04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
35 Fran Guerra (LNTF)
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Seven takeaways from Wednesday: Defending champs set up a date with Bilbao

MIES (Switzerland) - All 32 teams will be in action next week, but we are already getting a clearer picture on what could happen in the Play-In Series and the Round of 16. In fact, as Surne Bilbao and Lenovo Tenerife both did their job and secured group wins, they get to face each other in the same Round of 16 group.

Here's what happened in a three-game Wednesday night, penultimate in the seventh Regular Season in BCL history.

#1 Defending champs, literally

Lenovo Tenerife are the team to beat, having won their second BCL title in Bilbao last May. With Txus Vidorreta calling the plays, they are known as the best offensive machine, not just in the BCL, but also in the Liga Endesa, where they are still top of the table.

On Wednesday, their 124.6 offensive rating wasn't even important as they did the usual thing of hitting 11 threes with 44 percent accuracy, dished out 21 assists with just 10 turnovers, shot 50 percent from the field and got 86 points against Peristeri bwin.

This time around, they took the "defending champs" thing literally. They allowed just 60 points on the night, which means they allowed a total of 180 points in their last three BCL games.

That's 60 per game in three games. It all started after they had allowed Peristeri to count to 88 in their first matchup. A lot changed in their defensive approach since that defeat, their only defeat in last 16 BCL games.

Tenerife's defense led them to group win, led them to securing a Round of 16 place with a game in hand, and could lead them to more greatness as they enjoy having most of January off, without having to go through the Play-In Series.

As for offense, it's always the triple-headed monster of Huertas - Salin - Shermadini, they combined for 39 on the night, and they always have another player step up. This time around, his name is Fran Guerra, 15 points in 17 minutes off the bench for the backup center.

#2 All Spanish encounter in Round of 16

Speaking of Spanish teams allowing 60 points, Surne Bilbao defeated Bahcesehir College 92-60, meaning they also won their group and are ready to play the Round of 16 next.

Compared to Tenerife, they scored more. Compared to Tenerife, they held their opponent to 60 while playing on the road. Compared to Tenerife, they had 12 scorers, while Tenerife had only 11 of them. Compared to Tene... Wait. You know what?

Instead of trying to compare the two, let's just fast forward to the Round of 16, because Tenerife and Bilbao will be in the same group over there! So many connections between the two, not just with players and coaches who've been to both teams, but also because Tenerife lifted their BCL trophy in Bilbao seven months ago.

Both are in the top eight in the Spanish League, too, it doesn't get a lot better than having them go head-to-head in the Round of 16 group stage.

#3 Orange isn't the new black

Bahcesehir College finally had their full roster, with Jaka Blazic making his BCL debut, and Jamar Smith returning to action after nearly a month away from the court. They had their usual crowd packing the stands and creating the atmosphere, and they showed up in new orange jerseys.

But this wasn't a game to remember for them. Their 32-point defeat is the second largest for a Turkish team at home in the entire BCL history - only Besiktas had a more horrible day, when they lost to JDA Bourgogne Dijon 65-98 back in December 2019.

On the bright side, they are healthy now. They are through to the Play-In Series, and they have a rock solid performer in Jerry Boutsiele, the only man with 8+ rebounds in all five BCL games so far this season.

It's not all black for Bahcesehir College. It's just that it's not all orange, that's all.

#4 Maurice AntetoKEMPo

Bnei Ofek Dist Herzliya defeated Rytas Vilnius 101-90 on the road, reaching triple digits for the first time in BCL. They also made 39 field goals, the most by any team in nearly two years in this competition, and their 32 fast break points are the most ever for a road team in the Basketball Champions League.

The man who enjoyed the trip the most: Maurice Kemp. In a Giannis-like stat line, the 31-year-old played all but seven seconds of the game, scored 33 points by making 14 two-pointers and not attempting a three-pointer at all, and he added 11 rebounds and 4 assists to the mix.

That was Kemp's highest scoring BCL game, ever. It was his highest scoring game in any European game in his career, and he only had two such games in his entire career as a basketball player.

Back on February 2, 2013, he celebrated his 22nd birthday by scoring his NCAA career-high with 33 points for the East Carolina Panthers against the Rice Owls. His all-time career-high is 34, back in 2016 when he was with AVIS UTILITAS Rapla and played against Tallinna Kalev.

Now, six years later, he's playing arguably the best basketball of his career. He had 29 in a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv over the weekend, only to follow it up with a first 30+ points, 10+ rebounds game in the BCL since Henry Sims in October 2021.

Kemp is unlocked. At 23.8 points per game, he's the second best scorer of the BCL this season. Absurd, because he never scored more than 24 points in a BCL game before this outburst!

#5 Rytas in trouble

There are ups and downs, but that doesn't even begin to describe what Rytas Vilnius are going through this season. From big runs of defeats to big runs of wins, and back to more disappointment on an evening when Marcus Foster received his MVP of November trophy.

This was the second time they allowed 100+ points in BCL, the first time was their first BCL game against Peristeri back in 2020.

Now, with a three-way tie at the bottom of Group H, Rytas have a two-part plan how to reach the Play-In Series: (1) by defeating Lenovo Tenerife, or (2) by getting a bit of help from Herzliya, who need to defeat Peristeri to help Rytas out.

# Team P W L % Last 5 For Agt +/- FA AA  
1 LNTF Lenovo Tenerife * 5 4 1 80.0   434 342 92 86.8 68.4 9
2 VILN Rytas Vilnius 5 2 3 40.0   420 415 5 84 83 7
3 HERZ Bnei Ofek Dist Herzliya 5 2 3 40.0   381 439 -58 76.2 87.8 7
4 PERI Peristeri bwin 5 2 3 40.0   369 408 -39 73.8 81.6 7

Rytas are 2-0 against Peristeri, Herzliya are 2-0 against Rytas. There cannot be a three-way tie at the end of Gameday 6, because the loser of Bnei Ofek Dist Herzliya v Peristeri bwin will remain at two wins. But for Vilnius fans, it will feel like a bit of history repeating.

That's because they faced Lenovo Tenerife at home in a do-or-die game already this year, back in the Round of 16 in March. They failed, they got eliminated, then bounced back by winning the Lithuanian championship.

Yeah, "ups and downs" sounds like an understatement with these guys...

#6 Peristeri done with Tenerife

Playing against the yellow-and-black squad from the island troubles a lot of teams, but Peristeri bwin will be happy to know they cannot see the Spanish squad at least until the Quarter-Finals.

Losing by 26 on Wednesday was their joint-heaviest defeat in BCL history. The only other time Peristeri lost by 26 was when they played against Tenerife in January 2020... With a game left, Peristeri know the math: they defeat Herzliya, they are through; they lose, they are out.

#7 Play-In implications

Alright, so the preseason draw determined the Round of 16 groups, but it also determined the Play-In Series pairings. It's easy to remember, number two from one group plays the number three from the neighboring one, vice versa.

So, Groups A and B mix, C and D, E and F, G and H. With Wednesday's results, it seems we could have an all-Turkish affair in Galatasaray Nef v Bahcesehir College, while Rytas could be back in Greece to meet up with PAOK mateco.

Instead of trying to do the math yourself, here's a link where we're updating the pairings after each Gameday. You're welcome!

Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic

Igor Curkovic is a Basketball Champions League writer and editor since day one of the competition, specializing in Power Rankings and his Takeaways on Gamedays. When he's not covering basketball, he's probably watching a Hajduk Split game somewhere.