The four teams competing in Group F run the EuroCup gamut from two-time champion Khimki Moscow Region of Russia to EuroCup debutant Lietkabelis Panevezys of Lithuania. In between are two German clubs, FC Bayern Munich and ratiopharm Ulm, which are both taking part in their fourth EuroCup campaigns. Bayern achieved its best finish by reaching the quarterfinals last season. Ulm’s best finish was the quarterfinals in 2013.
The four teams that compromise Group F all went through some streaks en route to clinching spots in the Top 16. Both Khimki and Bayern roll into the Top 16 on three-game winning streaks, while Ulm won three in a row earlier in the regular season. Lietkabelis started the season with back-to-back wins, but enters the Top 16 on a three-game losing streak. The team that catches fire early and puts together a three-game winning –streak at this stage of the season will have a leg up in the race to advance to the next stage.
Attacking from the outside in
One thing each of these teams has in common is an attack that starts from the perimeter before going inside. The top scorers for Khimki (Alexey Shved, 19.4 ppg.), Bayern (Nick Johnson 13 ppg.) and Ulm (Chris Babb, 13.4 ppg.) ae all guards or swingmen, while Lietkabelis may be led by big man Ksistof Lavrinovic (13.6 ppg.), but as fans of the game know, he is not your typical center and was second in the competition in three-point accuracy (60%) in the regular season. And as you might have guessed, the men ranked, Lietkabelis’s No. 2 scorer is a shooting guard (Ben Magden, 11.3 ppg.). Interestingly, Bayern attempted the fewest threes in the regular season (149) and Lietkabelis (190) and Khimki (191) were right at the competition average, though Khimki ranked third in three-point accuracy (39.8%).
E.J. Rowland of Khimki comes into the Top 16 ranked seventh on the EuroCup’s all-time scoring charts with 1,081 points. Rafa Martinez of Valencia is sixth with just 3 points more and fifth place (Radoslav Rancik, 1,127 points) is within reach. Rowland is also sixth all-time in assists with 317, though he will need to be at his best to move up since the players in fifth place (Albert Oliver of Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, 325) and fourth place (Marko Popovic of Montakit Fuenlabrada, 329 assists) are both active in the Top 16. Khimki forward Sergey Monia is climbing the charts in rebounding; he is fourth in competition history with 441, which is 30 behind the man in third place, Andre Riddick. Monia is also ranked second all-time in blocks with 93, seventh with 361 three-pointers and needs 5 more appearnces to become the sixth man to play in 100 EuroCup games. Darjus Lavrinovic (76 blocks) of Lietkabelis will move into a tie with Cyril Akpomedah for fifth place with his next rejection. And his twin brother, Ksistof Lavrinovic, has scored 792 career EuroCup points and needs only 2 more to conquer 25th place on the all-time list. Ulm point guard Per Guenther needs just 10 more assists to reach the all-time top 20. Lietkabelis forward Mindaugas Lukauskis needs just 2 more three-pointers to reach 100 in the competition. Lukauskis is fourth in career EuroCup steals with 122, however the man in front him, Stefan Markovic of Zenit St. Petersburg, is both active and has a lead of 21 steals. Rowland (110 steals) is tied for seventh, but needs only 5 steals to move up to fifth place.
EuroCup: The next generation
Fans of the EuroCup will get glimpses of some rising and future stars on a weekly basis in Group F. Each of the four teams features contributing players under the age of 25. Khimki’s top wo rebounders both fall into this category: The only player to start every game for Khimki is center Marko Todorovic (24) who led the team in rebounding (5.3 ppg.) while posting 8.4 points in the regular season. Sixth-man Stanislav Ilnitskiy (22) is second in rebounding (4.9 rpg.) and averaging 6.9 points, too. EuroCup rookie Markel Brown (24) has provided a spark off the bench with 8.2 points per game. Bayern’s frontcourt is also loaded with young guns; Maxi Kleber (24) is the team leader in rebounds (6.9 rpg.) and blocks (1.1 bpg.) and third in scoring (9.4 ppg.). Its top scorer is newcomer Nick Johnson (24) with his 13 points per game off the bench. Center Ondrej Balvin (24) had his best game in the regular season finale with 12 points and 6 rebounds and could be a big (2.17-meter) factor going forward. Guards Georg Beyschlag (20) and Karim Jallow (19) and forward Marvin Ogunsipe (20) are also on the Bayern senior squad. Lietkabelis’s starting small forward Zygimantas Skucas (24) is third on the team in scoring (10.3 ppg.) and has a strong pedigree after winning gold medals at both the European and World Championships with Lithuania’s junior national team. Sixth-man Donatas Tarolis (22), who followed in Skucas’s footsteps with a gold from the 2013 World U19 Championship, has posted 7.8 points on 41.7 % three-point shooting in his first EuroCup campaign. And guard Lukas Aukstikalnis (21) has also appeared in games for Lietkabelis. Ulm has the largest group of youngsters, though they have not had as much an impact as the others yet. Forward Joschka Ferner (20) and guard David Kraemer (19) have made a combined 10 EuroCup appearances so far and are respective veterans of the German and Austrian junior national squads. Swingman and Hungarian junior national team member Marcel Pongo (19) played 9 minutes in his lone EuroCup appearance. Center Bjoern Rohwer (21) and forward Pape Till (19) played alongside Pongo in that game, too.