Which Basketball Champions League clubs could be coming to FIBA Europe Cup?
MUNICH (Basketball Champions League/FIBA Europe Cup) - As the Second Round approaches its culmination in the FIBA Europe Cup, an alternative race for spots in the Play-Offs is heating up in the Basketball Champions League.
With just two games remaining in a highly competitive Regular Season, there are still 16 teams in the running for just eight transfer tickets to the Round of 16 in the FIBA Europe Cup, reserved for teams placed fifth and sixth in each of the four groups.
Elan Chalon, Movistar Estudiantes, AEK and SIG Strasboug have opt-out clauses from playing in the FIBA Europe Cup and in the event of them claiming fifth or sixth place, their spot would be filled by the best-ranked third-placed teams from the FIBA Europe Cup Second Round.
AS Monaco, Pinar Karsiyaka, EWE Baskets Oldenburg and UCAM Murcia have all clinched spots in the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs in Group A, but the situation in the lower half of the group standings is far from set in stone.
As things stand, fifth-placed Dinamo Sassari are the clear frontrunners for a transfer to the FIBA Europe Cup with a 5-7 record, but they play their main challengers UNET Holon and Enisey Krasnoyarsk in the remaining games.
The only way the Italian side could drop below sixth place would see Federico Pasquini's side losing twice and at least two teams currently below them finishing their Regular Season schedule with a pair of wins.
UNET Holon, Enisey Krasnoyarsk and Juventus Utena all share identical 3-9 records and would need to force the Italians into a favorable three or four-way tie to deprive Sassari one of the guaranteed spots in the FIBA Europe Cup.
Any other scenario would see the bottom three battle it out for the second of the two tickets to the FIBA Europe Cup, with the Israeli side holding potential tie-breakers against the other two teams. Meanwhile, Juventus have an edge over Enisey.
Iberostar Tenerife and MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg have already secured prime real estate in Group B and are guaranteed to continue their Basketball Champions League campaigns, while SikeliArchivi Capo d'Orlando are anchored at the bottom of the table.
Meanwhile, the other five clubs are all eligible for a place in the FIBA Europe Cup, with the actual likelihood of finishing in fifth or sixth place varying greatly from team to team.
Two wins ahead of the pack, Neptunas Klaipeda look relatively safe in third place with a 7-5 mark and will likely continue in the Basketball Champions League, barring a major collapse and a flurry of unfavorable results in other games.
The only threatening scenario for the Klaipeda club is a three-way tie for third place with PAOK and Elan Chalon and only if they lose in Thessaloniki by 15 or more points this week.
The situation gets a lot murkier in the positions directly below the Lithuanian club, with the trio of PAOK, Ventspils and Elan Chalon all tied at 5-7 and Gaziantep an additional game behind with a 4-8 record.
The matchups between PAOK and Ventspils, as well as Elan Chalon and Gaziantep on the final gameday of the Regular Season will be marked red for all of the teams involved, as it will play a decisive role in determining the final order of teams.
However, teams will be looking to get separation from their rivals already this week, with Ventspils will getting the action started by visiting Capo d'Orlando on Tuesday. On Wednesday, PAOK will play hosts to Neptunas, Chalon will travel to Tenerife and Gaziantep are set to welcome MHP Ludwigsburg.
Whoever can set themselves apart in this four-team formation and claim fourth place in the overall standings will also earn a place in the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs, with two more teams moving on to the FIBA Europe Cup.
Other than the top of the table of Banvit and bottom of the pack Rosa Radom, Group C remains a free-for-all for the other six teams, vying for three remaining places in the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs and two more in the Round of 16 in the FIBA Europe Cup.
Currently in an extensive four-way tie for second place, Movistar Estudiantes, medi Bayreuth, SIG Strasbourg and Umana Reyer Venezia are the prime candidates for these places with the same 7-5 records and a one-game lead over the sixth-placed AEK, who are 6-6.
Understandably, there can still be considerable movement in the standings. In the current situation, Venezia and Bayreuth are expected to be the biggest x-factors in shaping the final picture of the group, as they play both of their games against their closest rivals, including a head-to-head clash on Wednesday.
The other slots in the schedule include Estudiantes playing Banvit and Venezia, Strasbourg taking on Rosa and Banvit, with AEK testing Olimpija and Bayreuth.
The top three of the five aforementioned teams will qualify for the Basketball Champions League, with the two sides at the end of the peloton transferring to the FIBA Europe Cup.
No longer in the Basketball Champions League Play-Off picture, seventh-placed Petrol Olimpija could theoretically leapfrog AEK in the standings for the final transfer ticket, despite their current 4-6 record.
To keep afloat, they would need to win against AEK by at least 19 points this week, before adding another win against Rosa Radom in a week's time and hope Bayreuth defeat AEK on the final gameday of the Regular Season as well.
The leader trio of Besiktas Sompo Japan, Nanterre 92 and CEZ Nymburk are already through to the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs, leaving the other five teams in Group D to divvy up the remaining slots.
The only remaining place to the next round of the competition stands in the spotlight as the jackpot, with two more teams set to claim consolation prizes and move into the FIBA Europe Cup.
Stelmet Enea Zielona Gora, Sidigas Avellino and Oostende lead the pack of contenders with 5-7 records, but the order is threatened by Telekom Baskets and Aris, who are both lurking just one game behind at 4-8.
In the current setup, Zielona Gora are in a favorable three-way tie with Avellino and Oostende, as they hold head-to-head tie-breakers against both teams, but it would be far too premature to draw any major conclusions.
The Polish champions have a tough schedule on their hands with games against Nanterre and Nymburk remaining, as well as a negative point differential against both Telekom Baskets and Aris, were those teams to catch up in the win tally.
Avellino are well-positioned to make an upward move, as they have won both of their games agianst Oostende and have an arguably easier schedule, playing against the bottom-ranked teams, while Oostende are yet to face Nymburk in addition to Aris.
Despite being a game behind, Telekom Baskets and Aris should be considered legit challengers to the teams directly above them, especially as they will get a chance to close the gap in head-to-head match-ups. Aris will play Avellino and Oostende, with Bonn's schedule also featuring Avellino in addition to a tough road test against Besiktas.