Will resurgent Sodertalje Kings leapfrog shaken Gaziantep in Group K?
MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) - After resurrecting their FIBA Europe Cup campaign with a maiden victory in the Second Round last week, Sodertalje Kings can look ahead to their next fixture with cautious optimism.
Last week, Sodertalje earned their first win in Group K with an excellent display in an 88-68 triumph against Mures, while Gaziantep had their previously sky-high confidence shaken in a 102-83 loss to Elan Chalon.
The second-placed Turkish club is still higher in the standings with a 2-1 record. The Kings, who are third with a 1-2 mark, could actually leapfrog Gaziantep with a successful result.
The first meeting between the sides in Turkey ended in favor of the hosts, who survived a late Sodertalje fightback in the fourth quarter to claim a 72-66 win.
Point differential could be the defining aspect of the game. Holding a six-point advantage after the match-up, Gaziantep would preserve the head-to-head tiebreaker in case of a defeat of up to five points.
That should not be on the mind of coach Stefanos Dedas and his players ahead of the game in Sodertalje, especially since it is quite possible that two losses could prove to be a disqualifying factor in determining which second-placed teams advance to the Round of 16 - even though it is too early to call for certain.
While coach Vedran Bosnic's side showed some promise in Gaziantep, they are still without a win on the road in the FIBA Europe Cup and both of their remaining fixtures after this week are away from home. However, Sodertalje will need to take care of business at home first before having to worry about ending the cold streak on the road.
That being said, the Kings have been rock solid at the Taljehallen this season, losing only one contest on their home floor, when they were overpowered by Elan Chalon just before the Christmas break.
While they might not match-up on the floor too often, the battle between Sodertalje's big men Bizaca and Gaziantep's man in the middle Jefferson will undoubtedly be the one to follow.
In spite of a significant drop-off in shooting percentages in the Second Round, Bizaca remains the top scorer in the competition with averages of of 23.9 points and 5.4 assists per game.
Meanwhile, since joining Gaziantep in the final weeks of the Regular Season, Jefferson has been the team's focal point on offense as well, scoring 20.8 points and grabbing 9.8 boards per game.
In fact, a couple of strong performances against Mures and Elan Chalon have allowed the big man to surpass Frank Elegar of Enisey as the top performer in the FIBA Europe Cup with an average efficiency of 26.0 per game.
Pau-Lacq-Orthez could end Pardubice's campaign
Three games into the Second Round, the Czech club is still winless and could be the first team to be completely out of race to the Round of 16 if Elan Bearnais, now 2-1, picks up another win.
In case of an upset against the visitors from France, Pardubice could in theory still qualify via a three-team or a four-team tie in the standings, but this scenario is also unlikely due to the team's poor point differential.