This Week: Pivotal round for many teams

Jan 20, 2020 by Print
This Week: Pivotal round for many teams

The first round of back-to-back matchups between pairs of teams throughout the 7DAYS EuroCup makes Round 3 a pivotal one in the Top 16. In two of the four-team groups, all the teams have 1-1 records, meaning that Round 3's results can tip the momentum in a crucial way. In the other two groups, each with a 2-0 leader and a 0-2 last-place team, early qualification is the goal of the former, while the latter needs to join the playoffs race immediately. In all cases, take note of point differences, which often end up deciding ties in the Top 16!

Unprecedented competitiveness

In each of the last three seasons, there were between three and five 2-0 teams at this stage of the Top 16, and at least two of them each season proceeded to improve to 3-0. Even in the 2012-13 season and in the seasons prior to that one, when the second phase of the competition featured four groups of four teams, there have never been just two undefeated teams after two rounds, as now. Only Partizan NIS Belgrade in Group E and Tofas Bursa in Group H hold 2-0 records going into Round 3, and they have accomplished that in opposite ways. Partizan has blowout victories of 18 and 25 points, while Tofas held on for wins of 2 and 6 points, respectively. Another victory this week would put each team on a verge of the quarterfinals. At the same time, with 12 of the other 14 teams holding 1-1 records, there is unprecedented competitiveness that could lead to tightest races ever for the playoffs. This week, there are four games between 1-1 teams, all in Groups F and G, and those squads are set to meet again in Round 4, as well. And while all 1-1 teams do have some room for error, a win in Round 3 would boost the chances of any of them.

Home-court disadvantage

For the first time since this Top 16 format has been introduced, there are two groups that feature four 1-1 teams after two rounds. And for the first time since the 2012-13 season, there is a group with four road wins out of as many games through the first two rounds. Group G features three former champions -- UNICS Kazan, Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul and Rytas Vilnius --as well as AS Monaco. All four of them has a road win and a home loss so far. Interestingly, the last time that phenomenon happened, the group also involved Galatasaray and UNICS, along with ratiopharm Ulm and Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. That year in Round 3, UNICS and Galatasaray registered home wins to end the road trend. This week, those two teams will square off in Kazan, while Monaco will travel to the Lithuanian capital. Will home teams finally prevail or will more achievements away from home give Galatasaray and Monaco control of the group?

Home protection

While all of Group G and some other teams have success on the road, Joventut Badalona is still winless in road games this season after failing to succeed last week against former champion Unicaja in Malaga. This week, however, Joventut has a chance to continue its perfect home run. Joventut is 6-0 on its home floor this season, making it one of just three teams -- alongside Virtus and Unicaja -- whose live fans have witnessed nothing but victories. And while Virtus and Unicaja go on the road this week, Joventut can make it 7-0 when it welcomes Tofas Bursa to Badalona. Remember, though, that Tofas arrives off an impressive road win against Andorra as one of just two teams who have yet to lose in the Top 16.

Round 3 must-wins

MoraBanc Andorra and Dolomiti Energia Trento are in the toughest positions in the Top 16, as the only teams with 0-2 records. Both face respective domestic league rivals on their home courts, where they cannot affort to lose for a second time. In Group E on Tuesday, Trento hosts Segafredo Virtus Bologna, which visited Trento's BLM Group Arena a fortnight ago and came away with a 77-83 road win in a Italian League clash. Trento did not find a solution for Milos Teodosic, who dropped 30 points that night, so must focus on stopping him this time around. Also on Tuesday, last year's semifinalist Andorra will welcome its Spanish League rival Unicaja. When these two sides met in the Pyrenees in mid-November, Andorra cruised to a 89-73 win. Coming off a game in which it scored an all-time low 63 points on home floor, Andorra needs to bounce back to stay in quarterfinals contention.

Reaching milestones

Jamar Smith did not play last week due to back problems, but if he suits up against Galatasaray he could achieve couple of EuroCup milestones. Smith needs just 2 points to reach 1,000 for his career. He will be become 17th player to do so as he keeps moving up the all-time scoring charts. Smith also ranks third all-time with 196 three-pointers made, needing just 4 more to reach 200. Another player approaching a milestone is Joventut's center Alen Omic, who needs 2 offensive rebounds to become just the third player with 200 offensive boards in the competition. Omic has had multiple offensive rebounds in eight of his last nine games. Next time he enters the game, Stefan Markovic will enter the top five in games played, tying Bojan Dubljevic with 119 career appearances. Markovic already become the all-time leader in minutes played this season, and now has 3,174 in his career. Meanwhile, Rytas will play its 176th game in the competition, and tie Hapoel Jerusalem for third-most all-time.