PGE Turow Zgorzelec
PGE Turow Zgorzelec impressed often during its maiden Turkish Airlines Euroleague season. Despite a 1-9 record, the team was in a number of close games and gained invaluable experience by going up against giants like FC Barcelona, Fenerbahce Ulker and Panathinaikos. Now the club looks to cash that experience in with a deep run in the Eurocup, starting from the Last 32. Led by the backcourt of Tony Taylor, Mardy Collins and Nemanja Jaramaz, the Polish champs have playmakers to get the ball to its other scorers, whether it b Damian Kulig inside, Chris Wright for alley-oops or Michal Chylinski for threes. Turow was a surprise ULEB Cup quarterfinalist in 2008, but has not had much success in the competition since. That could change this season.
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius put together a terrific regular season campaign to win Group E with an 8-2 record. And for the Last 32, the team may be even better. Rytas was second in the regular season in scoring and assists and topped the charts in two-point shooting percentage and steals. The recent addition of former All-Euroleague big man Ksystof Lavrinovic only adds to the team’s threats. Rytas already had four formidable scorers in point guard Adas Juskevicius, swingmen Martynas Gecevicius and Gediminas Orelik and center Antanas Kavaliauskas. Sharpshooters Mindaugas Lukauskis, Billy Baron and Mike Moser ensure that in typical Rytas style, there are multiple players that can knock down threes at all times. Rytas won this competition twice, reached the eighthfinals last season and was in the semis as recently as 2012, so a deep run is always expected.
Belgian champion Telenet Ostend finished the Eurocup regular season strong and aims to start the Last 32 the same way. Ostend went 4-1 over the second half of the Group B race – including winning its last three games – to finish second with a 6-4 record. JP Prince is Ostend’s clear go-to guy, but after him the club has found success by relying on depth and team basketball. Dusan Djordjevic stands out with his play at point guard, while swingman Mateusz Ponitka, three-point ace Pierre Antoin Gillet and big man Jared Berggren ensure that Coach Dario Gjergjia has no shortage of options. Ostend is in the Last 32 for the second season in a row and narrowly missed going further last season when it was in a tough group with both eventual finalists, Valencia Basket and Unics Kazan.
Despite playing with one of the youngest rosters in the competition and a first-year coach in Europe, Baloncesto Seville was one win away from second place in Group C. Simply put , Seville has too many weapons for a team to worry themselves with stopping one or two go-to guys; eight players are averaging a performance index rating of at least 8. The duo of Willy Hernangomez and Kristaps Porzingis are quite formidable inside, while power forward Pierre Oriola has also stood tall. Veterans Berni Rodriguez, Alex Urtasun and Derrick Byars are all key players on the wings. And late addition at point guard Ben Woodside could be a major difference-maker for Seville going forward. A Eurocup finalist in 2011, Seville has not been much of a threat since, but with Coach Scott Roth and his fearless crew, it could be another special season for the Seville faithful.