Regular Season, Round 13: Most Top 16 riddles solved early
The penultimate week of the Euroleague regular season proved more decisive than seemed possible at first. Two of the last three open Top 16 berths are now spoken for, and only a miracle could keep the remaining one out of a third team's hands. All three of those teams - Fenerbahce Ulker, Lottomatica Roma and Partizan Igokea - were from the same Group C. They may still trade places with in the standings - as can teams in other groups - so Week 14 games will still offer drama. But the questions concerning survival were essentially dealt with in Week 13. The lynch-pin in the process was, in fact, a Group B result in which previously winless Le Mans beat Cibona 100-87. With Cibona unable to reach six victories, any team with that amount - Fenerbahce and Roma - automatically advanced. Fenerbahce didn't need to win again, but Roma upset host Barcelona 75-77 on near-perfect shooting by David Hawkins to assure its sixth victory and a place in the Top 16. The final Top 16 berth - which goes to the best sixth-place team across all three groups - has a part-owner already, too, after Partizan demolished Bamberg 85-37 in Belgrade, holding the visitors to second-lowest scoring total all decade. The victory and 48-point difference mean that the sixth-place teams in the other groups, Union Olimpija and Cibona, need to win next week while Partizan loses and the combined margin of those results to be a minimum of 93 points: not likely. Partizan could move up as high as fourth place, too, if it defeats Fenerbahce away. Meanwhile, first place in two groups were clinched by last year's finalists: CSKA defeated visiting Tau 70-62 to win Group A while Panathinaikos downed Fenerbahce 88-68 to clinch Group C's top spot. In Group B, Lietuvos Rytas won 71-63 over Unicaja to break their part of a first-place tie, while Maccabi rolled Milano 96-71 to stay now as co-leader. L. Rytas would finish first in a tie with Maccabi, however, so can assure that with a road win at Cibona next week. Meanwhile, the Top 16 Draw was announced for February 4 in Madrid, where the season will end at the Final Four May 2 to 4.