In the Top 16 for the first time in six years, Boulogne Metropolitans 92 has every right to be confident heading into the next phase of the competition after overcoming a slow start to the season and winning seven of its last eight regular season games.
Things did not look very promising for Metropolitans when it opened the season with back-to-back losses, on the road against Unicaja Malaga and at home versus Buducnost VOLI Podgorica. In a 0-2 hole and not having Coach Jure Zdovc available at the time, Metropolitans bounced back in style and went on to win five consecutive games. The run started with an 80-86 road triumph against ratiopharm Ulm and continued with a 13-point home win against Mornar Bar. After defeating Germani Brescia, Metropolitans not only beat Unicaja, but did it by a 10-point margin to win their head-to-head tiebreaker, too. With another win against Ulm for a season sweep, Metropolitans all but qualified for the Top 16 and the team clinched its spot with two games to play despite a loss against Mornar. However, Metropolitans was far from done, holding off Buducnost in Podgorica 71-73 before finishing off the regular season with a win over Brescia. The tiebreak advantage over Unicaja proved crucial and Metropolitans won the group with a 7-3 record.
Anthony Brown was instrumental in Metropolitans' regular-season success. Starting in nine of 10 games, no player on the team comes even close to his 29:33 minutes played or his 134 points over 10 games. The Metropolitans swingman was consistent from long range (45.7%), a big contributor on the glass (4.2 rpg.), and over the last four games even averaged 1.3 blocks. Brown led the team in scoring with 18 points in two key wins, at Ulm and at home against Unicaja, and lifted the team to a road win over Buducnost with a clutch triple.
Center Miralem Halilovic came to Metropolitans over the summer as a splashy signing. He dominated the French League last season with 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds, but missed the first six games of this season due to injury. Halilovic has still been finding his groove, averaging 3.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in his four regular-season appearances, but with the ability to crash the glass and also set up his teammates, Halilovic presents a great untapped potential for Metropolitans.
Did you know?
Metropolitans is one of the best teams in controlling the defensive glass. The team allowed just 7.5 offensive rebounds per game - second-fewest in the competition - and opponents pulled down just 30.0 rebounds on average, tied for the lowest mark at the end of the regular season. Part of the reason for such low numbers is Metropolitans' tendency to slow down the tempo of the games, but this combination has not allowed many second-chance opportunities for its opponents and has proven to be a recipe for success so far.
Metropolitans has every right to be confident heading into the Top 16, having won seven of its last eight games, a run which included a 10-point win over Unicaja and a dramatic road win at Buducnost. Now, Metropolitans will look to keep it going in Group F of the Top 16 where it faces more tough challenges in the form of former champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, highly-ambitious Serbian powerhouse Partizan NIS Belgrade and a dangerous Dolomiti Energia Trento squad. But no opposition has been too much to handle for this team so far this season. Playing patient basketball has been Metropolitans' recipe for success, and the club will be aiming to make its return to the quarterfinals to match its success from the 2014-15 campaign.