This week: High stakes in Top 16, Round 2

Jan 13, 2020 by Print
This week: High stakes in Top 16, Round 2

A perfect storm of results in the Top 16 openers has set up an interesting stage for Round 2. This week we will witness eight opening-round victors clashing against the eight teams that suffered Round 1 losses. There is a possibility that each group will have two teams with 2-0 records and a pair of 0-2 teams going into Round 3; there is also a chance that all 16 teams will sit at 1-1 at the end of this round. Below are some of the interesting things to watch in this week's games...

High stakes in the Spanish derby

After going 6-0 on its home floor, Joventut Badalona (1-0) will try to grab its first road win of the season on Tuesday when it visits fellow Spanish team Unicaja Malaga (0-1), which is also undefeated at home with five wins in as many games so far this season. There will be plenty at stake in this all-Spanish clash as Unicaja will be under pressure to continue that home streak after losing its Top 16 opener. Unicaja rallied from a fourth-quarter double-digit deficit last week, but did not manage to complete its comeback at Tofas Bursa. Joventut rallied from 16 down to edge MoraBanc Andorra in a game where center Alan Omic had 16 points plus 11 rebounds, collecting his 11th career double-double and third of this season. Omic now goes back to Malaga to face a team he helped lift the 2017 EuroCup title. These two teams met at the same venue in October in the Spanish League and Unicaja registered a 77-65 home win. It should be nothing short of an exciting night in Malaga.

Opposites collide

A high-profile clash is set to take place in Group E on Wednesday when Segafredo Virtus Bologna (0-1) hosts Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul (1-0). Offensively, Virtus is tied for the season lead in average assists (20.3), second in two-point shooting (57.3%) and tied for fourth in scoring (84.3 ppg.), while Darussafaka ranks at the bottom in assists (12.6 apg.), has scored the third-fewest points (74.5) and is below the average in two-point accuracy (50.1%). However, the tables are turned when it comes to defense. No team allows fewer than Darussafaka's 70.6 points or holds opponents lower than 46.1% two-point shooting. Virtus also commits the second-most turnovers (15.9). Virtus has won eight games so far this season, but it will need to solve Darussafaka's impressive defense to avoid dropping to 0-2 in the Top 16.

Double down in Group G

Last week we wrote that over the past three seasons road teams have won a total of 10 games in the opening rounds of the Top 16 and all 10 went on to qualify for the quarterfinals. There were only two road winners last week; both were in Group G where UNICS Kazan (1-0) won at Rytas Vilnius (0-1) and Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul (1-0) celebrated victory at AS Monaco (0-1). Now, these two former champions have a chance to double down and create significant separation as they both play at home this week with UNICS hosting Monaco and Galatasaray welcoming Rytas. Home wins this week would put either, or both, teams in control in Group G.

Home strengths meet road weaknesses

Tofas, Joventut and Germani Brescia Leonessa (1-0) did their job in protecting respective home floors last week, but now travel on the road where they will be facing nightmare tasks and quite challenging matchups. No team allows a higher percentage of three-point shots (41.3%) than Tofas, and it faces Andorra which leads the EuroCup in three-point shooting in both triples made (11.2 per game) and accuracy (41.5%). The latter number rises to 42.4% on its home floor. Joventut has allowed a EuroCup-high 90.6 points on the road this season and will have to find a way to stop Unicaja's offense, which leads the competition with 92.6 points per game in home games. Meanwhile, Brescia struggles offensively as the only team averaging fewer than 70 points (69.8 ppg.) and among those struggles is its three-point shooting which ranks fourth-lowest at 31.3%. Brescia is facing Umana Reyer Venice (0-1) in an Italian derby this week and no team allows fewer points on its home floor then Reyer (70.2 ppg.) and no team plays better perimeter defense at home than Reyer, which has held opponents to just 5.2 triples on mere 26.5% three-point shooting.

Can Oldenburg stay hot?

EWE Baskets Oldenburg (1-0) has been on an impressive run. After opening the season with a 0-3 record, the German club has won the next five games and has since won seven of its eight fixtures. The lone loss was the most lopsided result of the season, a 40-point road loss in Malaga, but such an event is not expected when Oldenburg visits Promitheas Patras (0-1) this week. Twice in its last three wins, Oldenburg has scored more than 100 points and it dropped 98 against one of the competition's best defenses when it beat Reyer last week. All three of those Oldenburg wins were on its home floor, however, and Coach Mladen Drijencic and his team now hope to get the offense clicking on the road, too. While Oldenburg is one of the hottest teams in all of the EuroCup, Promitheas is the opposite. The Greek newcomer opened the season with a 5-1 record, but has since lost four of its last five contests. In addition, it is averaging just 67.8 points per game over that stretch. Will the trends continue or will Promitheas be able to restore its early-season form?