Group I of the Last 16 will feature some familiar foes, as two of the teams come from the Moscow region in Russia and the other two from Athens, Greece. Khimki and Dynamo Moscow of Russia and Maroussi Costa Coffee and Panellinios BC of Greece will battle it out to reach the Final Eight, a place that only one of them – Dynamo – reached last year. Nevertheless, each of these teams has not only the talent go far – as evidenced simply by reaching the Last 16 – but also the experience needed to win at this stage of the competition. Khimki can boast former ULEB Cup champ and final game MVP winner Kelly McCarty. Dynamo features a Euroleague and ULEB Cup champ in Robertas Javtokas. Panellinios can turn to veteran Georgios Kalaitzis, who is a former Euroleague winner, rising star Ivan Radenovic, who played in last season’s ULEB Cup final, or even Manolis Papamakarios a 2005 ULEB Cup finalist. And Maroussi has 2005 finalist Kostas Charalampidis and Jarod Stevenson, who reached the semis in 2007.
Maroussi arrives to the Top 16 after winning its last three games to clinch the top spot in Group A on the last day of the regular season. Head coach Anastasios Markopoulos’s system of relying on a deep bench and plenty of substitutions has worked well so far. Eleven different Maroussi players averaged more than 10 minutes per game in the regular season. Standing head and shoulders above them all has been big man Loukas Mavrokefalides, who has teamed with Dimitris Mavroeidis to form a formidable frontcourt. Billy Keys has been efficient as a playmaker, while Charalampidis, Stevenson and Georgios Diamantopoulos get it done on the wings. Khimki lost only one game in the regular season as it edged Benetton Treviso for the top spot in Group C. And this team may still be getting better as it has won despite a coaching change – with Sergio Scariolo taking over during the season – and multiple injuries. With proven Euroleague talents Milt Palacio, Teemu Ranniko and Anton Ponkrashov in the backcourt, superstars Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garbajosa and McCarty at forward and Maciej Lampe and budding big man Timofey Mozgov in the paint, Khimki has the weapons to go all the way.
Dynamo Moscow was the runner-up in Group B, losing twice to Unics Kazan, but sweeping both of its other opponents. Head coach David Blatt put together a strong roster geared towards raising the Eurocup crown in April. The core features several players that helped Dynamo reach last season’s semifinal, including Javtokas, Travis Hansen, Sergey Monya and Sergey Bykov, among others. The revamped backcourt of Jannero Pargo and Hollis Price has been an overwhelming success, while small forward Bostjan Nachbar has filled the baskets and the multi-talented Darjus Lavrinovic makes his presence felt in the paint. Panellinios BC won three of its last four to sneak into the Last 16 with a 3-3 record from Group D. The hero has been Radenovic, who posted the highest index ranking in the regular season despite being the club’s sixth man. But he is in no way alone, getting plenty of help from Jurica Golemac up front, while Anthony Grundy runs the offense and Brad Newley, Papamakarios and Stevan Nadjfeji have been consistent sources of points. Head coach Ilias Zouros brought his team together at the right time and with Radenovic leading the way, Panellinios could keep challenging all the way to the Final Eight.