|Injury to Derek Raivio leaves a massive hole in Okapi Aalstar's offence|
Tuesday 10 December brings us the fifth day of action in the Regular Season and represents a pivotal moment in the campaign of most of the teams that compete in the EuroChallenge.
Several participants could make the decisive step towards the Last 16 this week, while there is a team in almost every single group that could exit the qualification race on Tuesday, should results not go their way.
Circumstances between participants vary considerably, but it is not an exaggeration to state that with the glaring exceptions of Triumph Lyubersty, who have already qualified, and BC Kyiv with Fortress Jaszberenyi, who have no chance of advancing to the next phase, every team will enter on Tuesday a clash where there is a lot at stake.
In the second part of the Week 6 preview, we break down the Tuesday match-ups in groups E through H.
GasTerra Flames Groningen (1-3) vs. Okapi Aalstar (2-2)
Recent Form: Groningen WLWWW - Aalstar WLWLL
Key Match-Up: Jeffrey Robinson vs. Lee Cummard
The two players are in a good run of form and their performance on Tuesday could hold the key to the outcome of the game. Robinson was excellent in defeat in the reverse fixture and leads Groningen in scoring and rebounds. Cummard is averaging 12 points per game but you can expect him to take a big load on offence due to Aalstar's absences.
Key Stat: If the two sets of players have one thing in common, it is that they don't like sharing the ball. Aalstar average less assists (10.5 per game) than any team in the EuroChallenge and Gronigen are just above them, with 10.8 assists per game.
Game Notes: In addition to their leading scorer Derek Raivio, Aalstar have now also lost shooting guard Travis Releford to injury. Unless the Belgian side qualify to the Last 16, neither of the two players will feature again in the EuroChallenge this season. Veteran Ian Hanavan is also nursing an injury and is doubtful for Tuesday.
Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (3-1) vs. Team TEHO Sport Kotka (2-2)
Recent Form: Reggio Emilia WLWWL - Kotka WWLLW
Key Match-Up: Andrea Cinciarini vs. Sharaud Curry
Cinciarini has recovered his place as Reggio Emilia's floor general since his return from injury, dishing out six assists per game, but his opposite number leads the EuroChallenge in this facet, with eight assists per encounter. Curry also leads Kotka in scoring, with 18 points per game.
Key Stat: Kotka's two-point shooting is the least precise in the competition, as the Finns convert only 42.8% of their shots from that range. Reggio Emilia on the other hand shoot an excellent 54.3% from two-point range and a EuroChallenge-best 49.4% from the floor.
Game Notes: Reggio Emilia captain Michele Antonutti is to return to action on Tuesday, after missing last week's game due to injury. The Italian side will not only seal their passage to the Last 16 but also secure top spot in the group if they win this game.
|Lance Harris will go head to head with Chinemelu Elonu in an interesting Ural Ekaterinburg vs. Tofas sub-story|
Tofas SC Bursa (3-1) vs. Ural Ekaterinburg (3-1)
Recent Form: Tofas WWLWW - Ekaterinburg WWWWW
Key Match-Up: Chinemelu Elonu vs. Lance Harris
The Nigerian center had his best game so far this season in the reverse fixture and finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Harris on the other hand, who leads Ekaterinburg in scoring with 16.8 points per game, has been paramount to his team's success so far and attempts 14 shots from the field on average.
Key Stat: While the two teams are perfectly balanced in terms of their offensive output, averaging 78.3 and 79 points per game, respectively, Tofas are more pluralistic and have five players scoring eight points or more in each game.
Game Notes: Ekaterinburg will secure a spot in the Last 16 if they win on Tuesday, which is not the case for Tofas, despite the fact the two teams hold the same record. Tofas enjoyed a highly successful run in European competitions during the 1990s, but have not defeated a Russian team in almost 14 years, with their latest victory coming in January 2000, in a Euroleague game against CSKA Moscow.
Krka Novo Mesto (2-2) vs. Fortress Jaszberenyi (0-4)
Recent Form: Krka LWLLL - LLLLL
Key Match-Up: Jaka Klobucar vs. Rastko Dramicanin
Krka have struggled with significant injury troubles in the last weeks and Klobucar has stepped up to take a big load on offence. The Slovenian shooting guard is averaging 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in the EuroChallenge. Dramicanin on the other hand is the Hungarian side's main offensive weapon and even more so when Jaszberenyi play on the road, where he averages an eye-popping 23.5 points per game.
Key Stat: Jaszberenyi score less points than any other team in the competition, 63 on average, and commit more turnovers (18.8 per game) than anyone else in the EuroChallenge.
