Last 32, Round 1: All teams aiming for strong starts

Roberto Anidos
por Roberto Anidos publicado en Eurocup

Everything is set for the 2015-16 Eurocup Last 32. With eight squads arriving from the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, the new phase has eight groups of four teams each that feature three-time Eurocup champion Valencia Basket looking to stay perfect and six-time Euroleague champion Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv making its competition debut. The Last 32 tips off with three games on Tuesday and the remaining 13 game scheduled for Wednesday

Group G

Ratiopharm Ulm plays hosts to Dominion Bilbao Basket which will try to continue its unbeaten run on the road. Bilbao was perfect 5-0 in road games during the regular season and arrives to this contest with Eurocup’s fourth-best offense (85.6 ppg). Ulm has 2-3 home record so far this season. These two teams played each other in 2012-13 quarterfinals, when Ulm beat Bilbao at home 85-81, but Bilbao overcame that deficit in the return leg, winning 101-78. In addition to having a potent offense, Bilbao’s defense forced the most turnovers during the regular season (17.4), a trend it hopes to continue in Ulm. In a high-profile matchup, Banvit Bandirma hosts FC Bayern Munich in the first clash ever between them. Banvit pulls down 13.3 offensive rebounds per night in the regular season, while Bayern rebounded very well on defense (25.2) in the Euroleague. The German powerhouse takes good care of the ball, too, having averaged just 12.6 turnovers so far, and will now have newcomer Justin Cobbs splitting time at point guard. Banvit is historically strong at home, and has won four in a row there coming into the Last 32.

Group H

Avtodor Saratov and its top-scoring offense from the regular season welcomes a visiting Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem team that is on a three-game Eurocup winning streak. Although this is the first time these two teams meet since 1999, it’s Jerusalem’s third trip to Russia this season, having split the other two. Jerusalem is 2-12 all time on Russian soil. In addition to its league-high 94.7 points per game, Avtodor’s 113 triples and average of 21.3 assists topped all regular season teams. Jerusalem moves the ball well, too, ranking third in assists (19.1) as the only team with two players ranked among the top 10 individually: E.J. Rowland and Donta Smith. Jerusalem also features five players averaging at least 11 points per game. In a high-profile clash, Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas welcomes Strasbourg. Gran Canaria grabs more offensive rebounds (13.4) than any other team that qualified through the Eurocup Regular Season to the Last 32. Gran Canaria is perfect at home, and has 21-1 record on the island since February 2011. Strasbourg arrives to the Last 32 after Euroleague Regular Season in which it lost five road games by 15 points or more.

Group I

On Tuesday, Limoges CSP returns to the Eurocup by hosting EWE Baskets Oldenburg for the first time. Limoges arrives from a Euroleague Regular Season in which it ranked fourth in the competition in three-point accuracy (39.3%), but averaged a league-high 17.6 turnovers per game. Oldenburg allows 82 points per contest and four of its six defeats so far were double-digit margins. But the visitors have big man Brian Qvale in the paint, who makes 7.2 two-point shots per game on 67.9% accuracy. Valencia Basket looks to continue its unbeaten run when PAOK Thessaloniki pays a visit. Valencia has 153 games in the competition, and PAOK has played 74, but the two have never played each other in an official game before. Valencia has been the best defensive team in the competition (68.9 ppg. allowed) and wins at home by an average of 19.2 points. Also, its players dish 20.5 assists per game, the second-best mark so far in the Eurocup. PAOK is arriving to La Fonteta on a three-game winning streak that included a pair of road victories. During this stretch, PAOK is averaging 89 points and 10.3 triples.

Group J

In a high-profile matchup, ALBA Berlin welcomes EA7 Emporio Armani Milan to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in the German capital. Despite both clubs being fixtures in Europe’s elite for the last decade, this is the first clash between them since 1997. Milan arrives from Euroleague, where it took good care of the ball, making just 11.9 turnovers per game, but made only 31.3% of its three-point shots and averaged 73.3 points. ALBA also struggled from downtown, making the Eurocup Regular Season’s fourth-fewest three-pointers (6.1) on 30.6% accuracy. ALBA also averages just 12.4 assists, lowest among Last 32 teams, but does a great job by getting to the free throw line and making a Eurocup-high 19.3 foul shots per game. Aris Thessaloniki welcomes Neptunas Klaipeda for a first-ever meeting between them. Aris was undefeated at home in the regular season and allowed league-low 63.2 points to visiting teams. That defense will be tested by a Neptunas offense that scores 82 points per night, sixth-best among teams qualified for the Last 32. Aris also held opponents to league-best 26.5% three-point shooting so far, while Neptunas is close behind at 32.9%.

