Eurocup Eighthfinals, Game 1: Every point counts now
With the group stages behind us, the 2014-15 Eurocup enters the first of four phases of two-game elimination series, the eighthfinals. In each head-to-head series, the teams that score more points during the two games will advance to the quarterfinals. Among the 16 teams left in the competition there are five former champions that have lifted the Eurocup trophy in each of the last six seasons. Three teams will try to continue their unbeaten Last 32 runs into Game 1, as two series are scheduled to start Tuesday, and the remaining six on Wednesday.
Fox Town Cantu – Unics Kazan
It's the first-ever meeting between two teams that both secured eighthfinals berth in the last week of the Last 32. Cantu is on a six-game home winning streak, and four of those victories were by double-digit margins. Cantu will aim to continue that run while trying to improve its offense. Of 16 teams still in the competition, Cantu averaged the fewest points (74.5), and dished a Last 32-low 11.5 assists. Visiting Unics, on the other hand, is last season's Eurocup runner-up and this season has a defense that ranked third in points allowed (72.0) during the Last 32. Despite its offense struggles at times, Unics has plenty of offensive weapons, with four different scorers averaging double figures during the Last 32.
Banvit Bandirma – Virtus Rome
Banvit Bandirma makes its eliminations-rounds debut in its fourth Eurocup season playing the first leg of the series at home against Virtus Rome, which returns to this state for the first time scine 2006. These teams used different stregths to get this far. In the Last 32, Rome forced the most turnovers (16.5), held opponents to 32% three-point shooting, and ranked second in steals (9.2). At the same time, over the last three games, Rome averaged more triples (14 per game) than any Eurocup team and ranked fifth in long-range accuracy, connecting on 46.2% of its attempts. Rome was also the best free throw-shooting team (86.9%) in the Last 32. During the same six games of the Last 32, meanwhile, Banvit tied for the fewest three-point attempts (17.2), but put on a strong display in the paint. Only one team attempted more two-point shots than Banvit (44.3), it ranked sixth in two-point shooting accuracy (55.3%). Banvit was also second in defensive rebounds (27.7) and fifth in blocked shots (3.5).
Paris-Levallois - PGE Turow Zgorzelec
The top two scorers from the Last 32 face off when this series starts on Tuesday. Turow will try to extend its five-game winning streak when it visits the French capital. The reigning Polish champs joined the competition in the Last 32 and were tied for the first in points scored (92.2). They ranked third in three-point shots made (11.2) hitting them with fifth-best 40.9% accuracy. Big man Damian Kulig ranked second (20.5 ppg) and point guard Mardy Collins was seventh (17.7 ppg) in scoring. Among the teams in the eighthfinals, no team has been rebounding the ball better than Paris this season (37.8). It also held opposing three-point shooter to the third-lowest accuracy, 32.7%, in the Last 32. On offense, Sharrod Ford was the Last 32's leading scorer (20.7) and claimed the Round 6 MVP honor. He is also the Eurocup's leading rebounder for the season (9.2). In the Last 32, Mike Green was the competitions best assist man (8.5 apg) and Blake Schilb the third-best (6.5), giving Paris several means to get baskets that will be needed against the high-scoring Turow.
Cedevita Zagreb - Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas
When Cedevita welcomes Gran Canaria to the Croatian capital on Wednesday, it is going to be healthier than it has been in a long time, expecting to have Roko Ukic, Mario Delas, Luka Babic and Ivan Ramljak all back to full strength. In the Last 32, Cedevita pulled down a fourth-best 12.0 offensive boards and ranked sixth in forcing turnovers (14.8). Cedevita has never lost to Gran Canaria, having swept their Eurocup Last 16 series in 2011 on its way to the Eurocup Final Four. However, this year Gran Canaria is enjoying its best-ever Eurocup campaign by winning 15 out of 16 games. Gran Canaria ranks fifth in scoring this season (84.9), first in three-point shooting (44.4%), second in rebounds (37.5) and third in blocks (3.6). In a balanced offense, a total of 10 players contribute with at least 6.6 points per night, while Walter Tavares finished the Last 32 as the only man averaging a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius - Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir
Two of the competition's best offenses square off one when former two-time Eurocup champion Lietuvs Rytas Vilnius hosts Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir in the first leg of their series on Wednesday. Karsiyaka enters its first-ever clash against Rytas after a perfect Last 32 campaign during which it ranked third in points (89.7), second in assists (22.0) and fourth in three-point shots made (10.8). Karsiyaka shot 47.1% from three-point range, second only to Rytas (47.3%) which knocked down competition-leading 13.3 triples per game. That effort was led by Martynas Gecevicius, who posted 19.2 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.7 triples made per game on 66.7% accuracy behind the arc over the last six games. Rytas was tied for first in scoring (92.2) during the Last 32, while it leads competition in two-point accuracy (60.3%) and ranks second in assists (20.9).
Valencia Basket - FC Bayern Munich
In the latest Wednesday first-leg game, the reigning Eurocup champion Valencia Baskets hosts the undefeated FC Bayern Munich and welcomes back its former head coach, Svetislav Pesic, now on Bayern's bench. Both clubs started their season in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague before joining the Last 32, and Valencia lost two of three home games in Eurocup action. Among the eighthfinalists, Valencia averages the fewest turnovers (10.3) while grabbing the most offensive rebounds (13.8). Bayern will be without versatile forward Nihad Djedovic, but will try continued the efficiency of an offense that ranked fourth in points (89.0), fifth in assists (20.7) and second in two-point shooting (58.4%). It all helped Bayern go 6-0 with +97 point difference, gaining a home-court advantage potentially all the way through the finals.
Zenit St. Petersburg - Khimki Moscow Region
In the eighthfinals opener and an all-Russian showdown on Tuesday, former champion Khimki Moscow Region and Zenit St. Petersburg square off for the fourth time in all competitions this season. Khimki enters the eighthfinals on a five-game Eurocup winning streak, and it holds a 2-1 edge over Zenit this season, with home teams winning each game they played in their domestic league. Zenit, which needed a road win at Strasbourg to qualify for the eighthfinals, has lost its last two home games, both by double-digit margins. However, no team has crashed the offensive boards as successfully the entire Eurocup season as Zenit (12.0), and it ranks seventh in steals (7.7). But its defense allows a league-worst 80.5 points, while Khimki averages 86.5 points so far this season. Khimki led the Last 32 with 22.5 assists per game and ranked third in three-point accuracy (44.8%).
Brose Baskets Bamberg - Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar
Brose Baskets Bamberg plays host to the undefeated Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the first-ever official game between two teams. Lokomotiv arrives to Bamberg riding a Eurocup-record 17 game winning streak, which dates back to the 2013 title game. Lokomotiv's defense ranks first, allowing just 66.8 points per game, second in blocked shots (3.8), fourth by holding opponents to 33.3% three-point shooting, and seventh in forced turnovers (15.1). Also, the team led the Last 32 in rebounds (39.2). Bamberg has lost three of the last four home games, but among the clubs in the eighthfinals, Bamberg ranks second behind Lokomotiv in points allowed (71.6), and is fifth in blocked shots (3.5). With two strong defenses going against each other, and with Bamberg attempting 17.2 triples and making only 5.2 – both fewest in the Last 32 – it could all make the first leg of this series a low-scoring affair.
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