7 Fisnik Rugova (PRIS), 8 Jason Dourisseau (DONA)
15/10/2018
Preview
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The grand FIBA Europe Cup Regular Season preview

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) – There are 32 teams lining up for the Regular Season of yet another edition of the FIBA Europe Cup. Some of them qualified directly, some conquered two Qualification Rounds to be here and even more switched lanes from the Basketball Champions League.

As the Group Phase begins, all of them — big clubs and small — will have ambitions of making it to the Second Round. However, with room for only half of them, only the strongest teams will prevail.

Group A

  • s.Oliver Wurzburg (GER) – 9th place in the German Basketball Bundesliga
  • ZZ Leiden (NED) – Runners-up of the Dutch Basketball League
  • CSM CSU Oradea (ROU) – Champions of the Romanian Liga Nationala
  • Sakarya BSB (TUR) – 8th place in the Turkish Basketball Super League

There are many familiar names in Group A, but none of them competed in the Regular Season last year. In their own unique ways, three of them — CSM CSU Oradea, s.Oliver Wurzburg and ZZ Leiden — were already in the FIBA Europe Cup orbit, having either played in seasons past, fallen short in the Qualifiers or even, in the case of Oradea, both. Making their international debut, Sakarya are the only true newcomers to the competition, who will have to learn on the fly in order to overcome their lack of international experience.

Frontrunners: Sakarya BSB and s.Oliver Wurzburg
Star: Toney Douglas (Sakarya BSB)
Top Prospect: Badu Buck (s.Oliver Wurzburg)

Group B

  • Petrolina AEK (CYP) – Champions of the Cyprus Basketball Division A
  • Tsmoki-Minsk (BLR) – Champions of the Belarusian Premier League
  • Balkan BC (BUL) – Runners-up of the Bulgarian National Basketball League
  • Belfius Mons-Hainaut (BEL) – 5th place in the Belgian Basketball League

All four teams in Group B are well acquainted with the FIBA Europe Cup and all four took part in the competition last season as well. The perennial Belarusian champions Tsmoki-Minsk were able to get the farthest, reaching the Round of 16 before bowing out to Sidigas Scandone Avellino. Belfius Mons-Hainaut got to the Second Round; Balkan made it out of the Qualifiers to earn a Regular Season berth, while Petrolina AEK were eliminated already in Qualification Round 1.

Frontrunners: Tsmoki-Minsk and Belfius Mons-Hainaut
Star: Darrin Govens (Tsmoki-Minsk)
Top Prospect: Joel Ekamba-Ey'oombe (Belfius Mons-Hainaut)

Group C

  • Istanbul BBSK (TUR) – 11th place in the Turkish Basketball Super League
  • Pinar Karsiyaka (TUR) – 10th place in the Turkish Basketball Super League
  • Spirou Basket (BEL) – 3rd place in the Belgian Basketball League
  • Donar Groningen (NED) – Champions of the Dutch Basketball League

No one else in the Regular Season can claim the Group of Death title, as it quite clearly belongs to the talent-packed Group C that will undoubtedly leave someone disappointed. The free-for-all will feature last year's FIBA Europe Cup Semi-Finalists Donar Groningen, a much-improved Spirou Basket side and two traditionally strong Turkish teams – Istanbul BBSK and competition newcomers Pinar Karsiyaka, who played in the Basketball Champions League Quarter-Finals last season.

Frontrunners: Istanbul BBSK and Pinar Karsiyaka
Star: Semih Erden (Istanbul BBSK)
Top Prospects: Yordan Minchev (Istanbul BBSK) and Rienk Mast (Donar Groningen)

Group D

Everything is on the cards in Group D, with Avdoror Saratov being the only returning team from the 2017-18 campaign. Technically speaking, Pardubice also competed in the Qualifiers last year but were bounced by Spirou Basket in Qualification Round 2. This year, both of the teams transferred directly into the Regular Season from the Basketball Champions League. Meanwhile, two competition newcomers, Ironi Ness Ziona and New Heroes Den Bosch, qualified via the FIBA Europe Cup Qualifiers.

