Round of 16 Group J Preview: MVP Candidates going Head-to-Head
MIES (Switzerland) - The Round of 16 starts on Tuesday January 24, and Group J will feature two Basketball Champions League MVP candidates for Season Seven, Telekom Baskets Bonn's T.J. Shorts II and Rytas Vilnius' Marcus Foster.
Bonn and BAXI Manresa went through as group winners from the Regular Season. Bonn were one of the three teams from the Regular Season with only one loss.
Bahcesehir College and Rytas both had to go to a deciding Game 3 in their respective Play-In series, but advanced to the Round of 16 after defeating Filou Oostende and PAOK mateco, respectively.
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What did we learn about each team from the Regular Season?
Bonn - The lone remaining team from Germany are for real. They've won their last five games in the BCL after never winning more than two in a row previously, so they've been clicking on all cylinders. Bonn also have a streak of scoring 80+ points in each of their last 12 home games in the BCL, the best such streak for a team in the history of the competition. Head coach Tuomas Iisalo could also be in the running for coach of the year with the job he's done.
Manresa - They've lost their last two home games in the BCL and aren't having the same level of success they had last year. After Jerrick Harding, Manresa only have one other player averaging double figure scoring (Juampi Vaulet).
Bahcesehir - The Turkish club didn't have their full roster until December and now with more time together again, they may be ready to pull off an upset.
Rytas - Rytas Arena may be the toughest home court to play at after going 4-1 so far this season. Their backcourt duo of Foster and Elvar Fridriksson have also emerged as one of the best in the competition.
Which player is the key for each team to make it to the next stage?
Bonn | TJ Shorts is good. Like, really good. He's the engine that makes them go and the current MVP favorite is averaging 24.2 points, 6.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game and shooting over 52 percent both from the field and three-point range.
Manresa | Jerrick Harding can score the ball in bunches, leading the team with 18.3 points per game and had a 30-point performance against Limoges CSP. He will probably have to do just that in the Round of 16 in order for Manresa to make a push for the next stage.
Bahcesehir | Jerry Boutsiele aka Jerry "Blocksiele" is averaging 2.7 blocks per game which leads the league, and he also tied the all-time BCL record for blocks in a single game in the Play-Ins with seven. He is the fourth player to get 7 blocks in a game in BCL history and is a difference maker on the defensive end and on the glass (third leading rebounder in the competition with 8.4 per game).
Rytas | Marcus Foster is the third leading scorer in the BCL averaging 21.2 points per game and we know he's a great scorer, but when he dishes out at least 5 assists, Rytas are 3-1. Look for him to do his fair share of both scoring and finding his teammates.
Key games on each team's schedule
Any home games for Rytas will be key, but Rytas v Bonn on Wednesday February 8 should be a fun game in front of possibly the best home court environment in Vilnius. That home court advantage will be key for Rytas as they attempt to pick up a big win against one of the group favorites in Bonn.
Both matchups between Bahcesehir and Manresa will be intriguing, as these two teams could find themselves playing to stay competitive in the group, so every win will be important at this stage.
Odds of each team making it through
Bonn will be viewed as the favorite to finish on top of the group with MVP frontrunner Shorts, but Rytas will be a threat to finish in the top two thanks to having an MVP candidate of their own in Foster, combined with their home court advantage that gives them a chance to beat anyone they face at home. Manresa reached the BCL Final last season. but it's been tougher this season for them, as they and Bahcesehir could face an uphill battle to make it through to the Quarter-Finals.