This Week: Eleven teams target Top 16 qualifying

Nov 18, 2019 by Print
This Week: Eleven teams target Top 16 qualifying

As many as 11 more teams can crash the Top 16 this week and a handful of them are on the cusp of historic milestones. Learn more about those and other storylines to follow in this week's games.

Will 14 teams qualify?

Three teams booked their Top 16 spots last week: Segafredo Virtus Bologna and newcomer Promitheas Patras in Group A and Unicaja Malaga in Group B. More teams will do the same this week in Round 8, with a possibility that a combination of results could produce as many as 11 more Top 16 qualifiers by the end of Round 8. If the stars align and that is to happen, it would leave just two open Top 16 spots with two games to go. Two groups, A and C, can see all four Top 16 spots decided, albeit still with plenty of battles left to be played to determine the final standings, while Groups B and D can each have three teams book their places for the next phase.

The most intriguing situation is in Group C where no team has yet qualified, yet if UNICS Kazan, Germani Brescia Leonessa and Joventut Badalona all win this week, all three plus Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul would qualify, eliminating Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana and Nanterre 92 in the process. In other groups, AS Monaco needs to beat Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Group A so it qualifies and takes MoraBanc Andorra with it. In Group B three teams – Umana Reyer Venice, Partizan mts Belgrade and Tofas Bursa – can all qualify if Tofas, Partizan NIS Belgrade and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar register victories in Round 8. In Group D, Unicaja already qualified and now Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul and EWE Baskets Oldenburg can join if they both win, but to qualify they need help and a win from Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, too.

Catching the last train for 2-5 teams

While almost a dozen teams have a chance to qualify, a few teams on the outside looking in could find themselves eliminated on Wednesday night if they do not win this week. In a Group B clash of 2-5 teams, Limoges CSP will host Lokomotiv. The hosts cannot be mathematically eliminated if they lose because of their tiebreak advantage over Rytas Vilnius (3-4) but would be left with the slimmest of chances. On the other hand, Lokomotiv has a new head coach after four consecutive losses, which is the longest losing streak in the competition in club history and another loss could shockingly eliminate the former champ and perennial contender from Top 16 race with two games to go.

Group C's 2-5 teams, Cedevita Olimpija and Nanterre, are in must-win situations, respectively, and it is hard to say which one is in a tougher spot. Olimpija is eliminated if it loses at home against Brescia and if Joventut wins in Istanbul. Nanterre would bid its farewell to the Top 16 with a loss combined with wins by both Joventut and Brescia, however, Nanterre is on the road against group leader UNICS. Wins by either Nanterre or Olimpija would boost their respective Top 16 hopes.

Keep streaking

Sometimes it is just the momentum, catching the right form at the right moment can make the difference between a team that makes the Top 16 and one that does not. Oldenburg and Reyer are two teams that caught fire to overcome slow starts and rise from winless teams to become two of the hottest squads in the competition in a matter of one month. Both teams will have a chance to reach the Top 16 this week, which seemed a pretty far-fetched idea after Round 3 when Oldenburg was 0-3 in Group D and set to play the then-undefeated Unicaja Malaga. However, Oldenburg is now on a four-game winning streak and looks to extend it at home against Dolomiti Energia Trento (3-4), which arrives without point guard Aaron Craft whose 7.9 assists per game will be dearly missed for the visitors. On the other hand, Oldenburg's backcourt addition of Tyler Larson (14.5 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 3.5 apg. in two games since he joined the team) is proving to be a great move. An Oldenburg win, combined with some help from Buducnost and Unicaja would clinch Oldenburg's place in the next phase.

Reyer has done even one better in Group B, sporting a five-game winning run, which is tied for the longest this season, and it needs no help. A sixth win in a row, on the road at Tofas Bursa (4-3), would send Venice into the Top 16, and Reyer can make it even if it losses as long as Partizan and Lokomotiv win their games. Unlike perennial favorites UNICS and Unicaja, who are currently on three-game winning streaks of their own, neither Reyer nor Oldenburg is a proven winner in the competition, so despite these winning runs, each week seems like a new chance to prove themselves. Reyer's run started with a win over Tofas and how the team does in this tough road test could be another major confidence boost and an indication of what Reyer is capable of the remainder of the season.

Underrated game of Round 8

The Group D game against last-place Buducnost (1-6) is all kinds of dangerous for Asseco Arka Gdynia (3-4). In one of the most intriguing stats this season, Arka has won three of its four road games, including a 59-62 decision in Podgorica, but Arka is yet to win on its home floor. In three home games so far, Arka has as many losses and its three-game losing streak has come during the most inopportune time. Buducnost was winless until last week, but that team is much better than its record suggests. Before its win in Trento last week, Buducnost had lost at home against Arka by 3 points, at Galatasary in overtime by 1 and then had two more home losses: against Oldenburg by 2 and against Unicaja by 1 on a tip-in 2 seconds before the end of the game. Four straight losses by a combined 7 points. Buducnost knows it needs to win out to have a shot at making the Top 16 and it intends to fight to the end to try to accomplish that.

Club milestones

UNICS is set to become only the second team in competition history to score 16,000 points. UNICS enters this round 49 points shy of that milestone. With a Top 16 spot all but mathematically secured, UNICS is likely to play at least eight more games this season and with an average of 85.3 points would catch Valencia Basket, which is the all-time scoring leader with 16,633 points scored. Rytas enters Round 8 ranked fifth all-time with 5,817 rebounds, just 4 behind fourth-place Herbalife Gran Canaria and 9 behind ALBA Berlin. Rytas will likely move past both of them in the first half of this week's road game at Partizan. Lokomotiv needs 18 assists to become only the ninth team with 2,000 assists in EuroCup games and could use an offensive spark and good ball-sharing as it badly needs a win at Limoges.