Only one team, Partizan NIS Belgrade, remains undefeated after Round 4, showing how competitive the 7DAYS EuroCup is again. Here's a review of the current EuroCup landscape through the lens of statistics.
In its Round 4 matchup with visiting Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, Partizan NIS Belgrade used a strong finish to score the victory in front of its faithful fans at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall. After a two-round absence, forward Rashawn Thomas returned to score 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, competing with infectious energy as Partizan won those 10 minutes by 10 points on the way to an 80-71 victory.
As much as Thomas's late play was impressive, Partizan's defense was perhaps even more remarkable, holding Lokomotiv to just 6 points on 9 catch-and-shoot jump shots, both figures likely to go down among the lowest single-game marks of the regular season. Even with that effort on the perimeter, Partizan still managed to block 9 shots to put together a complete performance against a very formidable Lokomotiv offense. Allowing just 0.824 points per possession through four games, Partizan now ranks third among EuroCup teams in defensive efficiency. Sam Dekker and Will Cummings both scored 17 points for Lokomotiv, but it was not enough to prevent Partizan from remaining unbeaten at 4-0.
An unblemished record like Partizan's is rare at this point in the EuroCup season. Here's the relatively short list of the most recent teams to remain unbeaten through their fourth game since the 10-game regular season was introduced in the 2013-2014 season:
2019-20 (1) Partizan NIS Belgrade
2018-19 (1) Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar
2017-18 (3) Darussafaka Istanbul, FC Bayern Munich, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar
2016-17 (1) Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas
2015-16 (1) Valencia Basket, Zenit St Petersburg, Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul
2014-15 (3) Strasbourg, Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar
2013-14 (3) FoxTown Cantu, Bilbao Basket, Unics Kazan
Staying unbeaten long-term has been exceptionally difficult in recent years, and even the teams that did manage to keep their streaks alive did not necessarily finish the season placed as highly as one might assume. Here's the list of the last EuroCup team to lose a game each season, when they lost, and how they finished the year:
2018-19 Game 5 – Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (Quarterfinalist)
2017-18 Game 21 – Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (Runner Up)
2016-17 Game 5 – Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas (Quarterfinalist)
2015-16 Game 13 - Valencia Basket (Round of 32)
2014-15 Game 20 – Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (Quarterfinalist)
2013-14 Game 13 – UNICS Kazan (Runner Up)
Early success certainly gives a team an inside track to the Top 16, but historically, one of the most interesting things about the EuroCup is the parity that emerges as the season progresses. Even the competition's most dominant teams early in the year have no guarantee of long-term success, which makes Partizan's example worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
McCollum on fire
The best individual performance of the week – and of the season to this point – came from Errick McCollum, who recorded 32 points to lead UNICS Kazan to a 12-point win over Joventut Badalona. A EuroCup veteran who made his debut back in 2013, McCollum has long been a dynamic perimeter weapon, but his full arsenal was on display in Round 4.
Among the more prolific scoring guards at this level, what sets McCollum apart is just how hot he can run on difficult jumpers off the dribble. Needing only 16 shots to score his 32 points, the veteran drilled several perimeter shots going one-on-one and operating out of the pick-and-roll. Able to stop and pop with accuracy and range, when McCollum gets rolling, he is capable of making the difficult seem routine and racking up points without the luxury of a teammate setting the table for him. Through four games, he has scored 34 points on pull-up jump shots to rank second in the EuroCup – behind only his teammate Jamar Smith.
To this point, both players are scoring more than 1.45 points per attempt off the dribble – almost double the EuroCup average of 0.83 points per attempt. Dribble jump shots are not an especially efficient source of offense for most teams, so it should come as no surprise that UNICS ranks first in overall offensive efficiency with 1.05 points per possession leaning on two of the best jump shooters in all of Europe. Smith and McCollum take significant pressure off their teammates with their ability to make something out of nothing, which gives UNICS truly unique offensive potential.
Looking Ahead to Round 5
There are three games in Round 5 between teams with 3-1 records: Segafredo Virtus Bologna takes on AS Monaco in Group A, Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul takes on UNICS Kazan in Group C, and Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul takes on Asseco Arka Gydnia in Group D. At the mid-point of the season, these types of games take on a new meaning as teams begin to edge closer to a guaranteed spot in the Top 16. Historically, the magic number to survive this 10-game regular season has been five victories, so each of these games will weigh upon which teams get to the Top 16 and how soon.
The matchup between UNICS and Darussafaka is particularly interesting from a statistical standpoint since, as mentioned above, UNICS is this season's most efficient offensive team while Darussafaka leads the EuroCup in defensive efficiency allowing just 0.78 points per possession. Darussafaka has far the best pick-and-roll defense so far, which makes this strength-on-strength battle all the most interesting as the Turks attempt to put the clamps on McCollum and Smith.