Qualification Round 2: Last tickets up for grabs
MIES (Switzerland) - The moment of truth has arrived for the 16 teams, representing 15 different countries, which aspire to earn one of the last available places in the 2019-20 Basketball Champions League Regular Season.
Qualification Round 2 tips off on Thursday evening, when all eight first-leg games take place. The return leg of six of the ties is scheduled for Sunday and the second leg of the remaining two ties takes place on Monday night, when we will finally get to know the composition of all Regular Season groups.
Let’s have a closer look at Thursday’s eight Gameday 1 match-ups in Qualification Round 2.
The Finnish champions went through Belarus powerhouse Tsmoki Minsk in Qualification Round 1, after winning the first leg 93-86 at home and showcasing remarkable discipline in the return leg, which they lost by one point, 68-67.
"In the games against Minsk, it was Karhu that implemented their style of play," Polski Cukier Torun head coach Sebastian Machowski told championsleague.basketball. "[Karhu showed] good ball movement, finding the open shooters, playing to their individual strengths, on defense they were hustling on every possession. As for their weakness, they seem to have a short rotation."
Karhu head coach Janne Koskimies on the other hand is happy for his team to assume the same role that worked wonders for them the first time around:"We were big underdogs against Tsmoki Minsk in the first round, but we fought through and now we are looking to do the same," he told championsleague.basketball
"Looking at [Torun’s] individual players the first things that come to my mind are their experience and their versatility. This team has been clearly built to compete in the Basketball Champions League group stage. They can create different kind of line-ups and they have a size advantage at positions 3-to-5, for sure," coach Koskimies said.
"[Damian] Kulig and [Aaron] Cel played for the Polish national team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, so they [Torun] have had their whole team together for a pretty short period of time. Besides that, it’s hard to find weaknesses in their team," Karhu’s coach added.
Falco had to fight tooth and nail to make it past Oradea in Qualification Round 1
The Hungarian hosts had to work really hard to reach Qualification Round 2, as they took part in the first stage of qualification last week and eliminated CSM CSU Oradea following an overtime clash in the second leg, in Romania.
"Falco is a good team, it’s well-coached," Ventspils head coach Arturs Visockis Rubenis told championsleague.basketball. "We know that at their home court their fans will give them a lot of energy, and that is why we need to play disciplined, team basketball and always remember that it is an 80-minute game."
Coach Visockis Rubenis has only been at the helm of Ventspils since this offseason, but not everything is new at the Baltic club, as they maintain their core of Latvian players and of course their European tradition.
"I respect Ventspils, year after year they participate in European competitions, they know how to play in Europe," Falco head coach Gasper Okorn told championsleague.basketball. "For sure they have a small advantage in this match-up. They have a new coach and a lot of new players, so in this aspect they are in the same situation as we are. Both teams will need more time to be better. I expect two hard games and we will try to prepare well and we will do everything to surprise them.
We are proud that we are in the last qualification stage and that we can compete for a place in one of the groups."
The Ukrainian side displayed several defensive virtues in their Qualification Round 1 tie against Kapfenberg Bulls, holding the Austrian team to 64.5 points scored over the two games. Burgos are in principal an offensive-minded team, but they have less than 48 hours to fly to Kiev and get ready for this game after defeating Fuenlabrada 87-76 in their Spanish Liga Endesa season-opener in Madrid on Tuesday night, behind 16 points from Brazilian international Vitor Benite.
"The main quality of Burgos is experience, they have so many players who have played a lot of international basketball games with national teams, or games in different European competitions and of course in the very powerful ACB league [Liga Endesa]," Kyiv head coach Ainars Bagatskis told championsleague.basketball.
"We don’t have this level of experience, for sure. Also we must say, that the overall class of Burgos as a club, as an organization and of their players is much higher than ours. They beat Valencia a week ago [in a preparation game], that means a lot! Anyway, anything can happen, especially in this case, when we will face each other twice in just three days. We are ready for the big challenge, and we will do our best."
Burgos head coach Joan Peñarroya meanwhile is concerned about the timing of this important challenge.
"I feel a great responsibility because both the club and the city are excited with the prospect of playing in the Basketball Champions League but at the same time I am very cautious, because it’s very early in the season for us and Kyiv had more time to gel together. If this tie was taking place a month later, we would for sure be a more solid team," San Pablo’s coach said.
"Kyiv has three important players which are members of the Ukraine national team, they have four Americans with good individual skills, it’s a team that will for sure make it tough for us."
Keravnos flew high in Denmark to advance to this qualification stage
It’s unlikely any of the other seven teams that came through Qualification Round 1feel more elated right now than the Cypriot champions, who advanced against all odds. Keravnos lost at home to Bakken Bears but three days later they overturned a 9-point deficit on the road, winning 94-69 in Denmark on Friday.
A day later, Lietkabelis were also in action and they prevailed 74-61 at home over CBet Prienai in their Lithianian LKL league season-opener, behind a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds by young center Martynas Sajus.
"Lietkabelis is one of the top four teams in Lithuania, which is an extremely strong basketball nation, and the club is a Basketball Champions League regular, which makes them a top-tier team," said Keravnos head coach Christoforos Livadiotis.
"Lietkabelis is totally different to Bakken Bears, it plays a more disciplined style of basketball. It will be a difficult game for us not only because Lietkabelis is a good team but also because our victory in Denmark must have signaled to them that they have to prepare well for us."