Game Notes: Edo Muric and Jasmin Hukic, who missed the last game due to injury, are expected to return to the Krka line-up on Tuesday. The 41 points that Jaszberenyi scored in the reverse fixture at home is the joint-worst offensive display by a team in the EuroChallenge, together with that of Amsterdam in a 66-41 loss at Scavolini Pesaro in November 2009.
|Finnish veteran Teemu Rannikko had a rare off-day last time Kataja Basket faced Bakken and will look to rectify it in the return clash |
Kataja Basket (2-2) vs. Bakken Bears Aarhus (2-2)
Recent Form: Kataja WWWLW - Bakken WWLWL
Key Match-Up: Teemu Rannikko vs. Kenneth Barker
Barker came up with his best display this season in the reverse fixture, exploding for 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting and adding eight assists to lead the Bears to victory. Rannikko had a rare off-day in that game, staying on the floor for just 12 minutes, but the Finnish international has a chance to get his revenge on Tuesday.
Key Stat: Kataja can afford to send their Danish guests to the charity stripe as many times as necessary, since the Bears convert only 57.4% of their shots from the foul line, the lowest of any team in the EuroChallenge. Bakken on the other hand do not want their hosts to take shots from two-point range, as Kataja shoot a competition-best 62.5% from within the arc.
Game Notes: The two teams combined for 191 points (Bakken won 101-90) in the reverse fixture, which remains the highest-scoring game this season within regulation time. Bakken drilled 12 of their 22 three-point attempts that night.
ZZ Leiden (1-3) vs. Cholet Basket (3-1)
Recent Form: Leiden LWWWL - Cholet LWLWL
Key Match-Up: Worthy De Jong vs. John Cox
The Dutch international leads Leiden in scoring with 14.3 points per game but in Cox he is facing an opponent who is not only a good defender and contributes in all facets of the game, leading his team in assists and steals, but can also keep the intensity level high throughout the encounter, as he stays on the floor for an average of 35.4 minutes per game.
Key Stat: Leiden are shooting a poor 18% from beyond the three-point arc in the competition so far and had their worst showing in the reverse fixture, when they went 2-for-16 from three-point range, managing to score only 52 points.
Game Notes: Should Cholet win on Tuesday, they will clinch a spot in the Last 16 and eliminate Leiden from the race in the process. Cholet have never lost to a Dutch opponent in their long history in the EuroChallenge, while Leiden on the other hand have never defeated a French side.
|Goran Martinic is the leading scorer in the EuroChallenge and BC Mures are looking much sharper with him back from injury|
Szolnoki Olaj (3-1) vs. BC Mures (1-3)
Recent Form: Szolnoki LLLWW - Mures WLWLW
Key Match-Up: Willie Warren vs. Goran Martinic
The two best three-point shooters so far in the competition go head to head. Martinic missed two games because of injury but has made such an impact when he did suit up for Mures, that he is leading the EuroChallenge in scoring with 29 points per game. Warren's average stats do not reflect his scoring ability as he took very few shots in the last two games, but he can step it up if need be and emulate the example of his Montenegrin opposite number.
Key Stat: Szolnoki are bigger in size and have a clear advantage on the glass, averaging 35 rebounds per game to Mures's 28 boards per night, while they also average 3.8 blocks per game, to the Romanian side's 1.8 blocked shots.
Game Notes: In case Szolnoki clinch the win on Tuesday they will qualify to the Last 16 of the EuroChallenge for the third consecutive time, in what is undoubtedly the most successful stretch in European competitions in the history of the Hungarian club.
Tsmoki Minsk (3-1) vs. Rilski Sportist (1-3)
Recent Form: Minsk WWLWL - Rilski WLWLW
Key Match-Up: Keith Benson vs. Evan Ravenel
Benson is a towering presence in the paint, leading Minsk in scoring and the EuroChallenge in blocked shots. No opposing center has had more success in containing him so far as Ravenel did in the reverse fixture, and that was a major reason in Rilski coming within a whiff of getting the win.
Key Stat: Rilski are a good rebounding side, averaging 35.8 boards per game, but even they will have a hard time holding their own against Minsk in the battles above the rim. The Belarusian outfit bring down a EuroChallenge-best 45.5 rebounds per game and score a lot of second-chance points as 15 of those boards are on the offensive end.
Game Notes: Minsk are participating in the EuroChallenge for a record-fifth time in a row and a win on Tuesday would constitute a minor landmark in the history of the club, as it would not only secure them a spot in the Last 16 but would also mean that they are off to the best start of the season (with four wins in five games) in their history in the competition.