|A big showdown is set to take place in Group D when Efes Pilsen hosts Partizan Igokea on Thursday at 19:15 CET. Both teams faced each other in last season's Top 16 and Partizan beat Efes twice to advance to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Both teams have fully renovated their rosters and enter the 2008-09 with high expectations. Efes has a new starting playmaker in Milos Vujanic, with young veteran Erden Arslan as his backup. Vujanic already showed that his many injuries belong to the past while Arslan provides creativity and passing skills. Partizan also has a new playmaker in former Efes player Aleksandar Rasic, who will share the point guard duties with Petar Bozic. Streak shooter Uros Tripkovic has not played an official game with Partizan this season, so expect players like Strahinja Milosevic, Cedomir Vitkovac and above all, Milenko Tepic to step up against Efes. At age 21, Tepic has been unstoppable so far this season, but he is facing a good defender like Charles Smith, with long arms and quick legs. Smith leads Efes' battery of elite shooters, also featuring Preston Shumpert and All-Euroleague second team selection Bootsy Thornton, as well as all-around swingman Cenk Akyol. Efes faces severe injury problems, as center Mario Kasun will not be able to play against Partizan. As such, Kaya Peker and Kerem Gonlum will share more minutes at center. Partizan is really deep in the paint, as it features 229cm giant Slavko Vranes and shot blocking machine Stephane Lasme, who will make his Euroleague debut against Efes. One of the key matchups will be at power forward, as veteran Michalis Kakiouzis of Efes faces a similar, younger player in his position, Novica Velickovic of Partizan. Efes needs to play up-tempo and get its shooters involved to beat Partizan. Meanwhile, the guests count on Lasme to intimidate Efes' frontcourt, as well as two Euroleague stars in the making like Velickovic and Tepic. Expect nothing but an exciting game in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday, as both teams will battle for their first Euroleague win of the season.
- At 2.28 meters, center Slavko Vranes is the tallest player on a Euroleague Basketball roster at the start of the season.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008