Fenerbahce Ulker aims to earn a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs when it hosts Tau Ceramica in the Top 16, Group E finale on Wednesday at the Ibdi Ipekci Sports Hall in Istanbul. While Tau, the only remaining undefeated team in the Top 16, has already clinched first place in the group and with it home-court advantage in the best-of-three playoffs, Fener is in a dogfight with two other teams, Lietuvos Rytas and Aris TT Bank for the remaining quarterfinal ticket. The Turkish champs’ destiny is in its own hands, since a win will send head coach Bogdan Tanjevic’s troops through. However if Fener, which is only 4-5 at home this season, loses, then it will turn to the simultaneous game between L. Rytas and Aris and pray that Aris wins by between 6 and 30 points to finish second by virtue of a three-way tiebreaker. If L. Rytas win, or Aris wins by fewer than 6 or more than 30 points, Fener drops to third and will not move on. Tau cruised to an easy win in its highest scoring game of the season when it last faced Fenerbahce last month, 103-84 in Vitoria, Spain. Pablo Prigioni dished 7 assists as Tau had seven scorers in double figures that night. Tau has battled injuries throughout the Top 16, but head coach Neven Spahija should have a full squad for this encounter. Meanwhile Fener has dropped a pair of close games in back-to-back weeks. One of the team’s strengths has been its bench, with Tarence Kinsey emerging as a strong scoring threat and Omer Asik developing into a force in the paint on both ends of the floor. Still Willie Solomon remains Fener’s on-court leader and main offensive weapon. Solomon, Kinsey and Omer Onan will duel Prigioni, Igor Rakocevic and Zoran Planinic in a competitive backcourt matchup, while the hosts will send Ogus Savas, Asik, Gasper Vidmar and the rest of the team’s interior rotation against the likes of Tiago Splitter, Will McDonald and Mirza Teletovic. One of the secrets to Tau’s success is hat while leading the Top 16 in scoring with 90.2 points per game, it has committed the second fewest turnovers in the competition. The spirited hosts will try to change that as much as possible. There are reasons to consider both teams as favorites: Tau has the experience, scoring prowess and will want to remain undefeated in the Top 16, while Fener has its back to the wall, and brings youth and depth that could work together in a critical game. The expectations are that this game will go to the wire with no result being a surprise at this point.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008