For the first time in EuroCup Top 16 history, no team has remained undefeated through three rounds. Here's a review of the current 7DAYS EuroCup landscape through the lens of statistics.
In the Top 16, the importance of every game is magnified. That is even truer when 14 of those 16 teams have finished the first half of this phase with one or two victories. The highest-gravity win in Round 3 likely belongs to Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul, who earned a two-point victory over previously unbeaten Partizan NIS Belgrade in Volkswagen Arena.
In a battle between the EuroCup's two stingiest interior defenses, Darussafaka held Partizan to just 10 points around the rim in half-court situations and eked out a win despite its own paltry 8 points inside – well below the team's 22 points-per-game standard. Scoring 12 points in transition and faring well in catch-and-shoot situations, Darussafaka's full group effort was needed to survive what is likely to go down as the Top 16's premier defensive battle.
The impact of Darussafaka's success in transition is not unique. Though transition play makes up just 11.4% of all possessions, production in the open court tends to vary significantly game-to-game. Impacted by a variety of factors, transition opportunities tend to be fairly unpredictable and can be an x-factor on the scoreboard because they are converted on average for a very efficient 1.13 points per possession.
Only three Top 16 teams are scoring more than 12 points per game in transition this season, with nine others averaging less than 10 such points. Even among the top tier of those teams, there is a fair amount of variety in how they attack in transition and what it has meant to their ability to win games.
Segafredo Virtus Bologna leads all teams in transition scoring by a comfortable margin, in part because they have attempted 10 more transition three-pointers than any other team. Milos Teodosic and Frank Gaines set the tone for Virtus, accounting for nearly half of those transition points, a large part of which come from the wings. Running aggressively, Virtus has not scored fewer than 7 transition points in any game this season. However, the Italians are outscoring opponents by only 0.7 points per game in the open floor because they allow nearly as many transition points as they score.
MoraBanc Andorra, in contrast, has outscored opponents by 49 transition points by producing the most impressive efficiency mark in such situations: 1.25 points per possession. Andorra attempts few threes despite good accuracy from distance and has no single player averaging more than 2.5 points per game in transition. Rather, the Andorrans push for transition layups as a group and shoot 71% inside the arc.
Like Virtus, Dolomiti Energia Trento has two of the EuroCup's more prolific transition scorers in Alessandro Gentile and James Blackmon. Like Andorra, Trento pushes primarily for layups, with many of its transition points coming on true fastbreak opportunities. By recognizing opportunities to get ahead of the defense, Trento's ability to create uncontested layups buffers its transition scoring efficiency.
What's clear is that running takes a group effort in the EuroCup; no Top 16 player scores more than 3.8 points per game in transition. However, being alert to fortuitous bounces here and there before a defense can set itself can make a huge difference when the competition stiffens as it has halfway through this phase.
Looking ahead to Round 4
Although 10 teams have two wins each heading into Round 4, just two games will include pairs of them. Both are rematches of Round 3 games won narrowly by the home teams, Tofas Bursa will face Joventut Badalona again in Group H while Darussafaka matches up again with Partizan NIS Belgrade in Group E. Those games will force some separation at the top of their respective group standings, but if the home teams win again, forcing 1-1 head-to-head ties between them, pay close attention to the point differences over 80 minutes between these rivals, as they could very well decide fateful tiebreakers when the Top 16 ends.