the rim, but both players spearhead their team's offence and their scoring contribution is vital.
Key Stat: Jaszberenyi are the weakest team offensively in the entire EuroChallenge, scoring just 62.6 points per game. However, they might stand a chance to improve against Ekaterinburg as the Russian side allow their opponents to attempt just over 70 shots from the floor on average, more than any other team in the competition.
Game Notes: Jaszberenyi will finish bottom of the group in any case, however they will want to win this game in order to avoid exiting the competition as the only team that did not record a single victory.
Cholet Basket (4-1) vs. Bakken Bears Aarhus (3-2)
Recent Form: Cholet LWLWL - Bakken LWLWL
Key Match-Up: Terrell Stoglin vs. Thomas Laerke
Any of these two guards needs only half an open look to fire up a shot from long distance and although they are unlikely to mark each other during long stretches, their particular match-up makes for an interesting sub-plot in this clash.
Key Stat: Cholet cannot be satisfied with the fact they are only shooting 70.9% from the foul line, but in Bakken they are going up against the team that wastes more free throws than any other, making only 62.8% of their free throws per game.
Game Notes: Both teams have secured a place in the Last 16 of the competition. Cholet will claim top spot in the group if they win, or if Bakken wins by less than two points.
ZZ Leiden (1-4) vs. Kataja Basket (2-3)
Recent Form: Leiden WWLLW - Kataja WLWLL
Key Match-Up: Joshua Duinker vs. Michael Morrison
Two solid centers face off in a very interesting direct clash between influential big men. Both players lead their respective teams in scoring and rebounds while Morrison also blocks two shots per game.
Key Stat: Leiden only make 21% of their 3-point attempts and that partially explains the fact they only score 64.8 points per game. Kataja on the other hand shoot a quite healthy 33.6% from three and score 75.6 points on average.
Game Notes: Both teams are eliminated from the race for a Last 16 berth. Leiden would need to beat Kataja by a 15-point margin to take third spot in the group.
|Ain't no stopping Keith Benson, who has taken Tsmoki Minsk on his back on more than one occasion this season|
Szolnoki Olaj (3-2) vs. Tsmoki Minsk (4-1)
Recent Form: Szonok LWWLL - Minsk LWLWL
Key Match-Up: Justin Holiday vs. Keith Benson Jr.
Holiday joined Szolnoki just before the mid-point of the Regular Season and has already made an impact, averaging 15.5 points and 2.5 blocks per game. Benson was the top blocker in the competition before his arrival, with 2.4 blocks per game, and has scored in double digits for Minsk in every single game in the EuroChallenge so far.
Key Stat: If Szolnoki want to make the best of their homecourt advantage to claim top spot in Group H on Tuesday, they will have to topple in Minsk a team that not only collects more rebounds than any other in the competition, 44.4 per game, but also shoots the ball at a competition-best 50.0% from the floor.
Game Notes: Dragan Aleksic, formerly an assistant to Nedeljko Asceric, will make his debut as Szolnoki head coach in the EuroChallenge. The Hungarian club have parted ways with their head coach just ahead of the final day of the Regular Season for a second year in a row.
BC Mures (2-3) vs. Rilski Sportist (1-4)
Recent Form: Mures LWLWW - Rilski WLWLL
Key Match-Up: Goran Martinic vs. Sean Barnette
Martinic will play his last game in this edition of the EuroChallenge on Tuesday and will undoubtedly try to come up with one more big scoring night to exit the competition as the leading scorer. Barnette is however an excellent defender, leading the EuroChallenge is steals with 2.6 per game.
Key Stat: The battle on the glass could be decisive, as rebounds are the Achilles heel of both sides, who are in the bottom-five in the EuroChallenge in this facet of the game. Mures only bring down 31.4 boards per game while Rilski manage 32.8 rebounds on average.
Game Notes: Rilski's 70-68 win in the reverse fixture was the first - and only, so far - in their history in European competitions and it cost Mures any chance of advancing. The winner of this game will take third place in the group, while the losing side will finish bottom of the table.