Top 16, Group H analysis

Jan 02, 2020 by Print

Former EuroCup champions Unicaja Malaga and Joventut Badalona are joined by a third team from the Spanish League, MoraBanc Andorra, and Turkey's Tofas Bursa in Group H. It is a group full of experienced players and high-scoring teams who are all tough to beat in their home courts.

Points aplenty

Group H figures to be heavy on offense and attractive for the fans. The group has the regular-season leaders in scoring, assists and performance index rating – and each is a different team! What's more, it has four of the top seven teams in points per game, the top two and four of the top six in performance index rating, and three of the top six in assists. On top of that, Klemen Prepelic of Joventut is the EuroCup's top scorer with 17.8 points per game. Andorra leads the competition in scoring (85.3 ppg.), two-point shooting (59.8%), three-pointers made (112), three-point accuracy (41.5%) and true shooting percentage (52.2%), is second in PIR (97.3) and third in assists (19.0 apg.). Unicaja is the top-ranked team in PIR with 100.4 per game and free throws made with 208, third in scoring (84.5 ppg.) and free-throw shooting (80.0%), fifth in rebounding (37.1 rpg.) and sixth in steals (7.6 spg.). Tofas tops the charts in assists (20.7 apg.), is second in true shooting percentage (50.7%), fourth in PIR (96.0), fifth in three-point shooting (37.8%) and seventh in scoring (80.4 ppg.). Joventut ranks second in free-throw shooting (80.5%), third in two-point shooting (56.4%), fifth in scoring (83.8 ppg.), sixth in assists (18.5 apg.) and PIR (89.1), and eighth in offensive rebounds (11.6 orpg.).

The group of champions

Each team in this group has at least one player who is a former EuroCup or EuroLeague champion. Of course, Unicaja won the EuroCup just a few years ago in 2017. Five players from that championship squad will compete in this group. Final Four MVP Alberto Diaz remains with Unicaja alongside Carlos Suarez and Adam Waczynski. Center Alen Omic now plays for Joventut and Dejan Musli now plays for Andorra. Another Unicaja player with big-game experience is Axel Toupane, who not only reached the EuroLeague Final Four in 2018 with Zalgiris Kaunas but also won a bronze medal at the Basketball World Cup with the French national team last summer. In addition to Omic, Nikos Zisis is a former EuroLeague (with CSKA Moscow in 2008) and EuroBasket (with Greece in 2005) who reached the EuroCup Finals twice. Zisis played in the single-game final in 2013 with Bilbao Basket and the following season with UNICS Kazan, where he was joined by his current teammate Luke Harangody. Klemen Prepelic was a EuroBasket 2017 champion with Slovenia and reached the EuroLeague Final Four last season with Real Madrid. Tofas guard Berk Ugurlu was a member of the 2017 EuroLeague-winning squad with Fenerbahce Istanbul and his backcourt mate Matt Lojeski played in the 2015 EuroLeague Final Four with Olympiacos Piraeus.

Home-court importance

Wins on the road in Group H will be worth their weight in gold. The four teams combined to go 18-2 in the regular season on their home floors. Unicaja and Joventut were perfect, while Andorra and Tofas each lost once. Going back to last season, Andorra is 13-2 on its home floor and Unicaja is 12-2. Unicaja's margin of victory this season at home is 19.5 points. For Joventut, it's 11. In Andorra's four victories, it outscored the opponents by a total of 83 points. And three of Tofas's four home wins were by double figures.

Milestone watch

Tofas scoring ace Sammy Mejia and Joventut big man Alen Omic are EuroCup veterans with big targets ahead of them. Mejia enters the Top 16 ranked seventh on the EuroCup all-time charts with 1,163 career points scored. Not only is sixth place within reach, but Mejia could also climb as high as second if he remains healthy and performs well over the next six games. The next hurdles are E.J. Rowland in sixth place with 1,183 points, followed by Mire Chatman in fifth (1,187), Marko Popovic in fourth (1,188) and Alex Mumbru in third (1,192). To catch Rafa Martinez for second place (1,240), Mejia would need to average 12.9 points in the Top 16. Considering his career average of 14.5 points per game, that is definitely within reach. Mejia is 10th with 106 career steals. The next guys in the steals standings are Dijon Thompson (109) in ninth, Terrell Lyday (110) in eighth and Tariq Kirksay (115) in seventh. With his next rebound, Omic will snap his tie with Axel Hervelle for third place on the all-time charts with 519 rebounds. However, he will likely be unable to catch Vladimir Veremeenko for second place (609) this season. Omic is also third in career offensive rebounds with 191. Veremeenko is second with 213.