EuroCup champions in the EuroLeague: a look back

Apr 19, 2018 by Print
EuroCup champions in the EuroLeague: a look back

Darussafaka Istanbul has just become the 16th champion of the 7DAYS EuroCup in competition history. Every EuroCup champion has earned the right to play in the following edition of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. How did EuroCup champions do in the EuroLeague over the years? Let's look back and see what happened...

Of course, we have to start with Valencia Basket. Not only is the original champion of the competition, but Valencia is the only team to win the EuroCup three times – in 2004, 2010 and 2014. As such, Valencia was the first team to earn the right to play the EuroLeague as EuroCup champion. It was the 2003-04 season and the team put together a strong team led by Antoine Rigaudeau, Dejan Tomasevic and Fabricio Oberto. The team had a strong regular season, finishing third in its group with a 9-5 record. Despite a 4-2 Top 16 record, Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv made it to the Final Four in their Top 16 group – it was the year before the EuroLeague Playoffs came back for good. Valencia won the EuroCup again in 2010 and played the 2010-11 EuroLeague. Once again, the team was one win away from making it to the Final Four. Led by Nando De Colo and Dusko Savanovic, who made it to the All-EuroLeague Second Team that season, Valencia overcame a 1-4 start when Svetislav Pesic stepped in as head coach, advancing to the Top 16 with a 5-5 record and winning a do-or-die game against Fenerbahce Istanbul in the final date of that group to reach the playoffs against Real Madrid. Valencia managed to win Game 2 in Madrid to steal the home-court advantage but ended up losing 3-2 in the best-of-five series. Valencia joined the 2014-15 EuroLeague as EuroCup champion but did not go past the regular season, returning to the EuroCup before being swept by Khimki Moscow Region in the quarterfinals.

Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and Khimki each won two EuroCup titles. Rytas won in 2005 and joined the EuroLeague for the first time in the 2005-06 season. Matt Nielsen and Robertas Javtokas led the team and a seven-game winning streak allowed the Lithuanian powerhouse to make it to the Top 16. Despite finishing the Top 16 with a 3-3 record, CSKA Moscow (5-1) and Tau Ceramica (4-2) advanced to the playoffs. Rytas won the EuroCup again in 2009, downing Khimki in come-from-behind fashion in a memorable final. The team lost its main two players, Chuck Eidson and Marius Petravicius, that summer, and Rytas, led by Martynas Gecevicius, did not go past the regular season.

As for Khimki, winning the 2011-12 EuroCup allowed the team to reach the EuroLeague for the third time the following season. Khimki had star players like Paul Davis, Zoran Planinic, Petteri Koponen and Sergey Monia. It won all of its five regular season home games, qualifying to the Top 16 with a 6-4 record. Khimki also competed well in the Top 16 but a 7-7 record was not enough to reach the playoffs. It paid a big price for its last two losses against Laboral Kutxa Vitoria and Olympiacos Piraeus. Khimki returned to the EuroLeague as EuroCup champion in the 2015-16 season, led by Tyrese Rice and Alexey Shved. Again, it went past the regular season and finished the Top 16 with a 7-7 record, losing its playoffs chances due to a tie-break disadvantage against Real Madrid and Brose Baskets Bamberg.

Russian squads have been generally competitive in the EuroLeague when accessing as EuroCup champions. The first Russian team to win the competition, Dynamo Moscow, had a strong 2006-07 EuroLeague campaign. Coached by Dusan Ivkovic and led by Lazaros Papadopoulos and Antonis Fotsis, Dynamo had a strong regular season, finishing it with a 10-4 record, and was second in its Top 16 group at 4-2 to make it to the playoffs. Fotsis set a rebounds record, 25 in a Top 16 game against Benetton, that still stands. Dynamo could not go past Panathinaikos Athens in the playoffs. UNICS Kazan won the 2010-11 EuroCup and earned its right to make its EuroLeague debut in the 2011-12 season. With Henry Domercant and Terrell Lyday as its main scoring threats, UNICS finished the regular season with a very convincing 7-3 record and reached the playoffs, surviving its Top 16 group with a 3-3 balance and the tie-break advantage against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan. Once in the playoffs, FC Barcelona Regal gave UNICS no chance, sweeping the best-of-five series. Two years later, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar had its first EuroLeague appearance in the 2013-14 season as EuroCup reigning champion. With Derrick Brown leading the team, Lokomotiv won six of its opening seven regular season games to go past this stage and finished the Top 16 with a 7-7 record, losing the tie-break against Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul on global average.

Other than Valencia, three Spanish teams won the EuroCup. Real Madrid lifted the trophy in 2007 and returned to the EuroLeague in the 2007-08 season. Coached by Joan Plaza and with floor generals like Louis Bullock and Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid had an 11-3 regular season record, going undefeated at home, and won three of its first four Top 16 games to be well in its way to the playoffs. Madrid, however, lost in overtime against Maccabi and on the road against Olympiacos, being eliminated from the competition with a 3-3 record. The following season, DKV Joventut Badalona played the 2008-09 EuroLeague as EuroCup champion. Joventut, featuring Ricky Rubio, lost a do-or-die game against ALBA Berlin in Badalona and did not go past the regular season, winning four out of 10 games. This season, Unicaja Malaga was ninth in the EuroLeague with a 13-17 record – losing eight games at home and winning just four on the road prevented Coach Plaza's team from reaching further. Nemanja Nedovic was one of the best scorers in the competition at 16.8 points per game.

The other Turkish squad to win the EuroCup, Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul, played the 2016-17 EuroLeague, the first season under the current format. Galatasaray was 12th overall with an 11-19 record – a 4-12 start prevented the Turkish powerhouse from challenging for a playoffs spot. Finally, Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem won the 2003-04 ULEB Cup but withdrew its right to play the 2004-05 EuroLeague. So, 15 champions, three playoffs appearances and no Final Four berths, but EuroCup champions have been competitive in the EuroLeague and will continue to be so, as Darussafaka promises to be a tough opponent next season.