Play-Offs preview: Group I
MIES (Switzerland) - At first glance, the standout feature of Group I - which includes Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon, Happy Casa Brindisi, Pinar Karsiyaka and Tofas Bursa - is the presence of two rivals from the same country, the two Turkish teams.
What's more, Izmir and Bursa are only a short flight away and therefore Karsiyaka and Tofas are the only teams anywhere in the 2020-21 Play-offs that will have the luxury of embarking on just two, rather than three, long trips (travelling to Burgos from Tenerife or vice versa is nowhere near a short trip, in case your mind went to the Group J rivals).
But in actual fact, Group I is about balance. First of all because, at this juncture, all four rivals are chasing a top-four finish in the Regular Season standings of their respective domestic championships and how they choose to balance that pursuit on one hand, with the goal to clinch a top-two finish in Group I on the other, will be a determining factor.
Second, balance is the key word in Group I because all four rivals get enter this battle with the same degree of belief in their chances to qualify to the Final 8.
"There are groups where there is one very, very good team that can beat all other three teams, so in a way those three are competing between them for second place," explained Brindisi head coach Frank Vitucci.
"But what we have here is a balanced group where anything can happen, and you don't really know what to expect until the final day.
"It's more intriguing, but it can prove more difficult because every basket counts and maybe we reach the final day with all teams tied and it all depends on the points difference."
- If he wasn't poised to miss the first one or more games due to injury, Brindisi's D'Angelo Harrison would the undisputed star of the group, and he might still shine bright if he manages to recover fully before we hit the home stretch of the Play-Offs race. Harrison averaged 19.3 points per game as the sixth-leading scorer in the Regular Season and registered an average efficiency rating of 20. The American shooting guard is the league's undisputed leader from the foul line, as he's made all 40 of his free-throws so far.
- DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell might be the most well-rounded player in this season's BCL and his contribution to Tofas cannot be overstated. He is averaging 18.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game and he is almost guaranteed to score in double digits in every game. Watch out for the return of Tomislav Zubcic who made an immediate impact when he signed for Tofas in January but will miss at least the first game of the Play-Offs, due to injury.
- Karsiyaka are running a quite egalitarian offense but Raymar Morgan is of crucial importance to their success, as his Regular Season stats show, although the best thing about his presence is that he still troubles the opposing defense even if he doesn't touch the ball. The veteran power forward averaged 19.5 points on 71 percent shooting from the floor in the Regular Season.
- In the absence of the injured Richard Howell, Holon asked other players to step up and all of them delivered (Isaiah Miles for example is leading the league in three-point shooting as we're about to enter the Play-Offs) but C.J. Harris is a cornerstone piece on this team. He is averaging 19.2 points and 4.2 assist per game on 47.6 percent three-point shooting and he is on the floor longer than any other Holon player, averaging 32.6 minutes of play time per game.
The key numbers
- In the Regular Season, Tofas Bursa scored 88.2 points per game (with a very notable assists ratio of 20.3 percent) and Brindisi averaged 86.8 points per game, so they have the group's top-two offenses in absolute terms.
- In terms of offensive efficiency though, Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon are the best team in the group as they score 117.5 points per 100 possessions. Pinar Karsiyka are a really close second, averaging 117.4 points per 100 possessions, while Brindisi are at 116 points and Tofas at 115.3 points.
- Tofas gave up 80 points per game in the Regular Season but they have the best defensive efficiency, as they give up only 106.3 points per 100 possessions. Karsiyaka give up 108.6 points per 100 possessions while Holon and Brindisi allow 112 and 114.2 points, respectively.
- Holon have the third-best defense among all 16 Play-Offs teams against three-point shooters, allowing opponents to shoot only 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Tofas are the third-best defense when it comes to opponents' two-point shooting, allowing 49.5 percent shooting from within the arc.
How they got here
Tofas Bursa, who are competing in the BCL for the first time, won Group B in an unlikely manner as they suffered two homes losses in their first three games, but bounced back to beat ERA Nymburk and JDA Dijon on the road and win the head-to-head advantage against both.
Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon won Group C on a 4-2 record. They were tied with AEK but edged out the Greek side for first place on points difference. Their two defeats came at AEK in the season opener and at home to Tsmoki Minsk, in the third round. The Israeli team clinched the ticket to the Play-Offs behind a memorable 89-71 win at Cholet on the final day.
Pinar Karsiyaka finished second in Group F on an 4-2 record, but it's worth reminding that group winners Brose Bamberg were the only unbeaten team in the Regular Season. Karsiyaka's only two losses came at the hands of Bamberg, by an average margin of just 3.5 points.
Happy Casa Brindisi took second place in Group H, behind Hereda San Pablo Burgos, on a 4-2 record. The Italian team's only two defeats were against the Spanish reigning BCL champions. Brindisi came back from a 13-point deficit and defeated Darussafaka Tekfen 87-83 on the road in the key game of the fifth round to seal their passage to the Play-Offs.