The regular-season finales have so much to determine from the four undecided Top 16 tickets to the winners and placements within the group that will decide the makeup of the matchups in the next stage. Here are five key topics to follow in this week's games.
Going into the final round of the regular season, there are four Top 16 spots still open and seven teams battling for them. All four spots could be decided on Tuesday. Two groups have one last remaining spot open and it does not get any clearer than the situation in Group B where Tofas Bursa (4-5) hosts Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (4-5) with the winner going to the Top 16 and the other team going home. Group D also has one spot open; Dolomiti Energia Trento (4-5), Buducnost VOLI Podgorica (3-6) and Asseco Arka Gdynia (3-6) all have chances to grab it and settle into fourth place. Trento holds its destiny in its own hands and can qualify if it beats first place Unicaja Malaga (7-2) on Tuesday. Buducnost needs to hope Trento slips and then on Wednesday, it needs to win at already-qualified EWE Baskets Oldenburg (5-4) but to advance it also needs already-Arka to win on the road. Meanwhile, Arka would need to win, and both Trento and Buducnost to lose. Finally, Group C is the only one with two spots mathematically available, where UNICS Kazan (5-4), Germani Brescia Leonessa (5-4) and Nanterre 92 (4-5) each has its chances aim to clinch one. Brescia and Nanterre face off on Tuesday and Nanterre would be eliminated with a loss. However, a Nanterre win would leave all the options open for Wednesday. Interestingly, UNICS is all but qualified, and can get eliminated in one lone unlikely scenario: UNICS needs to lose by more than 35 points at home against already-qualified Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul (5-4); it needs Joventut Badalona (5-4) to win on the road against already-eliminated Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana (3-6) and it needs Nanterre to beat Brescia by exactly 3 points in regulation time.
One eye on Top 16 groups
In another rarity, there is only one regular-season round left, but we do not know a single Top 16 matchup. The only certain things are that Umana Reyer Venice has won Group B, Partizan will finish second in that group and Unicaja has won Group D. But that makes these three teams set to play in three different Top 16 groups, meaning each still has to learn its opponents. Group A will have the first four places decided on Tuesday, but for the remainder, we will have to wait for five Wednesday games to come to a close. Rytas Vilnius holds the key to the third and fourth place in Group B, Joventut's win or a loss will determine just about everything in Group C, while Galatasaray first, and possibly Oldenburg later, directly play for second place in Group D and that could indirectly determine fourth place, too.
There are loads of uncertainty, especially in Groups A and C. Four teams have qualified in Group A, but they play each other on Tuesday: AS Monaco (6-3) hosts Segafredo Virtus Bologna (7-2) and Promitheas Patras (6-3) welcomes MoraBanc Andorra (6-3). Virtus is first if it wins and cannot be fourth. Promitheas cannot be first and is fourth if it losses. But that's about all the certainty we have, everything else is possible. Those two games have six different scenarios of how things can play out. Group C is even more complex. As we wrote above, three teams might be battling for two open Top 16 spots, but just about everything else still needs to be decided. Three teams (UNICS, Darussafaka, Joventut) still can each finish first, while five different teams (Brescia and Nanterre included) can still finish in second place. There are three games in Group B, but as many as 11 potential scenarios.
A rare elimination game
It is not often that at the end of the regular season we get an opportunity to see a true do-or-die game where two teams collide fighting for a Top 16 spot. The winner goes through, the loser is eliminated. Nothing else matters. No point difference involved, outcomes of other games do not come into play. Just Tofas vs. Lokomotiv with a Top 16 spot on the line. Like an elimination game despite each team having previously played nine games. Tofas shocked Lokomotiv 69-72 in Round 5 on a buzzer-beating triple from Tarik Phillip and that is the only reason Tofas still has a chance to qualify. Former champ Lokomotiv has since made a coaching change, with Evgeny Pashutin taking over and making his return last week. Lokomotiv has never been eliminated in the regular season, while Tofas has never progressed past the regular season, failing to get to the Top 16 in each of the last two seasons. Will the trends continue? Or will the tradition finally be broken? High drama can be expected in Bursa on Tuesday.
Chance for meaningful revenge
Tofas was only one of three teams to win on a buzzer-beating game-winners in Round 5. UNICS edged Darussafaka 77-79 on an Errick McCollum pull-up jumper and Virtus defeated Monaco 77-75 on a jumper from Milos Teodosic. Now, Lokomotiv, Darussafaka and Monaco all have a chance for some sweet revenge as these teams meet again. A win at Tofas would send Lokomotiv into the Top 16 and the stakes don't get any higher than that. The other two games are very meaningful as well. Darussafaka would clinch first place in Group C with a win in Kazan. Monaco will also have a chance to finish first in Group A if it beats Virtus. These games are real treats, adding extra drama to an already dramatic end of the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season.