With just two games to go in the regular season and only nine teams qualified for the next phase, a total of 15 places in the Last 32 are up for grabs – and many of them can be had this week. The drama starts with two pivota Tuesday games before a wave of 16 decisive battles on Wednesday
In a pivotal game on Tuesday, JSF Nanterre (3-5) hosts EWE Baskets Oldenburg (3-5). Either team can go through to the Last 32 with a victory and some help from another group result on Wednesday. To qualify, Nanterre needs both to win by at least 4 points – in order to overcome 84-81 Round 4 loss against Oldenburg – and already-qualified Energia Dolomiti Trento (6-2) to beat visiting Telekom Baskets Bonn (2-6). For Oldenburg, its own victory combined with one by Trento is enough to go through. However, if Bonn defeats Trento, Oldenburg and Nanterre will continue hunting the qualification in the final week of the regular season. Also on Wednesday, Union Olimpija Ljubljana (4-4) hosts already-qualified Dominion Bilbao Basket (6-2) knowing that it can secure a Last 32 berth with a victory. However, Bilbao is undefeated in four games on the road, and leads the Eurocup in defense, allowing just 64.5 points per game.
In a high-profile clash, already-qualified group leader Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas (6-2) welcomes ALBA Berlin (4-4). The hosts force 17.1 turnovers per game, second-most in the competition, and need a win that would inch them closer to clinching first place. ALBA can make Last 32 if it wins and Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (5-3) beats Le Mans Sarthe Basket (3-5) on the road. Le Mans and Round 8 MVP Tywain McKee are seeking for a third straight win to stay in Last 32 contention. During the winning streak, Le Mans has led the Eurocup in offensive rebounding with 16.7 over the last three games. Reggio Emilia is all but qualified, and needs either a win or a loss of 7 points or less to advance. Already-eliminated Enel Basket Brindisi (1-7) welcomes MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg (5-3) as the visitors will book a place in the last 32 with a victory. Ludwigsburg also qualifies with a loss and a win by Gran Canaria.
Riding a three-game winning streak, Proximus Spirou Charleroi (3-5) hopes to continue its run when last-place SLUC Nancy (1-7) pays a visit on Tuesday. Spirou’s three wins in a row followed five losses to open the season, but a victory would keep it in Last 32 contention. Nancy would also keep its mathematical chances to qualify with a win, at least until ratiopahrm Ulm (3-5) meets CAI Zaragoza (5-3) at home on Wednesday. CAI won their Round 4 game 69-59, and that 10-point margin is something CAI will try to protect. However, CAI enters this clash knowing it will qualify for the Last 32 with a win, but also with a loss by Spirou. Ulm needs a win, and help from Nancy to qualify – in case Ulm wins, and Nancy beats Spirou, then both CAI and Ulm will book their Last 32 tickets. That also is the case with Umana Reyer Venice (4-4), which hosts undefeated Valencia Basket (8-0) on Wednesday. Venice moves to the next stage either with a win, or a loss by Spirou. On the other hand, Valencia will look to keep its undefeated run going, as it has already clinched the first place in Group C.
Steaua CSM Eximbank Bucharest (2-6) plays its last home Eurocup game this season against Aris Thessaloniki (5-3). The team from the Romanian capital is mathematically eliminated from Last 32 contention, but the visitors from Greece would clinch a place in the next phase with a win. Unics Kazan (5-3) hosts Buducnost Voli Podgorica (3-5) also knowing a win sends it into the Last 32. Unics can help Aris, too, as both teams qualify if Unics downs the Montenegrin champs. An Unics victory would also be a helping hand for Banvit Bandirma (4-4) which plays host in an all-Turkish showdown to already-qualified Trabzonspor Medical Park (5-3). A Banvit win and an Unics win would send Banvit to the next phase, while eliminating Buducnost in the process.
Already-qualified Zenit St. Petersburg (7-1) hosts last-place Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (2-6) in what is a key game for the visitors, who need a victory if they want to keep destiny in their own hands. Rytas allows 99 points per game, second-highest in the competition. Zenit can win the group with a victory combined with a loss by already-qualified Avtodor Saratov (6-2), which visits PAOK Thessaloniki (3-5). Avtodor is the highest scoring team in the competition (93 ppg.), and has never won a game on the Greek soil. PAOK will try to continue with that trend, as it needs a win to boost its Last 32 chances. Szolnoki Olaj (3-5) looks to get back to the winning ways when Besiktas Sompo Japan Istanbul (3-5) comes to town. This is fifth meeting between two sides in the past five seasons, and Besiktas holds 3-1 record having won both previous meetings in Szolnok. This contest has a Last 32 berth at stake. Besiktas goes to the Last 32 with a win, and either a loss by Rytas or PAOK. Meanwhile, Szolnoki will look to overcome 76-67 Besiktas win from Round 4, but would also clinch a Last 32 place with any win combined with losses by both Rytas and PAOK. And if PAOK were to defeat Avtodor, Rytas would be eliminated with its own loss.
In a must-win game for both teams, Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem (3-5) hosts AEK Athens (4-4) and the Eurocup’s scoring leader, Loukas Mavrokefalidis (25.0 ppg). With only a win separating these two sides in the standings, and AEK having won their Round 4 clash by the slimmest of margins, 75-74, there will be a lot at stake in every single possession in Jerusalem. Victory by AEK would guarantee the Greek side a place in the Last 32, but a win by Jerusalem would put it in the driver’s seat in the Last 32 race. Neptunas Klaipeda (5-3) hosts already-qualified Nizhny Novgorod (5-3), needing either a win or a loss by Jerusalem to clinch a place in the Last 32. Already-qualified group leader Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (6-2) plays host to already-eliminated Krasny Oktyabr Volgograd. The hosts can clinch the first place if they win and Nizhny loses.
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