20 October, 2020
09 May, 2021
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Play-Offs preview: Group J

MIES (Switzerland) - Lady Luck placed together in Group J the two Spanish former Basketball Champions League champions, Lenovo Tenerife and Hereda San Pablo Burgos.

The gravitational pull of the two Spanish juggernauts is so big that any conversation about favorites in Group J will inevitably start with them, especially since the other two teams, VEF Riga and Igokea, are taking part in the BCL Play-Offs for the first time and consequently don't have similar credentials.

Tenerife and Burgos don't live on past achievements though, they are very much focused on the present and are widely considered contenders for the 2021 BCL crown.

In fact, Burgos head coach Joan Peñarroya went one step further and proclaimed Tenerife were 'the number one candidate to win the title', despite his own team being the current holders of both the BCL and FIBA Intercontinental Cup trophies.

But while any conversation about favorites has to start with the two Spanish rivals, it would be a huge oversight if it also ended there.

VEF have the best record in the Latvian-Estonian Basketball League and are overwhelming favorites for the title, while Igokea are currently marching second in the ABA League and have a repeat of their 2013 success (when they finished top of the league in the Regular Season) within their sights.

Both clubs are very ambitious and driven this season, and both have rosters deep enough to compete in both the BCL and in their respective regional competitions.

The stars

  • Tenerife have such a deep roster this season that they can afford to play Giorgi Shermadini only 22.8 minutes per game, but since the Georgian center is efficiency personified, that is more than sufficient time for him to lead the offense. Shermadini averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and an efficiency rating of 18.8 per game, while shooting 66 percent from the floor and 95 percent from the free-throw line.

  • Burgos have six players averaging double digits and they are not going to change their pluralistic approach to offense - after all, it worked wonders for them in the 2020 Final 8 - but Vitor Benite is the natural leader of the reigning champions. The Brazilian shooting guard averaged 12.8 points and 2 assists per game in the Regular Season, but he only played 19.8 minutes per contest. His minutes - and contribution - is set to increase as we approach the business end of the season.


  • The arrival of Anthony Clemmons at Igokea this season has a lot to do with their excellent campaign so far. Igokea's particular pace seems to fit the 26-year-old point guard like a glove and his improved three-point shooting and passing are of huge importance to their offense. Clemmons averaged 14.2 points and 4.5 assists per game on 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the Regular Season.

  • Playing on a big European stage such as the BCL is a new experience for Kyle Allman but you would never imagine it if you saw the ease with which the VEF point guard slashed opposing defenses or his spectacular alley-oop passes to Michale Kyser. Allman is averaging 16.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and he is the sixth-leading player in assists, with 6.5 per game.

The key numbers

  • No matter how you look at it, Tenerife have the best offense in the league so far, averaging 92 points per game and registering an outlandish offensive efficiency of 129.6 points per 100 possessions. Burgos are second in offensive rating, with 124.5 points per 100 possessions, but third (just behind ERA Nymburk) in absolute numbers, as they score 90.5 points per contest. Tenerife and Burgos also top the assists ratio table, with 22.5 and 22.3 percent of their possessions, respectively, ending in an assist.

  • Igokea's strength is not their offensive prowess, and the figures reveal that. The BCL newcomers have the lowest offensive efficiency (109 points per 100 possesions) and the lowest effective field goal percentage (51.3 percent) among all 16 teams that qualified to the Play-Offs.

  • VEF have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league, as they give up only 104.2 points per 100 possessions. Their secret is that they contest shots within the arc better than any other team, allowing opponents to shoot only 45.5 percent from two-point range. By contrast, Tenerife have the most permissive defense out of all 16 Play-Offs teams, allowing 119.4 points per 100 possesions.

  • The matchups between Burgos and VEF will be very interesting when it comes to mistakes, as the reigning champions take excellent care of the ball and commit only 10 turnovers per game on average, while the Latvian side commit 15.7 turnovers on average, more than any team in the Play-Offs.

How they got here

Tenerife won Group A as they edged out Dinamo Sassari, with whom they finished tied at 4-2. The Spanish team earned the head-to-head advantage over the Italian thanks to an 115-85 win at home, in what was Tenerife's highest-scoring game in their five-year history in the BCL. The yellow-blacks' two defeats both came on the road, at the hands of Sassari in the second round, and at Bakken Bears in the sixth round.

Burgos topped Group H on a 5-1 record despite starting off their campaign with a 99-98 loss at Filou Oostende. The reigning champs went on to win their remaining five games in the group, including home and road victories over second-placed Happy Casa Brindisi. Impressively, Burgos won their three home games by an average win margin of 22.3 points.

VEF Riga finished tied with SIG Strasbourg at 4-2 but took second place in Group E as the French team had the tiebreaker. In the crucial home game against Peristeri on the final gameday, VEF abolished an 18-point lead but Kristers Zoriks drilled a triple almost at the buzzer to lift the Riga team to a 60-57 win.

Igokea had to go through the Qualification Rounds to enter the Regular Season, where they took second place (behind Turk Telekom) in Group G on a 3-3 record. They are in fact the only team to reach the Play-Offs with fewer than four wins in the Regular Season. Igokea won all three games at home (albeit their nominal road game against Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem was also played in Laktasi, due to the pandemic). Igokea sealed qualification on the final gameday despite losing to Turk Telekom in Turkey, courtesy of Limoges CSP beating Jerusalem in the other game in the group.