Parity is at an all-time high in the EuroCup Top 16 as sixe teams are typically qualified for the postseason by this point in an average year. Only four spots have been claimed with Round 6 remaining. Here's a review of the key statistics in the 7DAYS EuroCup landscape.
Round 5 was stacked with high-stakes games. In the battle of three-win teams, Partizan NIS Belgrade and Unicaja Malaga toppled Segafredo Virtus Bologna and Tofas Bursa, respectively, while UNICS Kazan also qualified for the quarterfinals via tiebreakers with a win over Rytas Vilnius. Promitheas Patras, Umana Reyer Venice and AS Monaco rose above the gridlock in Groups F and G. Even with all that movement, only Partizan and Monaco claimed road victories.
Partizan's defensive prowess in half-court situations throughout the Top 16 is well-documented, but they outscored the EuroCup's top transition offense 16 to 2 in the open court to secure a hard-fought 84-82 victory. Entering the game, Virtus had averaged 14.5 points per game to Partizan's 10.1 in transition – a stark contrast to how things played out on the floor.
AS Monaco exploded for 91 points to outpace a Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul team that has been prolific offensively in Sinan Erdem Dome. Monaco scored 22 points on pull-up jumpers, more than doubling its 8.4 points-per-game average on such shots, as both Dee Bost and Anthony Clemmons found their range early.
With the level of parity present in the EuroCup at the moment, it's often the little things that continue to make the difference game to game.
For AS Monaco, those little things have frequently come on the defensive end. While offensive rebounds tend to be the most prominent means for a team to gain extra possessions, forced turnovers also play a key role in determining which team ultimately has the most scoring chances. Several teams have found success by ratcheting up its defensive pressure to not only take opposing teams out of their rhythm, but also to spark its own offense.
Monaco, Unicaja, and EWE Baskets Oldenburg have set the curve this year in terms of forcing turnovers. AS Monaco may not lead the EuroCup in steals, but they force the most turnovers in part because they pressure the ball the length of the court on a top-ranked 22% of all possessions. Their guards are also pesky digging down on opposing post players, managing to get deflections and strips in a variety of situations. Anthony Clemmons has led that cause this season, ranking among the league leaders in steals on a per-minute basis while guiding Monaco to the EuroCup's top turnover rate and margin.
Unicaja sits a fraction of a percent behind Monaco in turnover percentage but has a more unique defensive profile. They rank just fifth in steals despite pressing almost as frequently as Monaco. Generating a relatively high volume of dead-ball turnovers and committing few fouls, Unicaja manages to be very aggressive without being overly physical by extending its defense in the half court.
Oldenburg is the outlier among these three teams as they do not press full court very often. They disrupt opposing teams in the half court with timely traps against both pick-and-rolls and post-ups. Some teams send second defenders more ambitiously and effectively than others, and Oldenburg has found some success dialing up timely pressure. They have ranked among the least-efficient defenses this season but have taken some pressure off their shot defense by taking calculated risks schematically.
Looking Ahead to Round 6
It is difficult to overstate how much is at stake in Round 6. With so many clubs within striking distance of the quarterfinals, there's plenty to watch for. In Group E, Virtus takes on Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul in an elimination game while UNICS will travel to Monaco, who is in a win-and-in scenario in Group G. With a month to prepare, it will be fascinating to see who can survive what has been a grueling Top 16.