59-84 win over @HeroesDenBosch last night! Way to finish off the preseason!— TELENET GIANTS 🅰️ (@antwerpgiants) September 21, 2019
Thanks Zuiderkempen Diamonds for the hospitality & thanks @luka7doncic for your support last night! Good luck in Dallas 👊 pic.twitter.com/NDTZ86Hvpi
The Swedish hosts eliminated Balkan Botevgrad in Qualification Round 1 and their biggest wish entering the clash with Telenet Giants Antwerp is to… be like Telenet Giants Antwerp. The Belgian club set last season an example not only for the Kings but for all the teams in qualification, as they advanced through all the stages to the Regular Season, the play-offs and made it all the way to the Final Four.
"[To be here] is amazing for us, we are a small club from Sweden and this is an amazing competition to be a part of," said Kings head coach Ludwig Degernas. "We are fighting with the best, that’s a great opportunity and feeling. Antwerp is a very good team, they played in the Final Four last year. We know they have a big budget with many quality players, but it’s two games."
The Giants have undergone quite a few changes since last May’s Basketball Champions League Final Four, both on the roster and on the sidelines, where former Belgian international Christophe Beghin took the reins as the new head coach.
"We should not underestimate Sodertalje Kings in their own gym," coach Beghin told championsleague.basketball."They proved against Balkan that they are fast and efficient. They are a physically strong, well-organized team and we will have to be ready."
Södertälje captain Dino Pita, who was instrumental in his team’s success against Balkan, relishes the challenge of going up against the Belgian outfit. "It will be very tough against Antwerp, I played in Belgium for a couple of years and I know they are a very good team. For all the players on our team, for our club and mostly for Swedish basketball it would mean a lot to play in the Basketball Champions League," Pita said.
Ну что, за место в групповой стадии ЛЧ будем играть с @LegiaKosz— BC Nizhny Novgorod (@BC_NN) September 20, 2019
26 сентября играем на выезде, а 29 сентября ждём всех на трибунах, ваша поддержка нам максимально необходима. Забираем билеты тут: https://t.co/CKe5Ajq1vG
Congrats, @LegiaKosz. Let's make our games legendary 😉 pic.twitter.com/yKN5hDTQAi
Nizhny Novgorod is undoubtedly a team built to compete on all fronts, but there can also be no doubt about Legia’s determination and motivation to produce an upset and reach the Regular Season.
The Polish side emerged triumphant from a double-overtime thriller in the second leg of their Qualification Round 1 match-up with Sigal Prishtina and Nizhny Novgorod head coach Zoran Lukic took note.
"In Qualification Round 1, Legia showed a great desire to compete for a place in Basketball Champions League Regular Season," coach Lukic told championsleague.basketball "They went through two overtimes in the second game with Pristina which means that Legia has a character to fight for its main goal."
Legia head coach Tane Spasev however is aware that Nizhny presents his men with a very demanding challenge. "The main strength [of Nizhny] is the discipline they have in executing their offense and their aggressive, tough defense. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses other than, as every team at this point, synchronization between new and old players. I really like and find interesting their switch defense, which is highly efficient and disciplined." he said.
"There are different kinds of Russian teams, the top 3-4 teams are a class above everybody, not just for Russia, but for Europe as well. Nizhny is behind them but is very solid after years under coach Lukic and they run a specific style that is effective and has been working well for some years now," coach Spasev added.
The Swiss champions got off to a poor start this season after losing by 15 points at Inter Bratislava, but turned the tables on the Slovak side with an 89-50 blow out in the second leg.
Fribourg will definitely need two more excellent performances like that against a powerful opponent like Bonn if they want to emulate their feat from last year, when they advanced through three qualification rounds last and reached the Regular Season.
The Swiss team’s record in qualification has not escaped the attention of Bonn head coach Thomas Päch. "Fribourg was last year’s best offensive rebounding team in the Basketball Champions League and I think this will be also one of their biggest strengths this year," the Telekom Baskets tactician told championsleague.basketball.
"They do a lot of things differently than other teams which helps them to disrupt the game plans of their opponents. They are a well-coached team which you can’t underestimate at all," he added.
The feeling of respect and appreciation is mutual between the two playcallers: "Bonn is a very good team and its [style of play] is not typical German," Fribourg head coach Petar Aleksic told championsleague.basketball
"They are very good on defense and in transition, and they have some great shooters. Bonn is a very athletic team, with a long rotation, and they are very aggressive going for the offensive rebound."
The Portuguese champions advanced from Qualification Round 1 in an arguably stress-free manner, as they earned a 30-point victory over Donar Groningen in the first leg, which rendered meaningless their 10-point defeat in the second game.
Benfica out-rebounded their Dutch opponents 50 to 35 in that 95-65 triumph and it’s not clear whether they could replicate that level of dominance on the glass against Mornar. The Montenegro side has two seven-footers on the roster, in Uros Lukic and former Slovenian international Mirza Begic, while the likes of Milko Bjelica, Damir Markota, Vukota Pavic and Radoje Vujosevic compliment a formidable frontcourt.
Still, as Mornar head coach Mihailo Pavićević points out, Benfica have good size on the perimeter and they know how to use that to their advantage."For sure it will be a very difficult game because Benfica is a very good team," coach Pavićević told championsleague.basketball.
"They are experienced and I saw in the two games against Donar that they shoot the ball very well from outside the three-point arc. Their perimeter players have good size, all of them are close to 2 meters and their point guard is 1.96m tall. It won’t be easy, we really respect them, but of course we believe in our team. We are planning to do something to stop them [from playing the style they want] and I guess we will see if it’s enough or not."