26 September, 2016
30 April, 2017
FIBA Europe Cup: Group I preview
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FIBA Europe Cup: Group I preview

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) – After the withdrawal of Igokea, Group I of the FIBA Europe Cup was left with three teams that will battle it out for the available places in the Second Round.

With no big-name teams involved, the situation opens fantastic opportunities for BC Mures (ROU), TLU/Kalev (EST) and Vytautas (LTU) to become one of the ten group winners.  Although the Estonians might be slight underdogs, the group crown is very much up for the taking.

BC Mures hope to continue Barnabas’ wonders

BC Mures could not get over the hump in the Romanian Liga Nationala once again, continuing their recent tradition of finishing second in the domestic championship by doing so yet again for the third time in the past four seasons.

Having changed coaches and promoted a long-time assistant Szaszgaspar Barnabas to a full-time role in April, the club managed to turn the season around despite only finishing fifth in the Regular Season.

Under the new coach, Mures registered upsets in the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final series and were one win away from pulling off one more in the Finals, but eventually lost 3-2 to CSM Oradea.

However, the start of the new season has not been promising for the Tigers, with the side losing their first three games before picking up a 92-83 victory against CS Dinamo Bucharest last weekend.

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Gorin Martinc has been the all-spinning wheel for the Tigers so far, averaging 18.5 points and 7.3 assists per game in the domestic championship, while Alhaji Mohammed, Andrew Barham and Ernests Kalve play important supplementary roles.

First international season for TLU/Kalev

Not to be confused with Estonian champions Kalev/Cramo, TLU/Kalev have quietly been making a name for themselves and will make their international debut in the FIBA Europe Cup this season.

The team from Tallinn finished third in the Estonian KML Regular Season, but couldn’t make the most of the home-court advantage in the third-place series, losing 3-1 against the lower-ranked AVIS Rapla.

They had better luck in the Estonian Cup, where they claimed bronze. It was the first silverware the club added to its trophy case since their last third-place performance in the national cup back in 2009.

Much like their group opponents Mures, Kalle Klandorf’s men have had a tough start in the domestic championship, picking up losses in all three games so far by a combined difference of 12 points.

Khyle Marshall, Jahmal Jones and Josiah Heat, all from the United States, have been carrying the offensive load for TLU/Kalev in the early season.

Small-town Vytautas and big-time ambitions

A small-town club from the Lithuanian countryside with big-time ambitions, Vytautas Prienai-Birstonas is bound to turn some heads in their FIBA Europe Cup debut with an all-Lithuanian roster headed by a charismatic coach Virginijus Seskus.

The coach is very much responsible for turning the minnows from Prienai into a relatively widely recognised basketball destination.

Having finished fourth in the Regular Season last year in the Lithuanian LKL, Vytautas somewhat unexpectedly were eliminated by Juventus Utena in the Quarter-Finals.

Known for a uniquely adventuristic type of basketball since the beginning of time, Vytautas added professionalism, more depth and more defence over the summer and looks significantly different this year.

The Prienai-Birstonas club began the season with a bang, defeating LKL runners-up Neptunas Klaipeda in the first game of the season, but have slowed down since and currently rank sixth with a 3-4 record.

Offensively, their game is centred around former Lithuania international Tomas Delininkaitis, but big men Arturas Valeika, Saulius Kulvietis and Mindaugas Kupsas are also featured heavily by coach Seskus.

The team's guard Tomas Dimsa became a FIBA Europe Cup champion with the Fraport Skyliners last season.