Group A champion Tau Ceramica hopes to finish on a high note when it hosts Le Mans in Vitoria, Spain on Thursday for a game that is not entirely without potential repurcussions. Tau (11-2) will be a top-seeded team in Top 16 Draw along with group champions Panathinaikos and CSKA, as well as the second-best ranked team. Meanwhile, Le Mans (4-9) has no chance to advance to the Top 16, but with a win in Vitoria would allow Prokom Trefl Sopot to make it to the Top 16 no matter what. With Zoran Planinic (11 ppg., 4.7 apg.) sidelined, Pablo Prigioni (7.8 ppg., 5.3 apg.) is the only pure playmaker available for Tau coach Velimir Perasovic, as Ender Arslan cannot play Euroleague games with the Spanish powerhouse until the start of the Top 16. As such, Igor Rakocevic (16.5 ppg., 44% 3FG) and Fred House (6.2 ppg., 2.5 spg.) will help Prigioni with point guard duties against the three reliable playmakers of Le Mans: Tyson Wheeler (6.4 ppg., 3.8 apg.), Pape Philippe Amagou (3.7 ppg.) and Yannick Bokolo (4.8 ppg., 3.3 apg.). Rakocevic will join forces with Serkan Erdogan (11.8 ppg., 44.1% 3FG) and House to provide fire power against Nebojsa Bogavac (8.3 ppg., 47.2% 3FG) and Nicolas Batum (3.8 ppg.), but if there is a player who could give the hosts trouble is Kenny Gregory (15.4 ppg., 52.2% 3FG, 5.3 rpg.), a mismatch for almost every Euroleague team due to his quickness and athleticism. He has his perfect complement in Eric Campbell (13.8 ppg., 68.1% 2FG, 7.4 rpg.), an aggressive power forward who works on the offensive boards to find second-chance baskets. Campbell will not have it easy against Luis Scola (16.5 ppg., 5.6 rpg.), simply one of the best power forwards on the planet. Scola has plenty of help around, too, with centers Tiago Splitter (9 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) and Kaya Peker (5.4 ppg.), as well as mobile power forward Mirza Teletovic (5.2 ppg.). Meanwhile, Campbell starts alongside defensive ace Alain Koffi (4.8 ppg.), who will be ready to face Splitter. Sandro Nicevic (12.6 ppg., 90.6% FT) will come off the bench to provide experience, low-post moves and short jumpers. Even when Tau is the favorite in this game, Le Mans will try to give his best to finish its first-ever Euroleague season with a prestigious road win.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007