Frontrunners: Avtodor Saratov and Ironi Ness Ziona
Star: Daequan Cook (Ironi Ness Ziona)
Top Prospect: Nikita Mikhailovskii (Avtodor Saratov)

Group E

Many teams around the FIBA Europe Cup will be trying to replicate the success Bakken Bears had in the competition last season, when they surprised everyone by reaching the Semi-Finals. Their historic run didn't only put them on the map, but placed a target on their back in Group E. Out to get them, are the always ambitious Z Mobile Prishtina, a new-look Steaua Bucuresti and a Cherkaski Mavpy side that turned heads with stellar play in the Qualifiers.

Frontrunners: Bakken Bears and Z Mobile Prishtina
Star: Dardan Berisha (Z Mobile Prishtina)
Top Prospect: Dmytro Skapintsev (Cherkaski Mavpy)

Group F

  • Pallacanestro Varese (ITA) – 6th place in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A
  • FC Porto (POR) – Runners-up of the Portuguese Basketball League
  • Alba Fehervar (HUN) – 3rd place in the Hungarian National Division I/A
  • Rilski Sportist (BUL) – 3rd place in the Bulgarian National Basketball League

Once runners-up of the inaugural FIBA Europe Cup season, Pallacanestro Varese will be one of the main attractions of the Regular Season. They return to the competition after a two-year absence, joining the likes of Alba Fehervar, FC Porto and Rilski Sportist in Group F. The Hungarians from Szekesfehervar have had the most success in the competition out of the remaining trio, reaching the Round of 16 last season. Neither FC Porto, nor Rilski Sportist have ever made it out of the Group Phase despite multiple FIBA Europe Cup seasons under their belt.

Frontrunners: Pallacanestro Varese and Alba Fehervar
Star: Aleksa Avramovic (Pallacanestro Varese)
Top Prospect: Francisco Amarante (FC Porto)

Group G

  • Levski Lukoil (BUL) – Champions of the Bulgarian National Basketball League
  • BC Dnipro (UKR) – Runners-up of the Ukrainian Basketball Super League
  • Kataja Basket (FIN) – 6th place in the Finnish Korisliiga
  • Aris (GRE) – 9th place in the Greek Basketball League

Kataja Basket are the only longstanding FIBA Europe Cup club in Group G, but the three incoming sides — Aris, Levski Lukoil and BC Dnipro — bring with them a nice mix of on-court quality and rich history. In particular, Aris have won three European competitions: the Saporta Cup, the Korac Cup and, most recently, the EuroCup Challenge. Alongside Levski Lukoil, they transferred from the Basketball Champions League Qualifiers, while the Oleksandr Mishula-led Dnipro qualified after passing both rounds of the FIBA Europe Cup Qualifiers.

Frontrunners: Aris and Levski Lukoil
Stars: Deyan and Kaloyan Ivanov (Levski Lukoil)
Top Prospects: Vassilis Christidis (Aris), Ilia Niemtsu (BC Dnipro), Krastan Krastanov (Levski Lukoil)

Group H

  • Leicester Riders (GBR) – Champions of the British Basketball League
  • Szolnoki Olaj (HUN) – Champions of the Hungarian National Division I/A
  • Dinamo Sassari (ITA) – 10th place in the Italian Lega Basket Serie A
  • Falco Vulcano (HUN) – Runners-up of the Hungarian National Division I/A

Not much has changed in Group H from last year, with the draw incredibly placing two Hungarian rivals Szolnoki Olaj and Falco Vulcano together in the same exact group for the second year in a row. Although the sides split the two contests, it was Szolnoki Olaj who advanced to the Second Round. The two new clubs, Dinamo Sassari and Leicester Riders, arrive with varying levels of international experience. A regular on the European stage, Dinamo Sassari played in the FIBA Europe Cup Play-Offs after transferring from the Basketball Champions League last year, while Leicester Riders have not played internationally for over 25 years.

Frontrunners: Dinamo Sassari and Szolnoki Olaj
Star: David Vojvoda (Szolnoki Olaj)
Top Prospects: Ousmane Diop (Dinamo Sassari) and Csaba Kucsora (Falco Vulcano)

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