With two rounds to go, the biggest question is which teams can book the remaining Top 16 tickets in this week's games. There are seven spots still open and as many as five teams can qualify in Round 9.
Nine teams have qualified and 13 teams are still competing for seven Top 16 spots that are still unclaimed in three groups. Three of those teams control their destinies and can qualify in Round 9 with a win regardless of other results. Group C has the most question marks with zero teams qualified and no teams that have been eliminated. That is very likely to change on Tuesday when Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul (5-3) qualifies as long as it loses by fewer than 35 points against Germani Brescia Leonessa (4-4). Even if that happens, Darussafaka can qualify on Wednesday if either UNICS Kazan or Nanterre 92 win their respective games. UNICS (5-3) is another team that can qualify without any help if it defeats Joventut Badalona (4-4). So can Tofas Bursa (4-4) in Group B when it visits Rytas Vilnius (3-5). However, Joventut and Rytas are both at home and also have their eyes on the Top 16, while knowing that if they are to lose, their situation can get complicated in the regular-season finale. Joventut can qualify this week if it wins and gets help from Nanterre and potentially Darussafaka, while Brescia can also get into the Top 16 by Wednesday night with a win, but only if UNICS wins and Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana also defeats Nanterre. Meanwhile, Rytas would surely qualify if it wins by 21 points or more, otherwise, it would need help, too. In a Group D battle for fourth place, Asseco Arka Gdynia (3-5) hosts Dolomiti Energia Trento (3-5). Trento qualifies if it wins by at least 21 points, but on the other hand, would be eliminated in case of a loss. Arka can't qualify without getting help in other games.
Eye on the tiebreakers
When it comes to Top 16 qualification, a lot of it boils down to the tiebreak (dis)advantages. That is the reason Darussafaka is all but mathematically qualified; it swept Nanterre, holds +3 advantage over Joventut and has held on to a +2 margin in a tiebreaker over Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana. It is also the reason why things could remain very complicated in Group C, where Cedevita and Joventut hold tiebreak advantages over Brescia; Nanterre holds tiebreakers over UNICS and Joventut; Olimpija still has to play against Joventut; and Nanterre must square off against Brescia. In Group B, Rytas has done a great job by sweeping Lokomotiv, but has -7 disadvantage against Limoges, which can end up hurting the team from the Lithuanian capital even if Limoges gets eliminated. That is what makes the clash between Rytas and Tofas of crucial importance. Tofas won the first game 91-81 and that's the margin Rytas will try to overcome. Group D has a key game on its slate between two 3-5 teams, Arka and Trento. The hosts are winless at home, but this win would give them a sweep over Trento. However, that solely would not get the job done because Buducnost VOLI Podgorica (2-6) holds a +14 tiebreak advantage over Arka. Meanwhile, Trento has a +2 edge over Buducnost, but has lost against Arka by 11 points. So, Trento will look not only for a victory, but for one by at least 11 points to win a tiebreaker and eliminate Arka. And if Trento wins by 21 or more points, it would punch its ticket to the Top 16. Any win fewer than 21 points would keep another team's chances alive and that team is Buducnost.
Streaking to first place
The two longest active streaks in the EuroCup belong to Umana Reyer Venice (6-2) and EWE Baskets Oldenburg (5-3). Reyer opened Group B action with two defeats, but since then Coach Walter De Raffaele's team has won six in a row and now visits Limoges CSP (2-6). If Reyer extends its streak to seven games on Tuesday, it would get a chance to clinch first place on Wednesday if Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (3-5) also beats Partizan NIS Belgrade (6-2). Reyer and Partizan split road wins this season, but Reyer holds a +10 tiebreaker and a win combined with a Partizan loss would secure it first place and lock Partizan into second. In Group D, EWE Baskets Oldenburg (5-3) has won five in a row after losing its first three to open the season. This five-game winning streak started with a 13-point win over Unicaja Malaga (6-2) and now Oldenburg has come full circle and faces its toughest test yet. Unicaja is perfect at home and could clinch first place if it wins and Galatasaray loses in Podgorica, but Oldenburg has been firing on all cylinders and has gotten a huge boost with Tyler Larson (20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three games since joining the team). If Oldenburg keeps its streak alive it would have a realistic shot at winning the group despite starting the season with 0-3 record.
Group A to the wire?
There is a total of five 6-2 teams and two of them square off In Group A when Segafredo Virtus Bologna welcomes Promitheas Patras. It is a high profile game featuring a Virtus offense led by the point guard duo of Milos Teodosic and Stefan Markovic, ranking second in scoring (84.6 ppg.) and assists (20.4 apg.). It will make for a great test for Promitheas, which has allowed just 70.8 points on the road - third-fewest in the competition, but wants to bounce back after getting blown out the last time it played on the road at AS Monaco (5-3). This clash has first-place implications in Group A, which is different than the other three groups because all four Top 16 qualifiers have already been determined. It is also different because all four teams can still finish in first place in the standings. For Virtus, a win by 10 or more points combined with Monaco losing at ratiopharm Ulm (1-7) would secure first place. On the other hand, to clinch first-place Promitheas needs to win to sweep Virtus and also see Monaco and MoraBanc Andorra (5-3) lose. Regardless of the outcome in Bologna, if Monaco and Andorra both win against the only two already-eliminated teams, both will surely have a shot in Round 10 to finish this group in first.
Clash of the stats
The EuroCup's top two scorers, Joventut's Klemen Prepelic (18.7 ppg.) and Jamar Smith of UNICS (18.1 ppg.) go against each other on Wednesday. No player averages more points on the road than Smith's 21.0 and his total of 145 points also leads the EuroCup. Smith's backcourt partner Errick McCollum has 134 points, the third-highest total this season - and more than Prepelic, who missed one game and has 131 for the season. Other than the clash of top scorers in Badalona, Round 9 offers several games where one team's strength goes against the other's weakness. The clash between Darussafaka and Brescia pits the visitors' bottom-ranked offense (68.8 ppg.) against Darussafaka's top defense, which holds opponents to a league-low 70.9 points. Darussafaka is also second-best in defensive rebounds (26.4) and it could be a tall order for Brescia which has the third-fewest offensive boards (8.1 orpg.). The same could be the case with Buducnost, tied for the worst in offensive rebounds (8.0) going against Galatasaray which allows just 9.6 per game, the sixth-fewest this season. Andorra plays at home where it averages a league-leading 91.5 points per game and welcomes Maccabi Rishon LeZion, which allows a league-high 91.0 points on the road. Ulm commits a league-high 16.8 turnovers per game and will face Monaco, which averages the most steals (9.8 spg.) and forces third-most turnovers per game (15.9).