The Euroleague qualifying round begins today with game one of seven different two-game series. You know what? Euroleague.net has already put it so eloquently, so I’ll just let them enlighten you:
The 2010-11 season is around the corner! The first dates this season belong to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds, which begin Tuesday, September 21 with seven games spread across the continent from Israel to Holland. A total of 15 teams from 12 countries will battle to advance through three rounds ending on Friday, October 8 with two teams to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season. For those two teams, one thing is sure: it will not be an easy road to reach Europe’s elite competition! For the other 13 teams that don’t make the Euroleague, a spot in the Eurocup is guaranteed instead.
There you have it. The Euroleague is back, which means the Adventures aren’t far behind:
Qualifying Round A
Alba Berlin vs. Chorale Roanne
Roanne Coach Jean-Denys Choulet has a choice: who should KC Rivers guard? Option A: You put him on Immanuel McElroy and shut down Alba’s old reliable option, thus releasing Julius Jenkins into the wild. Option B: You lock up Jenkins and let McElroy accumulate the buckets. Option C: Give Alba a zone look and let Lucca Steiger and Marko Marinovic fill it up from deep. Unfortunately, I think you just turn Rivers loose on offense and play the uptempo style Roanne prefers. If Berlin goes cold for a couple of nights then the French side may be in luck. I don’t think that will happen twice. Alba Berlin.
KK Hemofarm vs. Hapoel Galil
This Hapoel Galil team is far different than the one that stunned Maccabi Electra to win the Israeli League least season; only three players remain and last year’s assistant Lior Lubin has been promoted to Head Coach. Hemofarm has the Eurocup’s Rising Star Milan Macvan down low and he’ll be tough to handle, but Hapoel’s Leo Lyons shouldn’t be taken lightly either. In this mini series, the edge goes to the team with the more dynamic guards, Gal Mekel and Jack McClinton. Hapoel Galil.
Unics Kazan vs. Gasterra Flames
The Dutch have not yet emerged as a major force in European basketball, but getting their feet wet for the first time since 1983 (they did not make it past the qualifiers) is a good look. Matt Haryasz is thought to be a decent player down low, but any skills he felt like showing—which I can say are sparse to begin with—will be squelched by Maciej Lampe and former Partizan-er Slavko Vranes. Not to be underestimated, Marko Popovic will be flinging them in from deep alongside Kelly McCarty, creating a backcourt whose offense should rarely slump. I hate to say this, but this will be a walk. Unics Kazan.
CEZ Nymburk vs. Spirou Basket
A couple of seasons ago I compiled a list of college players that could fare well in Europe. It was a short list, maybe ten or eleven guys, but Providence’s Weyinmi Ejejuku was one of the first two names I wrote down. The other: Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt. Josh stayed off the ‘shrooms long enough to parlay a season with the Turkish team Oyak Renault into an impressive deal with Lottomatica Roma. Weyinmi, meanwhile, won the MVP, scoring title, and a Latvian League championship with Barons. Now Efejuku’s with Nymburk and his boys are going up against a very high-powered, Americanized attack typical of Belgian basketball. Six Americans live on Spirou’s roster including guards Justin Hamilton, Demond Mallet and Chris Hill, whose 6.5 points per game last season with Spirou were his lowest since his senior year at Michigan State in 2004-05. Weyinmi’s helped out by Brandon Roy’s former Washington Huskie backcourt bud, Tre Simmons and big man Petr Benda down low. In this match-up of national champions (Nymburk also won the Czech League), I like the teams to split the two games. I still don’t like the rule—let the point spread decide where the third game is held, already. This isn’t soccer.—but it will come down to point spread, and I’m Weyinmi options…CEZ Nymburk.
Alba Berlin over Hapoel Galil, CEZ Nymburk over Unics Kazan.
QRA Winner and Euroleague Participant: Alba Berlin over CEZ Nymburk.
Qualifying Round B
Asvel Basket vs. KK Budocnost
If KK Budocnost wants to win this thing, they’ll need to be tougher, grittier and more team-oriented than Asvel. If they try to outscore or outrun the Frenchmen, the end result will not be pretty. With Davon Jefferson and my personal FIBA favorite, Puerto Rican AD Vassallo scoring inside and out, Asvel should have plenty of weaponry to give any team a run for its money. The team’s most versatile ammo, however, is still French Finals MVP Mickael Gelabale. When he wants to be, he’s one of Europe’s best perimeter defenders and when his shots are falling then he’s one of the tougher covers in France. If 21-year-old prospects Edwin Jackson (guard) and Bangaly Fofana (center) take even small steps in this one, Asvel will have the stronger, deeper roster out there. Since two games isn’t enough to figure out how to play with one another, I’ll have to lean on talent. Asvel Basket.
Le Mans vs. Banvit BK
A couple of weeks ago, Banvit point man Baris Ermis was enjoying Turkey’s ride to the FIBA finals. From the bench. Now the 25-year-old has a chance to unleash all of that bottled up energy as Banvit tries to become the third Turkish Euroleague team in 2010, joining Fenerbahçe Ülker and Efes Pilsen. First, he needs to get his boys past Le Mans’ bigs J.P. Batista and Alain Koffi. Baris won’t be able to do much about them, but returning bigs Lance Williams and Chuck Davis sure as hell will, and they’ve added a little bit of youth with 24-year-old center Vladimir Golubovic who spent last year with Union Olimpija. Like almost all of these opening series, this one could could go either way, especially with the palpable love of basketball that’s swept over Turkey, if only temporarily. I say prideful momentum gets them over the top. Banvit BK.
BC Khimki vs. Pepsi Caserta
Pepsi Caserta has not made it to the Euroleague since 1992, and it will be extremely difficult to get back this year. It was huge for Caserta to bring back Georgia’s own Jumaine Jones for more after he put up 14 and 8 last year with the club. Ebi Ere was another great re-sign, as he’ll be expected to lead a faster offense than Khimki’s balanced attack. But if you wanted to estimate this Moscow side based on last year’s results, you’d be spinning you wheels. No Javtokas, Mozgov, Jankunas inside; Kelly McCarty’s moved on to Unics. Sergio Scariolo has brought on seven new players including guard Zoran Planinic, forward Sergey Monya and big man Benjamin Eze from Montepaschi Siena. With Raul Lopez steadying the attack and another newcomer Thomas Kelati hitting open shots, Khimki should be as versatile as they’d like. Not only do I think this Khimki team will emerge out of this bracket, I think they have enough talent to win a few games in Group A and possibly qualify for the Top 16 for a second straight season. BC Khimki.
Budivelnyk vs. Nobody
No word yet as to whether Budivelnyk officials diverted Maroussi’s registration documents to ensure advancement. I can say somehwat confidently: Budivelnyk.
Asvel Basket over Banvit, BC Khimki over Budivelnyk.
QRB Winner and Euroleague Participant: BC Khimki over Asvel Basket.
Let the games begin.