Two teams in near-opposite situations, Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce Ulker, meet for their last Group C game in the Russian capital on Wednesday at 19:45 CET. CSKA (12-1) has won Group C, will be a top-seeded team in the Top 16 Draw and can assure itself the best regular-season record of any team by extending its 10-game Euroleague winning streak with another victory. Meanwhile, Fenerbahce (5-8) is hoping that a victory can help it finish as high as sixth place, and from there, a few other fortunate results could even land it in the Top 16. Besides beating CSKA in Moscow, Fenerbahce would also need Benetton (7-6), Pau-Orthez (6-7) and Aris TT Bank (6-7) to win their respective games in Group C, plus Partizan to win in Group B. If all that happens, Fenerbahce would have ashot at the best sixth-place standing and the last Top 16 berth. But first it has to stop CSKA, which is expected to have David Vanterpool (7.3 ppg.) on court after he missed a couple games, although Matjaz Smodis (12.9 ppg., 43.9% 3FG) will remain sidelined. With Vanterpool back in action, star playmaker Theodoros Papaloukas (10.2 ppg., 5.2 apg.) will likely return to his usual sixth-man role. Papaloukas has started in the last couple of CSKA games after coming off the bench in 89 consecutive Euroleague games. Papaloukas leads a star-flooded backcourt featuring Trajan Langdon (12.5 ppg.), J.R. Holden (9.9 ppg.) and Vanterpool, with Anton Ponkrashov (3.4 ppg.) and Zakhar Pashutin (44.4% 3FG) providing help off the bench. Langdon will test his shooting skills against Ibrahim Kutluay (12.4 ppg.) and Damir Mrsic (10.8 ppg., 43% 3FG), while Holden and Papaloukas will have to slow Will Solomon (13.3 ppg., 3.8 apg.), who is in top form lately. Solomon missed the previous Fenerbahce game against CSKA, so it will be the first time it faces this team since losing the 2006 Euroleague final playing for Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. Eddie Basdem (6.6 ppg.) and Omer Onan (4.9 ppg.) are ready to help Fenerbahce in many ways. Without Smodis on court, David Andersen (10.5 ppg., 60% 3FG) will see the most minutes near the baskets along with Aleksey Savrasenko (7.8 ppg., 67.8% 2FG) and Thomas Van den Spiegel (4.4 ppg.), with Nikita Kourbanov (2.2 ppg.) providing some help as backup power forward. Savrasenko and Van den Spiegel will have the tough mission to slow Kaspars Kambala (15.8 ppg., 60.8% 2FG) and Mirsad Turkcan (8.3 ppg., 8.9 rpg.), while Andersen will try to use his soft touch and quickness against Ira Clark (3.6 ppg.), Oguz Savas (2.9 ppg.) or Semih Erden (4.6 ppg.). Even when CSKA is the heavy favourite, expect Fenerbahce to work hard to keep at least its mathematical chances of continuing this Euroleague season.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007