|A high-profile showdown between two Euroleague powerhouses will take place in Siena, Italy, where Montepaschi hosts Regal FC Barcelona on Thursday evening. Both teams are tied for first place in Group B with 2-0 records, so the winner in this game will take a major step forwards to become a top-seeded team in the Top 16 Draw. Montepaschi and Regal FCB are also tied for first place in the respective domestic competitions, showing great form, so expect nothing but a stellar game in Siena. Barcelona forward Ersan Ilyasova has become the Euroleague October MVP, after averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game. And the visitors should be at full strength, since Fran Vazquez, who sat out this weekend’s Spanish League game with gastric problems, is expected to play against Montepaschi, offering intensity, shooting range and blocked shots. Former All-Euroleague center David Andersen, defensive ace Jordi Trias and big man Daniel Santiago round a deep, versatile Regal FCB frontcourt. Andersen and Ilyasova will have a tough test against Shaun Stonerook and Benjamin Eze. Meanwhile, Santiago and Vazquez are ready to battle All-Euroleague second team selection Ksistof Lavrinovic, one of the most unguardable players in the competition due to his combination of size, experience, shooting skills and quickness. Stonerook is ready to create mismatches, too, thanks to his high basketball IQ and all-around game. Barcelona is quite deep at point guard, which is important when you face Morris Finley and All-Euroleague playmaker Terrell McIntyre. Victor Sada is a top-level defensive stopper, who should put pressure on McIntyre, while Andre Barrett and combo guard Jaka Lakovic will be ready to pull the trigger from downtown. At the same time, Montepaschi has different combinations at the wing spots, with three elite players in Romain Sato, Rimantas Kaukenas and last year's ULEB Cup MVP Henry Domercant. Kaukenas is set to test his scoring skills against former two-time All-Euroleague guard Juan Carlos Navarro, a superb shooter with creativity and unlimited range. Sato is ready to face a similar player in Lubos Barton, who hopes to bounce back from a slow start of the season. Meanwhile, Roger Grimau has a key matchup against Domercant. Gianluca Basile is just another elite shooter ready to pull the trigger from downtown, giving Barcelona even more options. Montepaschi needs to be its usual self in offense, getting everybody involved with outstanding ball circulation. Barcelona will try to play uptempo and get its froncourt involved. If Vazquez, Ilyasova and Andersen feel comfortable, few teams can look Barcelona in the eyes, but Montepaschi has the home-court advantage and a group of stars used to playing together. Expect nothing but a top game, as Euroleague Basketball rarely gets better than this.
Regal FC Barcelona
- Swingman Henry Domercant recorded the best individual performance of his Euroleague career against Barcelona. In November 2005, Domercant scored 23 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and picked up 3 steals for a 31 index as he led his team at the time, Efes Pilsen, to a 66-63 win.
- Small forward Romain Sato reinforced Barcelona for the 2006 Spanish League playoffs. He was a teammate of four current Barcelona players: Juan Carlos Navarro, Jordi Trias, Gianluca Basile and Roger Grimau. This will be Sato’s first meeting with Barcelona since he left.
- All-Euroleague point guard Terrell McIntyre has a streak of dishing at least 4 assists in his last 12 Euroleague games.
- Montepaschi is ranked second in the league in scoring (86.5 ppg.) and assists (16.5 apg.) through two games.
- Guard Juan Carlos Navarro enters his team’s Week 2 game needing only 1 more three-pointer to reach 250 for his Euroleague Basketball career. He is currently sixth on the all-time list.
- Center Xavi Rey’s first appearance this season will also be his Euroleague Basketball debut.
- Forward Jordi Trias enters his team’s Week 3 game needing just 3 blocked shots to reach 50 for his Euroleague career.
- Center David Andersen played for his team’s Week 3 opponent, Montepaschi Siena, during the 2003-04 season. Andersen helped Montepaschi reach the Euroleague Basketball Final Four in Tel Aviv and win the Italian League title. Andersen has been back to Siena twice since then, winning both times.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008