Regular Season Round 8: The next wave?
With six teams having claimed spots in the Top 16 until now, many of the remaining 10 open qualifications are up for grabs in Round 8. Six more teams have mathematical chances to push through to the next phase: Khimki Moscow Region in Group A, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and either Cedevita Zagreb or Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Group B, Zalgiris Kaunas and Panathinaikos Athens in Group C, plus Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul in Group D. The drama starts with an early Wednesday game, continues with a six-pack on Thursday and closes with five showdowns Friday.
On Thursday, in attempts to climb out of last place, defending champion Real Madrid (2-5) hosts Fenerbahce Istanbul (6-1), the already-qualified group leader. Madrid's league-worst defense gives up 86.1 points per game, while Fenerbahce holds opponents to 26.5% three-point shooting, third-best in the competition. A victory would assure Madrid a share of fifth and possibly fourth place, while a Fenerbahce win could clinch first, depending on Friday's results. In the first of those Friday games, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (3-4) welcomes Khimki Moscow Region (4-3) as the visitors can put one or both feet in the Top 16 if they win. A little later, perfect-at-home Strasbourg (3-4) gets a visit from FC Bayern Munich (3-4) to break their share of a third-place tie. With its own victory and one by Strasbourg, Khimki qualifies directly to the Top 16. If Bayern wins, Khimki merely must avoid losing by 52 or more points to Strasbourg the following week.
A full slate of three Thursday games could decide much of the fate of Group B. In the evening's first matchup, Cedevita Zagreb (4-3) and Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3-4) face off in the Croatian capital knowing that either could advance. Cedevita needs only to win to make that happen. Efes needs to win and see the group's other two results go its way. The second game is Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (4-3) vs. Limoges CSP (2-5), with the hosts also having a chance to advance with a victory, but only if already-advanced group leader Olympiacos Piraeus (6-1) can stop visiting EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (2-5), too. With its own victory, Efes can advance if both Limoges and Milan were to lose. In any case, two more qualifiers are possible on Thursday, which would leave just one more spot to be decided in the group. Additionally, the combination of an Olympiacos victory and a Laboral home loss would make the Reds group champions.
The early game on Wednesday that opens Round 8 could go a long way to deciding this group. Zalgiris Kaunas (3-4) hosts Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (2-5) knowing that a victory could put it through to the Top 16. In fact, that would be the case unless there's a big upset in Friday's early game, already-qualified group co-leader Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (6-1) versus visiting Stelmet Zielona Gora (1-6). Or Zalgiris would go through with a win if Panathinaikos Athens (3-4) were to subsequently defeat already-qualified FC Barcelona Lassa (6-1) in Friday's second game. In that case, the Greens would punch their Top 16 ticket, too, but only if Zielona Gora were also to lose. Should Karsiyaka win at Zalgiris, however, it would prevent any new qualifiers in the group this week.
With three teams already through to the Top 16, this group holds the least mystery in Round 8. In Thursday's first of two games, it's already-eliminated Dinamo Sassari (0-7) vs. Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1-6), and the visitors must win or risk being eliminated earlier than in an season this century. Later on Thursday, first place is in play between two teams that already advanced, Brose Baskets Bamberg (5-2) and visiting CSKA Moscow (6-1) in the Game of the Week. Brose would need to win by 7 points to pass CSKA in a tiebreak. All the group must wait until Friday's game, Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (3-4) vs. Unicaja Malaga (6-1), to know everything. If Maccabi loses and then Darussafaka wins, Darussafaka takes the last qualifying spot. If Darussafaka loses or Maccabi wins, the spot stays open for at least one more week.
Make sure to follow the drama on Euroleague.TV, Euroleague Mobile and Euroleague.net all week long!