Group K

In an all-Turkish clash, Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir hosts Trabzonspor Medical Park. Earlier this season, the two teams met in the Turkish League, with Karsiyaka winning 74-71, but many things changed for both teams since that game. Trabzonspor recently parted ways with Darius Johnson-Odom , who scored 26 points in the aforementioned game, and Tarence Kinsey also left the team since the end of the regular season. Karsiyaka forced a Euroleague-best 16.8 turnovers in home games, but team shot a Euroleague-low 30.3% on three-pointers. In all-Italian battle, Dolomiti Energia Trento welcomes Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia. The two teams squared off in the Italian League in late November, with Reggio Emilia winning 69-65 at home. With six players averaging at least nine points, Trento ranked second in scoring (87.5 ppg.) in the Eurocup Regular Season and third in average performance index rating (98.5). Reggio Emilia added big man Vladimir Golubovic before the start of the Last 32, hoping to help the team’s rebounding struggles: it ranked among the competition’s worst three teams with just 30.5 boards per game, including a next-to-last 7.2 on the offensive glass. Reggio Emilia also allowed the third-most offensive rebounds (12.5 rpg.) to its opponents.

Group L

With two games between teams who have never played each other before, action in Group L starts on Tuesday when MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg hosts the Polish champion Stelmet Zielona Gora, which arrives from Euroleague. Ludwigsburg is 4-1 on home floor this season, where its average margin of victory was 16.8 points and its defense allowed 70.8 points, the Eurocup’s fourth-lowest. Meanwhile, Zielona Gora averaged a Euroleague-low 66.4 points per game and that number dipped even more on the road, to 62.2 per night. But the team fared much better defensively, allowing just 74.8 points to its opponents. Umana Reyer Venice plays Zenit St. Petersburg on its home floor, where all but one game so far has gone down to the wire. Venice arrives to the Last 32 on a three-game losing streak, and now welcomes Zenit, which had an 8-2 regular season record. The visitors have an offense that averaged 82 points on 19.1 assists, but will need to find a way to replace injured big man Kyle Landry’s 10.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Group M

In an all-Russian showdown, Unics Kazan and scorer Keith Langford host Nizhny Novgorod. Last season Nizhny swept their Euroleague Regular Season series, but this season in their VTB United League clash at the end of November, Unics routed Nizhny in Kazan 102-68. In the Eurocup, Nizhny was one of four teams that averaged both double-digit triples made (10.5) and 40% accuracy behind the arc (40.5%). Unics displayed a stellar defense that held opponents to just 72.4 points per game and allowed them just 47.1% shooting on two-pointers, both third-best in the regular season. It also ranked fourth by holding its rivals to 30.6% three-point accuracy. Langford was Eurocup’s top scorer in the last three games, posting 24.3 points on average. In its first-ever Eurocup game, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv welcomes a familiar foe, Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Maccabi holds 10-4 all-time edge and the two teams have clashes 10 times this century in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, and now continue the rivalry in Eurocup. Maccabi has won its last six home games against Olimpija and the last four by double-digit margins.

Group N

On Tuesday, Hungarian champ Szolnoki Olaj hosts the Italian champ Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari on the latter’s return from the Euroleague. Both teams have also changed coaches already this season. During the Eurocup Regular Season, Szolnoki committed the second-highest turnovers per game, 16.1, but coach Peter Por help cut that to only 13.8 during the last six games, when the team had a 4-2 record. Szolnoki also posted 81.2 points on average during that stretch, and now faces a Sassari team that allowed 83.9 points per game in the Euroleague, the most of any regular season team. Coach Marco Calvani took over the Sassari bench in late November, but the team still went winless in Euroleague, so now it hopes for a fresh, winning start in the Eurocup. Galatasaray Istanbul welcomes CAI Zaragoza in this group’s other game. Led by Errick McCullom, the best scorer left in the competition (20.3 ppg.) and leader of an offense that ranks third (86.7), Galatasaray faces CAI, which features balanced offense balanced offense in which six of its current players average 7 points or better. CAI also ranks fourth in offensive rebounds (13.1 orpg.) and is tied for the competition lead with only 10.9 turnovers per game.

This new exciting Last 32 phase has just six games, so every one counts. Follow all the action on Eurosport and on!

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