History could be written in Group C this Wednesday when Aris TT Bank welcomes CSKA Moscowat 20:00 CET. Despite being two historical teams in European basketball, the reigning Euroleague champions from CSKA (7-1) make just the club's second visit ever to Thessaloniki, having lost there on the first visit, in 1988. In fact, CSKA had its first win ever against Aris last month, 83-68 in Moscow, in their first regular season meeting. Aris (4-4) is unbeaten at home this season and got its first road win against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul last week. Meanwhile, CSKA is currently on a five-game winning streak and is tied for first place in Group C. Both teams have their full rosters available, as a sellout crowd in Alexandreio will try to push Aris beyond its own limits. The CSKA player least likely to be affected by the great atmosphere created by the Aris fans might be all-Euroleague first-team selection Theodoros Papaloukas (10.8 ppg., 72.7% 2FG, 4.9 apg.), an icon in his native Greece. Papaloukas is the biggest star in an elite backcourt featuring do-it-all swingman David Vanterpool (7.5 ppg., 2.8 apg., 1.8 spg.), scoring machine Trajan Langdon (13.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg.), combo guard J.R. Holden (8.4 ppg.) and up-and-coming youngster Anton Ponkrashov (4.2 ppg., 71.4% 2FG). Vanterpool will test his defensive skills against Alex Scales (14.9 ppg.), who has scored in double digits in each Euroleague game this season. Meanwhile, Langdon is ready to go against defensive ace Giorgos Sigalas (2.6 rpg.), while Papaloukas and Holden will face Terrell Castle (9.4 ppg., 2.3 spg.) and Giorgos Kalaitzis. Slasher Savvas Iliadis (7.2 ppg.) and shooting specialist Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (6.4 ppg.) are ready to change the game for Aris, while Zakhar Pashutin and Nikita Kourbanov will be ready to help off the CSKA bench. One of the keys in this game could be Mike Wilkinson (13.4 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), who has been unstoppable lately, averaging 24.5 points on 16 of 22 two-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws in the last couple of games. He can take the outside shot against Aleksey Savrasenko (6.4 ppg.) or Tomas Van den Spiegel (3.3 ppg.), as well as giving Matjaz Smodis (14.6 ppg., 53.6% 3FG) trouble in the low post, so David Andersen (11 ppg., 5.5 rpg.) might see extended playing time to slow him down. His complement has been Jeremiah Massey (13 ppg., 8.5 rpg.), who provides mid-range jumpers and second-hand baskets along the way. Massey will have the tough mission to guard Smodis, who led CSKA in scoring in the last two games and is a matchup nightmare for many teams. Meanwhile, Wilkinson and Giannis Giannoulis, who is recently recovered from injury, will have to deal with Andersen, who added the three-point shot - 7 of 9 this season - to his arsenal of weapons on offense. As usual, CSKA is the favorite in this game, but with its fans packing Alexandreio, the sky is the limit for Aris.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006