Could the opportunity for a second French team to join Cholet Basket in 2010-11 Euroleague play be over after tonight? The three squads from La Republique – Chorale Roanne, Asvel Basket, and Le Mans Sarthe – are all likely facing elimination tonight (though Roanne could manage to keep Alba Berlin close and thus back in the second round of play) in yet another blow to France’s professional basketball scene.
In fact, this competition is quite noteworthy already, as Western European sides will already be moribund by the next round and could be eliminated altogether by the quarterfinals. With big CEZ Nymburk win against Spirou Basket tonight plus all other favorites winning, only the winner of Chorale Roanne/Alba Berlin would remain to represent the West among a fascinating final eight also comprised of Unics Kazan, BC Khimki, KK Hemofarm, Buducnost, Budivelnyk and Banvit BC.
Running below, BiE presents some news briefs, links, factoids and video on the games tonight.
Unics Kazan vs. GasTerra Flames. Unics won the first Qualifying Round matchup with the Dutch side thanks to a slowed-down third quarter in which Kazan outscored the Flames, 22-10, to provide the margin of defeat in the 84-72 victory. For this game, Flames center John Turek will play after recovering from an ankle injury; good for them, as coach Marco van den Berg says “We need a whole game full of attacking play to have a chance.” SportingBet handicap: Unics Kazan, minus-17.
BC Khimki Moscow region vs. Pepsi Caserta. In adding insult to injury, an appeal to review the score of Caserta’s 77-74 loss to BC Khimki has been turned down. Caserta officials had appealed a disputed point in the game (see video below; check out how Khimki is awarded a point after a missed free throw) which, thanks to Keith Langford’s buzzer beater, is now officially a three-point win for the Russians. The Bianconeri are reasonably confident going into tonight’s game and are bringing a 100-fan contingent led by Caserta mayor Nicodemo Petteruti. Handicap: Khimki, minus-10.
CEZ Nymburk vs. Spirou Basket. Nymburk can become the first team from the Czech Republic to reach the Euroleague regular season since 1995, but they’ve got quite a hole to dig themselves out of after a loud Belgian homecrowd shouted them out of the building in a 79-68 Spirou win. (And Brian Lynch, a.k.a. Mr. Kim Clijsters, approved.) Handicap: Nymburk, minus-5.
KK Hemofarm Vrsac vs. Galil/Gilboa. One of Europe’s surprise champions in 2009-10, Galil-Gilboa figures to quickly see their Euroleague dreams erased after Milan Macvan’s one-man destruction of the Maccabi slayers in game one. “The one-sidedness of [the 97-84 Hemofarm win],” proclaimed the “Haaretz Sports Staff,” “illustrated the enormous gap in talent that separates Gilboa/Galil – which never has reached the Euroleague group stage – and Europe’s best.” Sheesh, who do you think they’ve got in this one? Handicap: Hemofarm, minus-10.
Alba Berlin vs. Chorale Roanne. Nine thousand tickets had been sold to this game before opening hours this morning; Alba Berlin can surely use all the help they can get after allowing the French side to shoot an incredible 53.6% overall in the team’s first meeting, including an insane 60.6% (20-of-33) from inside the (new) arc – and all that without Dylan Page. Handicap: Alba Berlin, minus-8.
Asvel Basket vs. Buducnost. After what might be a demoralizing 69-64 loss by his youthful team to the clearly more ready Buducnost, France-based Le Figaro was moved to call Asvel’s chances “Pas insurmontable”. But coach Vincent Collet points out that his side limited the Romanians to just 50 points in the last 36 minutes – it was just that 19-point barrage by Buducnost to start the game that was the killer… Handicap: No line offered.
Le Mans vs. Banvit BC. Banvit will have Keith Simmons and Barış Özcan returning for this game and the injury that Antonio Graves suffered in Tuesday’s game wasn’t serious, so he’ll also be back. French media is getting an early start on its winter of discontent, and they may have plenty of fuel after tonight: After all, “Les tribulations des clubs français en coupe d’europe” could be over quickly with three well-imaginable losses. Handicap: Le Mans, minus-8.
Tonight’s Euroleague Qualifying Round games tip off at 5pm CET (11am EST) with GasTerra Flames at Unics Kazan and BC Khimki hosting Pepsi Caserta.