Benetton Treviso will try to qualify for the Top 16 the hard way when it hosts reigning Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow and its own former coach, Ettore Messina, in Treviso, Italy on Wednesday in Group C. Benetton (6-4) will advance to the Top 16 with a victory if both Fenerbahce and Napoli lose. Meanwhile, CSKA (9-1) is already qualified to the next round and seeking to solidify its spot atop the group. Benetton is facing serious injury problems, as combo guard Terrell Lyday and power forward Marcus Goree sat out in an Italian League game this weekend and are questionable for the big showdown against CSKA. Meanwhile, new big man Erazem Lorbek is not eligible to play because he already saw action this regular season with another Euroleague team, Unicaja. Above all, expect a big matchup between two of the best point guards in the league, Nikos Zisis of Benetton (12.5 ppg., 5.1 apg.) and Theodoros Papaloukas of CSKA (9.8 ppg., 4.8 apg.), who rank first and third, respectively, in assists so far this season. They are also teammates on the Greek national team, so know each other well. If Lyday (8.7 ppg.) is finally sidelined, the league leader in three-point shooting, Marco Mordente (11.9 ppg., 67.7% 3FG) will be relied on for extra points. Defensive ace Matteo Soragna and left-handed swingman Bryant Smith also will be expected to take it to the champs. Papaloukas is just the cornerstone of a deep, talented CSKA backcourt featuring J.R. Holden (8.7 ppg.), David Vanterpool (7.8 ppg., 2.9 apg.) and Trajan Langdon (13.1 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), as its main stars, with up-and-coming guard Anton Ponkrashov and veteran shooter Zakhar Pashutin ready to come off the bench. The battle in the paint will be interesting, especially if Goree (14.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) is ready to play. If not, Joey Beard (3 ppg., 3.3 rpg.) will have his hands full under the boards with Aleksey Savrasenko (7.2 ppg., 4.6 rpg.) and Thomas Van den Spiegel, while Spencer Nelson (11.1 ppg., 7 rpg.) will have the tough mission to guard Matjaz Smodis (13.7 ppg., 3.4 rpg.), in a matchup between two of the toughest power forwards to stop in the whole competition. CSKA big man David Andersen (.9 ppg., 5 rpg.) may well be the x-factor for CSKA, while Angelo Gigli (7.2 ppg., 3 rpg.) is ready to show all his talent against the best defense in the competition. Expect a big battle in PalaVerde on Wednesday.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007