17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Group G preview: Four gigantic fan bases in one group
to read

Group G preview: Four gigantic fan bases in one group

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 G, which includes Galatasaray EKMAS, Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, PAOK mateco and SL Benfica.

The favorite

Coach Aleksandar Dzikic and the Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem front office brought back most of the team of the 2022-23 season, when they reached the championship game in Malaga. In fact, this roster seems even stronger than last season's, making Jerusalem the favorite to win the whole thing, not just this group.

The foundation is there with Speedy Smith, Khadeen Carrington, Levi Randolph and Zach Hankins, and the Israeli core got stronger because Or Cornelius and Oz Blayzer got a helping hand in Yovel Zoosman, another wide wingspan on the forward positions.

One major pickup was Chris Johnson, making his return to Jerusalem after four years in Hapoel Holon, where he established himself as one of the toughest defenders in European basketball.

Brynton Lemar will help out in the backcourt, while Maurice Ndour's frontcourt experience will help this rotation a lot.

The underdog

SL Benfica are set to make it back-to-back Regular Season appearances now but Lady Luck was not generous to them, placing them in the same group with two major Final Four contenders and a perennial Play-Offs candidate in PAOK mateco.

But that's the kind of challenge that this Benfica team enjoys the most. They are here to upset the odds once again and hope to get a step farther than last year, when they finished their magical run in the Play-In Series, despite having homecourt advantage against Darussafaka Lassa.

Ivan Almeida, Aaron Broussard, Terrell Carter, Betinho Gomes and Toney Douglas are all coming back this season, and their 19-year-old youngster Eduardo Francisco looks like he's ready to play a bigger role already.

They may be the underdog in terms of BCL experience and history in international basketball, but these names guarantee a lot of fun for Benfica's fans.

The crucial matchup

Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem and Galatasaray EKMAS will meet for the first time in BCL history, and since both of them want to be at the Final Four, the battles between coaches Dzikic and Zvezdan Mitrovic are giving the rest of the world a lot to be excited about.

The two games, bound to be played in front of loud fans no matter who's at home, are most probably going to push one team towards the Round of 16, while making the other take a Play-In Series detour in January. 

Jerusalem played the Final last season, while in their previous BCL campaigns they had two more Quarter-Finals appearances and a Play-In finish. Galatasaray have been to the Round of 16 twice, but are yet to see the Quarter-Finals of the competition.

If they finish ahead of Jerusalem in this group, there's no better evidence that they are ready for their best finish in BCL history.

Players to watch

Jerusalem's main strengths have been described above, but with coach Dzikic's emphasis on depth, it's hard to single out one player as a potential MVP candidate, since all of them are willing to sacrifice their individual stat line for the greater good of winning games.

Galatasaray EKMAS have a new look backcourt with Jonah Radebaugh and Corey Walden. Last season's Best Young Player Sadik Emir Kabaca is still on the roster, Bugrahan Tuncer and Samet Geyik are bringing a new layer of Turkish players who can help this team, and get ready for Miralem Halilovic's floaters from anywhere inside the arc.

Benfica's biggest new arrival is Trey Drechsel, a shooting guard who made a name for himself in Serbia, Poland and Germany, ready to take the next step in his international career.

PAOK mateco's season started awesome for Iceland international Elvar Fridriksson, who has prior BCL experience from his time in Rytas Vilnius. Speaking of Lithuania, Laurynas Beliauskas brings some Baltic flavor to this team, while Jamuni McNeace and Andrew Harrison both have double-digit starts in scoring in the Greek League.

Format reminder

The group winner will go straight to Round of 16 Group K, alongside the best from Group C (Darussafaka Lassa, Lenovo Tenerife, VEF Riga, Cholet Basket) and two Play-In Series winners.

The second- and third-placed teams will play in the best-of-three Play-In Series against the third- and second-placed teams (respectively) in Group H, which includes Bertram Derthona Tortona, Igokea m:tel, Tofas Bursa, UCAM Murcia.

The bottom-placed team in Group G will be eliminated and thus finish their European campaign in December.