17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
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Group C preview: A direct battle for all-time leading scorer honors

MIES (Switzerland) - The Basketball Champions League Season 8 tips off next week. A total of 32 teams will fight for glory, with Telekom Baskets Bonn coming back as the defending champions.

We will preview all the Regular Season action, group by group. Here it's the turn of Group C, which includes Darussafaka Lassa, Lenovo Tenerife, VEF Riga and Cholet Basket.

The favorite

Coach Txus Vidorreta knows what to do to win this whole thing. As the winningest coach in BCL history, he expects his guys to be there in May, when the podium battles are on.

However his on-court general, Marcelinho Huertas, turns 41 years old shortly after the end of the season and has expressed his wish to call it a day after the Paris 2024 Olympics.

With the brain of the operation in the final straight of his career, and most of the Tenerife roster in their 30s, it seems like this season could be the last one for this group of players, and who knows if the last of that recognizable Tenerife fast-flowing offensive style.

That just makes them an even bigger favorite. Think of the Chicago Bulls in 1998, everybody having that extra edge on the court knowing this amazing run could end soon. 

And the Huertas era has truly been sensational for Tenerife, from back-to-back Final 8 appearances in 2020 and 2021, to the Championship in 2022 and another Final Four in 2023.

Of course, winning another BCL title would be extra special. Right now, they are sharing with Hereda San Pablo Burgos the title of the most decorated BCL club, with two trophies to their name each. S,o if they end up on top in May 2024, Tenerife would become the first team with three BCL championships.

The underdog

Cholet Basket had to fight their way through the Qualifying Rounds to make it to the Regular Season, and they got rewarded with a place in one of the toughest groups out there. But, with so much youth on their roster, this could be a nice opportunity to build something for the future of the club known for its incredible academy.

This will be only their second BCL campaign, having played in the Regular Season back in 2020-21, when they failed to reach a top-two finish in a group that also included Hapoel Holon and AEK. Two wins in six games were not enough to advance.

However, with the format change, a team that clinches a 2-4 record in the group stage could have a chance to advance to the Play-Ins, and potentially even through to the Round of 16. All the other three teams in this group have reached that stage in their previous BCL appearances.

The crucial matchup

With Lenovo Tenerife as the group favorites and Cholet Basket as the underdogs, both Darussafaka Lassa and VEF Riga will see this group as their opportunity to prove they are a legit Round of 16 threat.

To make it even more interesting, Dacka's biggest hope of making a statement is none other than former VEF Riga star Kyle Allman, the 26-year-old explosive guard, and they added the Latvian legend Janis Timma to their roster for this season.

Allman and Pineiro were teammates in 2020-21

VEF Riga pulled the reverse Uno card on Darussafaka though, picking up their former player Isaiah Pineiro, and comebacks are a general theme of this team, because coach Janis Gailitis gets to call plays for Dairis Bertans, Alexander Madsen and Marcis Vitols.

The two teams will meet on the opening week of the season in Riga, and their other matchup would be the last game of the group in Istanbul. Going 2-0 in this matchup would go a long way towards the home court advantage in the Play-In Series or even towards challenging for the direct ticket to the Round of 16.

Players to watch

The big three of Tenerife with Marcelinho Huertas, Sasu Salin and Giorgi Shermadini have provided one of the best balanced teams of the last four years in all of Europe and there's a special quest for Shermadini this year, as he could become the all-time scoring leader in the BCL.

'Gio' is currently in second place, behind none other than Vojtech Hruban, who's making his comeback to the BCL with Cholet Basket and needs just four points to become the first man to reach 1,000 points in BCL history. Shermadini sits at 921 before the start of the season.

Hruban is just one of the threats Cholet have in store, in addition to Gerry Blakes, T.J. Campbell and Neal Sako, who led the way in the Qualifying Rounds. Give some extra attention to Tidjane Salaun, a potential Best Young Player candidate at only 18 years of age.

VEF have their big names back and an interesting rookie guard in Brendan Adams, who averaged 17.4 points per game for the George Washington Colonials in his last NCAA campaign, while shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc.

As for Dacka, it's all about the backcourt with Allman and Mason Jones. Jones has NBA experience from his days with the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Lakers, and his 2022-23 campaign was impressive, as he put up 21.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game for the Mexico City Capitanes in the NBA G League.

Format reminder

The winner of this group winner will advance straight to the Round of 16 Group K, alongside the best of Group G (Galatasaray EKMAS, Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, PAOK mateco, SL Benfica), and two other Play-In winners.

The second- and third-placed teams in this group will compete in the Play-ins against, respectively, the third- and second-placed teams in Group D ,where AEK Betsson BC, Banco di Sardegna Sassari, King Szczecin and MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg reside.

The bottom-placed team will be eliminated from the competition, ending their European season in December.