|It's fair to say that on a rare Tuesday of Euroleague action at the beginning of December, the hopes of two ambitious clubs will be in play when Alba Berlin hosts Fenerbahce Ulker at O2 World for a Group C clash in the German capital. Every fan who makes it to the 2009 Final Four venue on Tuesday will find both teams driven as only Euroleague teams can be at this seemingly early moment in the season. Alba (2-4) is striving for its first-ever Top 16 appearance and needs this win to control its own destiny. Fenerbahce (3-3) a young team riddled by injury this season, knows that a victory in Berlin can virtually punch its ticket to the next round and give the team time to heal. One key to the game could be who is healthy now. Fenerbahce has played the entire season so far without its major signing of the summer, veteran shooter Gordan Giricek, who will fly to Berlin for the game, although his participation will be a last-minute decision. Likewise, Alba has gone the last month without its top scorer, Julius Jenkins, whose chances of playing rest upon an ankle exam on Monday. When these teams first met in Istanbul in late October, Fenerbache won 82-73 behind 25 points from Mirsad Turkcan, while Jenkins had 26 for Alba. Turkcan already has more help, as both center Semih Erden and veteran guard Omer Onan have returned from their injuries, as has veteran center Patrick Femerling for Alba. Even though Turkcan is the Euroleague's top rebounder - this season and all-time - Fenerbahce lost the battle of the boards in that first game against Alba, something that the Berliners will want to remember how to repeat. A dozen three-pointers, including 9 between Turkcan and Damir Kaan Mrsic, were more than enough to account for the difference in that first match, because Alba made only 6. Even though both teams share 33% three-point accuracy this season, Fenerbahce has tried and made almost double the shots from downtown - 57 to 32 - as Alba has so far. Conversely, Fenerbahce gets to the line a lot less but has made almost as many shot there as Alba, whose 65% free-throw rate is third-lowest in the Euroleague. Major matchups to watch are big men Adam Chubb, Femerling and Aleksander Nadjfeji of Berlin facing Turkcan, Erden and Oguz Savas of Fenerbahce. Also, point guards Steffen Hamann and Rashad Wright of Alba will need to contain, Emir Preldzic, Marques Green and Mrsic, who have taken turns hurting teams all season for Fenerbahce. In the middle of the size spectrum, presuming Jenkins does not play, Casey Jacobsen, Ansu Sesay and Immanuel McElroy will have to score points and prevent Fenerbahce's triple-shooters Mrsic and Rasim Basik from doing so. With the great, five-figure crowds that Alba is drawing so far this season to next spring's Final Four venue added to a local Turkish population getting a rare chance to see Fenerbahce, the O2 World will be jumping for sure on Tuesday night for a game that could prove fateful for either team.
- Alba Berlin is undefeated at home this season at the O2 World, host of the 2009 Euroleague Basketball Final Four. Alba is 2-0 in the Euroleague and 5-0 in the German League.
- Forward Ansu Sesay's double-double last week was the second of his Euroleague career and first since November 2006.
- Shooting guard Gordan Giricek could make his Fenerbahce Ulker Euroleague debut this week. Giricek has an active streak of nine straight Euroleague games with at least 20 points scored, which started in January 2002.
- Shooting guard Damir Kaan Mrsic has made at least 1 three-pointer in eight consecutive Euroleague games.
- Power forward Mirsad Turkcan scored 25 points to lead Fener to victory over Berlin earlier this season, That marked the most he has scores in a Euroleague game in over five years.
Sunday, December 07, 2008