Tactics Board: 3 is the magic number
MIES (Switzerland) - In the three years since the Basketball Champions League Regular Season format changed to include eight groups of four teams each, there have been only three clubs that failed to progress out of the Regular Season despite winning three of their six games in this stage.
All three - Bakken Bears, JDA Dijon, and Falco Szombathely - suffered the same fate during the 2021-22 season, when only the top two teams in each group progressed straight to the Round of 16. Since the introduction of the Play-Ins though, three wins have been enough to guarantee a team will make it out of the Regular Season.
Whilst the season is still young, AEK BETSSON BC and Unicaja already have three wins each and more than likely have done enough to secure a spot in the Play-Ins, at the very least. On the next Gameday, 10 teams have a chance to join them. Given that six of those teams play each other next week, we can be sure that at least another three will join the teams from Athens and Malaga.
Run Unicaja, run
Unicaja sit atop Group A with a 3-0 record. Tuesday's win over Peristeri was win number seven on the bounce for Ibon Navarro's side. They have scored over 80 points in each of their three BCL games, at a rate of 116.7 points per 100 possessions. They have also scored over 20 points from turnovers in each of those three wins.
Unicaja are looking like they want to steamroll every team they play this season. Don't be surprised if we have to wait a while until they get beaten in the BCL. First and foremost this is, like last year, a lethal transition team.
When your bigs are mobile and outrun their matchups down the floor, the rest of your team has no choice but to follow. When they get out on the run, Unicaja are going to give you fireworks.
The other huge weapon in Unicaja's arsenal is continuity. When you watch this team play together, you see so many partnerships and the understanding of how to play off each other has only grown stronger in their second season playing together.
On the defensive end, the coverages and rotations are that much more fluid and instinctive. On the offensive end, the chemistry is now becoming alchemy.
Watch the set in the video below. What they are looking for is a two-man game with an empty corner on the ball side. This removes help defenders and gives the guard and the big enough space to play pick-and-roll.
What you see is three different clips, three different partnerships playing the two-man game, and three different shots at the end of the play for Yankuba Sima and David Kravish.
When you have Nihad Dedovic, Mario Saint-Supery, and Tyler Kalinoski all operating as the playmaker, you also have all three generations of this Unicaja squad executing. Truly glorious stuff from Ibon Navarro and his men.
100 years on, a new start for AEK BETSSON BC
We had a feeling that AEK might be cooking something for their centenary season and it's increasingly looking like this might be the case.
AEK sit top of Group D with a 3-0 record and have five wins from their last six games in all competitions. This team is at the opposite end of the continuity spectrum to Unicaja but Joan Plaza can only be encouraged by the way his players are starting to tune into his wavelength.
The Athens club built this roster to bring them into the modern era, with supreme athletes playing up-tempo basketball and shooting the ball from the outside. They are absolutely making headway in their ability to increase the tempo of their actions and use shooters to put pressure on the defense.
Watch the video below, where we have three clips of the same set. AEK start the play using a shooter as the first to set a ball screen, likely with the intent to create separation from the defender.
The shooter then has a choice of a single, down screen on one side of the floor and a double on the other. Watch how they get a different read in each clip.
Also of notice is that all three of Ben McLemore, Jordan McRae, and Chasson Randle can run off screens and pressure the defense.
Another clear sign of this team and coach Plaza starting to click is the way we see them executing out of timeouts and from dead-ball situations.
When they were struggling against Dinamo Sassari, Plaza was able to get great looks from the same baseline play, on opposite sides of the floor, and for different players (McLemore and Randle).
You don't need to hit a home run on every possession when you can hit singles like this.
Promitheas Patras (2-0) v JDA Bourgogne Dijon (2-0).
SIG Strasbourg (2-0) v Pinar Karsiyaka (2-0).
PAOK (1-1) v Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem (2-0) .
Bertram Derthona Tortona (2-0) v Igokea m:tel (0-2).
Lenovo Tenerife (2-1) v Darussafaka Lassa (2-1).
Telekom Baskets Bonn (2-1) v Bursaspor Info Yatrim (0-2).
Six teams with undefeated records to defend and at least two of them guaranteed to maintain them.
At least three from the following six; Promitheas, Dijon, SIG, Karsiyaka, Tenerife, and Darussafaka will join Unicaja and AEK in making sure they make it out of the Regular Season.
You don't want to miss any of these games.