17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Group E preview: 2021 runners-up Karsiyaka in search of redemption
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Group E preview: 2021 runners-up Karsiyaka in search of redemption

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 E, which includes EWE Baskets Oldenburg, Pinar Karsiyaka, SIG Strasbourg and Filou Oostende.

The favorite

Pinar Karsiyaka will always be considered a favorite to go far, in any competition they play. They have built their winning identity under coach Ufuk Sarica, and they are coming back to this competition fresh off of making the Turkish League Finals in 2023.

The core is still there, with Kenan Sipahi, Errick McCollum and Vitto Brown, but the new pieces are fitting in nicely just weeks into the new season. Furkan Haltali is a youngster who can boost the center position, Darrun Hilliard and Kelan Martin bring a lot of experience, while 22-year-old Vernon Carey Jr gets his first taste of European basketball after averaging 17.8 points and 8.8 rebounds at Duke back in 2019-20.

They played the Final of the BCL back in 2021, losing to Hereda San Pablo Burgos in a close one, and since then, they failed to reach the Round of 16 in back-to-back BCL seasons.

Redemption starts now. The Spaniards defeated them in the Final in 2021, then in Play-In Series in 2022 and 2023 (Tenerife, Murcia), but there are no Spanish teams in this group to inflict more heartbreak to the feisty KSK squad.

The underdog

It's kind of crazy to even write this but EWE Baskets Oldenburg, a team which played the German Cup Final last season, are the underdogs here.

This assertion is only based on past BCL experiences, because the last time Oldenburg played this competition was in 2021-22 and they picked up just a single win in six Regular Season games, ending up eliminated already in December.

Pedro Calles is the playcaller nowadays, and he won't mind the underdog label, as lower expectations may lead his team to greatness. DeWayne Russell is back after averaging 20 points and 8 assists per game in Germany last season, and Charles Manning Jr is off to a hot shooting start to his Oldenburg adventure.

But one player deserves extra attention. Len Schoormann is still 21, but with the way he's performing, he could be the Best Young Player of the season in the BCL.

The crucial matchup

Every single game. This group is so well balanced and it's going to come down to various matchups. Pinar Karsiyaka are the favorites, but they may even end up eliminated. EWE Baskets Oldenburg are the underdogs, but they may even end up on top.

Filou Oostende and SIG Strasbourg are the other two teams, both entering their 8th BCL seasons, with a number of head-to-head battles in the past, and a number of players who played for both teams.

Every single game and every single point could matter in this group. A four-way tie at 3-3 doesn't sound crazy at all, when you see the amount of talent and experience in this pool.

Players to watch

Oldenburg's aforementioned backcourt is a joy to watch, and former BCL champ Deane Williams is inside the paint to protect the rim.

Karsiyaka's internationals all have the ability to score 20+ in a game and break all of your defensive coverages and plans heading into that matchup.

Strasbourg got a new leader in Phil Booth, who led them through the Qualifying Rounds and is averaging double digits in France, too, while the senatorial trio of Leo Cavaliere - Jean-Baptiste Maille - Paul Lacombe became a quarter with the addition of Hugo Invernizzi.

Oostende have their hard-working group together, but Khalil Ahmad and Damien Jefferson lead them in stats to begin the BNXT League season. The veteran savvy at the disposal of coach Dario Gjergja has reached a whole new level, as Pierre-Antoine Gillet got his long time national team teammate Sam van Rossom to be the voice of the locker room nowadays.

Format reminder

The group winner will move directly to the Round of 16 Group I, alongside the winner of Group A (Falco Vulcano Szombathely, Le Mans Sarthe Basket, Peristeri bwin, Unicaja) and two other Play-In winners.

The second- and third-placed teams are advancing to the Play-Ins in January. Their opponents will be the second- and third-placed teams from the neighboring group (Bursaspor Info Yatrim, Hapoel Holon, Rio Breogan, Telekom Baskets Bonn), facing off in a best-of-three matchup.

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