Dolomiti Energia Trento proved to be among the readiest 7DAYS EuroCup teams this season by clinching its fourth Top 16 berth in just five competition appearances as early as any team. To accomplish that feat, Trento rolled to a 6-1 record behind the competition's top defense until then. And though it would drop from first to third place late in the regular season, that defense remains Trento's calling card heading into Top 16 Group F.
Trento capitalized on road wins at Frutti Extra Bursaspor and Nanterre 92 early in the regular season to stay unbeaten until falling at Herbalife Gran Canaria in Round 5, but bounced back with second victories over Bursaspor and Promitheas Patras, respectively, to qualify for the Top 16 as early as Round 7. An 18-28 third quarter in Patras proved pivotal to winning there 80-89 behind a season-high 22 points from Victor Sanders. A double-overtime 102-104 home defeat to Nanterre came next and led to a three-game losing streak to end the regular season. Still, Trento finished with the EuroCup's third-best defense, allowing just 74.2 points per game by holding opponents to just 30.1% three-point shooting, the second-lowest rate among all 24 regular season teams.
In his second EuroCup season, point guard Gary Browne has been Trento's leader at both ends of the floor. He topped the team during the regular season with 14.6 points per game while ranking seventh among all EuroCup players with 6.2 assists and third with 2.1 steals on average. He also ranked 12th in free throw shooting accuracy, at 86.8%, and in minutes played, with 29:44 per game. His steady hand directing the offense and his defense on the ball gave Trento great stability, as evidenced by the team's 3-2 away record matching its performance at home. How Browne can control the tempo, set his teammates up for better shots, and let the Trento defense do what it does best will say a lot about the team's chances in the Top 16.
His introduction to pan-European competition has been a mixed bag thus far for Trento shooting guard Jeremy Morgan, but he has certainly shown flashes of being able to impact his team's chances positively. Morgan averaged 2.6 three-point shots made over the eight games he played, which ranks 10th-best so far in the EuroCup. On the downside, his 38.2% accuracy from the arc was lowest among the top 20 three-point shooters in the regular season. If Morgan chooses his shots more carefully, he can force defenses to play him closer, and in so doing, look to draw more fouls. He has made 18 of 18 free throws so far, so some fewer misses from deep turned into trips at the foul line can only help his team.
Did you know?
Trento had one of the finer EuroCup debuts in recent memory back in the 2015-16 season. It blew through the regular season and Top 16 with an 11-5 record then won four out of six playoff games for an overall record of 15-7. Unfortunately, the last of those defeats, at home against Strasbourg of France in the two-game semifinals, was by 2 points more than Trento's earlier Game 1 road win in that series, leaving the Italian club out of the finals by the margin of a missed three-pointer at the buzzer by current team member Davide Pascolo.
Trento comes into 2021 with the second-lowest scoring among Top 16 teams, at 76.5 points on average. Its defense can keep Trento close in most games, but more efficiency on offense, where it ranked second-to-last in both two-point (46.9%) and three-point (32.1%) accuracy, will be necessary to compete in the Top 16. It will also be paramount for Trento to keep up its dominant rebounding, led by JaCorey Williams, who ranked ranked fourth with 7.3 boards per games, and defensive ace Kelvin Martin (4.9). Trento's ability to adjust to the opponent will be paramount in a Top 16 group that has both the top-scoring team to date, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, as well as traditional power Partizan NIS Belgrade and surprise regular-season group winner Boulogne Metropolitans 92. Its opening game at Partizan will set the tone as Trento seeks just its second Top 16 road win since that auspicious debut 2015-16 season.