Round of 16 Group L Preview: Welcome to the Spanish Takeover
MIES (Switzerland) - The Round of 16 starts on Tuesday January 24, and Group L is dominated by three Spanish teams, 2021-22 champions Lenovo Tenerife, Surne Bilbao and UCAM Murcia. Darussafaka are the lone non-Spanish club.
Tenerife and Bilbao were group winners in the Regular Season.
Darussafaka upset S.L. Benfica, sweeping them in the Play-Ins, while Murcia joined the group after sweeping their Play-In series against Pinar Karsiyaka.
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What did we learn about each team from the Regular Season?
Bilbao - Only two players average at least 10 points per game, but Bilbao gets it done on both ends of the floor. Their solid all-around play on offense and defense are what's gotten them to where they are right now. They're the only team this season that have yet to concede 20+ points in a fourth quarter, meaning they limit their opposition when it matters most in crunch time and can close games out.
Tenerife - Last year's champs are here to stay. They lost two games in the Regular Season, both by seven points, but they always rise to the occasion and have made winning a habit, which shouldn't be changing anytime soon.
Murcia - It starts on the defensive end and transitions to the offense. When Murcia play their best, they are rock solid and will be a tough out in the Spanish derbies (and against that other team from Turkey).
Darussafaka - Despite finishing third in their group in the Regular Season, Darussafaka showed flashes in their last couple games and are riding the wave of momentum, with Dogus Ozdemiroglu leading the charge. They'll need to continue to ride that momentum as best they can in this tough group. Darussafaka have conceded just 99.0 points per 100 possessions, the best defensive rating of any team in the BCL this season.
Which player is the key for each team to make it to the next stage?
Bilbao | If Bilbao want to keep pace with Tenerife, they'll need Ludvig Hakanson to be the floor general he has been so far this season. The Swedish point guard has only committed 4 turnovers in Bilbao's six games, committing zero turnovers in three games. He's about as consistent and reliable as they come.
Tenerife | Marcelinho Huertas' level of play at age 39 has been well documented and he continues to climb in the record books. He only needs four assists to become the first player to reach 400 assists in the BCL (currently at 396); he has at least six assists in each of his last 19 games in the competition (8.3 per game in that span).
Murcia | Thaddus McFadden is a crucial part of Murcia and their success, but Travis Trice could be the X-factor. Trice has scored at least 17 points in each of his four away games with Murcia in the BCL after never scoring more than 14 points in his previous five away games in the competition. He also has 5+ assists in four of his last five away games in the BCL and performing well on the road to help Murcia potentially pick up a tough win away from home in this group would be huge.
Darussafaka | Dogus Ozdemiroglu is a club legend and continues to stuff the stat sheet, averaging 13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He was the first player this season to get double-doubles in points and assists, as well as points and rebounds.
Key games on each team's schedule
Any battle between Spanish teams (which will be almost every game) will be key, as they're all pretty familiar with each other. Both games between Tenerife and Bilbao on Tuesday February 7 and Tuesday March 7 will be exciting and entertaining.
Darussafaka have been road warriors lately, winning two of their last three away games. They have a stretch of two home games in a row on Wednesday February 1 against Tenerife and Tuesday February 7 against Murcia and it will be interesting to see if they can pull out a big win in one of those games.
Odds of each team making it through
All signs are pointing to Tenerife getting through the Round of 16 and the possibility of repeating as back-to-back champs are well within reach as well for the BCL powerhouse. Bilbao are a contender and should have extremely interesting head-to-head games against Tenerife.
Murcia and Darussafaka will face stiff competition in Bilbao and Tenerife, but there's always some surprises in the BCL and you never know when a sleeper team could pull off an upset and sneak their way into a contending position.