This Week: Drama builds at Top 16's midway point

Jan 27, 2020 by Print
This Week: Drama builds at Top 16's midway point

We are at the halfway point of the Top 16 and set to go into the final stretch with Round 4, which has historically has favored teams that also won in Round 3. However, for the first time at this stage of the EuroCup, there are no unbeaten teams. With 14 of the 16 teams having either one or two wins on their account and with seven games decided by 6 points or fewer last week, Round 4 has drama written all over. Here are some of the things to look for in this week's games.

The tough task of avoiding sweeps

The midway point of the Top 16 is a time every season when two teams face each other twice within one week and there has been a developing trend over the past three seasons that is hard to call a coincidence. Over the past three years, teams that won in Round 3 went on to also win in Round 4 and register a sweep in 19 of 24 two-game matchups. Last season, seven winners of the Round 3 clashes beat their opponent a week later with the only exception being Partizan NIS Belgrade bouncing back from a Round 3 loss and going on the road to beat AS Monaco. In each of the two seasons before last, six Round 3 winners also won in Round 4 to sweep the two-game series. Last week three road teams won, but seven of the eight games were decided by 6 points or fewer. With no teams undefeated and 14 of 16 teams having either one or two victories so far, It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

McCollum's homecoming

There is no secret that there is plenty of love between UNICS Kazan guard Errick McCollum and his former club Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul. McCollum played with the Turkish powerhouse for a couple of campaigns and in the first of the two in 2015-16 led it to the EuroCup title while earning the EuroCup MVP award. "I won a championship there, created great memories, friendships, I was treated excellent by the fans and club, and embraced the Turkish culture," McCollum said week. "Turkey is like a second home for me." However, McCollum had no problem pacing UNICS to a 94-69 win over Galatasaray last week, scoring a team-high 17 points. Since leaving the club, he already played as a visitor against Galatasaray, but that was in a domestic league game when he played with Anadolu Efes Istanbul. UNICS center Alex Tyus was with McCollum at Galatasaray in the 2016-17 season. The two now return to see some familiar faces and former teammates Can Korkmaz, Goksenin Koksal and Ege Arar, however, with the stakes high this week, expect nothing but competitiveness on the floor.

Jones goes for Pionir repeat

Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul won a hard-fought battle to hold off Partizan NIS Belgrade 65-63 last week and one of the main roles in Darussafaka's win belonged to big man Jarrod Jones. Coming off the bench, Jones played the team's second-most minutes on the floor (27:20) and produced 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Darussafaka and Jones now travel to the Serbian capital to play on one of the toughest road floors in the basketball world, Aleksandar Nikolic Hall, formerly known as Hala Pionir. And while most of Darussafaka's players have not previously experienced facing Partizan on the road, the 29-year old Jones not only has that experience, but produced one of the best games of his EuroCup career there. Playing for AS Monaco last season, Jones amassed 16 points on 4-for-7 three-point shooting plus 11 rebounds and 3 steals in leading Monaco to a stunning 68-72 Top 16 win in front of a packed gym. Partizan coach Andrea Trincheir and some of the team's key players, such as Marcus Paige, Novica Velickovic and Rade Zagorac, surely have not forgotten Jones, but that did not stop him last week and he now has a chance to go for a repeat.

Familiar rivals in opposite roles

This is the first time in competition history that there are no unbeaten teams after three Top 16 rounds, and consequently, no team can qualify for the quarterfinals this week. But any team that registers its third win this week will make a giant step towards a spot in the quarterfinals. Two teams, however, can be eliminated. Dolomiti Energia Trento (0-3) in Group E and one of last year's semifinalists, MoraBanc Andorra (0-3) in Group H, cannot take another wrong step and both will be eliminated the next time they lose. Both teams are on the road this week, going to places where no team has managed to win this EuroCup season: Trento pays a visit to a fellow Italian side Segafredo Virtus Bologna (2-1), while Andorra travels to face Spanish League rival Unicaja Malaga (2-1). Virtus and Unicaja are each 6-0 on their respective home floors. While Trento and Andorra will play to survive, they also have a chance to play the role of spoiler and ruin a couple of perfect home records.

Milestones and tidbits

Monaco (1-2) and Rytas Vilnius (2-1) are meeting for the second consecutive season and all three games so far have been won by the home team. Monaco will need to continue that trend and end a couple of other negative streaks. Monaco has lost its last two home games – the regular-season finale against Virtus and Top 16 opener against Galatasaray. Monaco has also dropped its last three Top 16 games at home dating back to last season when it lost against Partizan and ALBA Berlin. Joventut Badalona (2-1) has its struggles away from home, where it has lost all six games this season. Joventut has allowed 90.5 points per game away from home, the most in the EuroCup, and it travels to face Tofas Bursa (2-1). Klemen Prepelic starred with an MVP performance for Joventut last week, while veteran Sammy Mejia led Tofas with 20 points and continued his climb up the all-time scoring charts. Mejia moved into a sixth-place tie with E.J. Rowland with 1,183 points. He needs 4 more to catch Mire Chatman for fifth place, Marko Popovic is fourth with 1,188 and Alex Mumbru is third with 1,192. So, if Mejia scores in double figures on Tuesday, he will jump up three spots and into third place on the EuroCup all-time scoring chart. In addition, Mejia sits at 1,463 career performance index rating points and needs 9 more to catch Mire Chatman for second place on the all-time chart. Joventut center Alen Omic still needs 2 offensive rebounds to become only the third player all-time with 200 career offensive boards. UNICS sharpshooter Jamar Smith needs 1 more three-pointer to become only the third player with 200 triples for his career.