Top 16 Group E analysis

Dec 29, 2016 by Print
Top 16 Group E analysis

Top 16 Group E is headed by Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas of Spain, which was last season's runner-up and the co-owner of this regular season's best record at 7-1. Gran Canaria is joined by fellow Spanish sides Montakit Fuenlabrada and UCAM Murcia and 2013 EuroCup champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar of Russia.

A habit of winning, and winning big

Few teams have a tradition in the 7DAYS EuroCup like Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, which is playing its 11th season in the competition. The club reached the 2014 finals and 2015 semifinals, and no team has won as many games over the past three seasons as Gran Canaria. Actually, no one has even come even close. Gran Canaria has 44-10 record since 2014, while the second-most wins in that span is Zenit St. Petersburg’s 27. To put it in perspective, Gran Canaria has the most wins in the competition since 2013, despite not even participating in the 2013-14 campaign. This season, Gran Canaria is one of two teams that enters the Top 16 with a 7-1 record, which is just a continuation of the winning habit the club has developed in the EuroCup in recent years. Gran Canaria was the top scoring team of the regular season with 94.8 per game, and had the highest point difference through eight games (+128). Of its fellow Group E teams, Lokomotiv had a +5 point-difference, Fuenlabrada's was +1, while Murcia allowed more points than it scored (-4). Impressively, each of Gran Canaria's seven wins has come by a double-digit margin, including five wins by 19 points or more. Gran Canaria also allowed the fifth-fewest points (78.8 ppg.) so far this season, with Lokomotiv (77.4 ppg.) one of those four teams that held opponents to fewer points than Coach Luis Casimiro's men.

Matt Janning - Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar - EC16 (photo Lokomotiv)_7gjccgnce78oys6k

Murcia’s two thieves

Lokomotiv is the third-best defensive team in terms of points allowed despite only forcing 12.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second-fewest so far in the competition. The other three Group E teams do a lot better job in causing the opposition to make mistakes, especially Gran Canaria and Murcia. Gran Canaria has been the best in forcing turnovers (17.1), and Murcia second (16.3) over the first eight games of the season. Gran Canaria also leads the EuroCup in steals (9.8 spg.), and Murcia is tied for third in that department (8 spg.). And it is Murcia’s backcourt duo of Facundo Campazzo and Sadiel Rojas that steals the most balls of all players in the Top 16. Campazzo leads EuroCup with 2.6 steals per contest, and Rojas comes second with 1.8. Their efforts and aggressive perimeter defense get Murcia bunches of easy points and are one of the reasons the team ranks in top 10 in scoring (83.3 ppg.), despite ranking near the bottom in both two-point (50%) and three-point (33%) shooting accuracy.

Lokomotiv - successful against Spanish teams

One of the fastest-rising clubs in European basketball, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar has been very successful in recent years. Much of that success has been the fruit of big wins against Spanish teams - and having three teams from that country in Top 16 Group E may be a good sign for the Russian powerhouse. Lokomotiv went all the way in 2013 to lift its first EuroCup trophy by downing Valencia Basket in the semifinals on points difference defeating Uxue Bilbao Basket 64-75 in the title game. That season, Lokomotiv also bested another Spanish team twice, Cajasol Seville, in the Last 16. Last season, Lokomotiv made history by making it to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. It beat Unicaja Malaga twice in the Top 16. Those two wins helped Lokomotiv get the home-court advantage in the playoffs series against FC Barcelona Lassa. Despite going down 1-2, Lokomotiv beat Barcelona in an overtime thriller in Game 4 and qualified to the Final Four with a no-doubt-about-it 81-67 win in Game 5. Lokomotiv is 7-4 against Spanish teams in the EuroCup despite losing twice against Valencia in this year's regular season.

Popovic and the scoring record

Marko Popovic - Montakit Fuenlabrada - EC16 (photo Fuenlabrada)

The Top 16 could bring a huge EuroCup milestone, as Marko Popovic of Montakit Fuenlabrada is getting closer and closer to topping the competition's all-time scoring list. Popovic started the season ranked fifth overall with 1,078 points accumulated in six seasons with Zadar, Unics Kazan and Khimki Moscow Region. He has already passed Radoslav Rancik, Todor Stoykov and Chuck Davis to climb into second place with 1,155 points. Only one man, Mire Chatman, remains ahead of him in the all-time scoring list with 1,187 points. Accordingly, Popovic needs 33 points to reach first place. It will not be easy to hold on to that record, however, as other players are also climbing spots in the scoring chart and may catch up soon; Rafa Martinez of Valencia Basket is sixth with 1,084 points and E.J. Rowland ranks seventh at 1,081. Will Popovic become the EuroCup's scoring king? It looks very possible.