With the 2014 FIBA World Cup a distant memory now, all thoughts are turning towards the new season and for clubs, players and fans across Europe, the 2014/15 Euroleague is high on the agenda. At the moment, the qualifying rounds are taking place and before the weekend begins, we will know who has booked their place in the regular season to battle it out for the trophy that was clinched by Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv last season.
Eight teams have been battling it out in Ostend in Belgium. The teams have been:
- CEZ Nymburk
- VEF Rīga
- Stelmet Zielona Góra
- Telenet Oostende
- UNICS Kazan
- Hapoel Jerusalem
- ASVEL Lyon
After three successive Latvian titles, VEF Riga finished second in their domestic league but the team is even more determined to put things right this season. This is the third time the side has appeared in the qualifying rounds for the Euroleague and they will be hoping to make their way through to the main event for the first time.
Strasbourg came second in their domestic season last campaign but it was also the season the side made their way back into the Euroleague after having been out of the event for seven years. Having regained this spot, the team will be keen to hold on to it for as long as possible.
The Belgian side nearly made it through to the Euroleague last season, defeating Khimki and then Banvit and at halftime of the final; they were leading Lietuvos Rytas, who were the hosts. Sadly for Ostend, they couldn’t hold on. They did manage to triumph in their domestic league though and will be hoping to go one step further this season.
The name of ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne is known throughout European basketball and the team will be doing everything it can to regain its place in the European spotlight. A wildcard entry into the qualifying rounds in Europe has presented them with the chance to do so and even though they finished 7th in the French league, they will be keen to make an impact this time around.
The opening of the Jerusalem Arena sees Hapoel Jerusalem enjoying a brand new start and their wildcard entry to the qualifying rounds of the Euroleague gives them a chance to mark the season in their new stadium in fine style. Hapoel are another side with a new coach, Danny Franco, and the club showed their intent by snapping up Donta Smith, the MVP of the Israeli League, and the club will be looking to achieve more domestically this season that their third placed finish.
CEZ Nymburk have dominated the Czech Republic basketball scene in recent years, clinching yet another title, their 11th in a row, and they hope to make a bigger mark on the European campaign this season. The club has signed Derek Raivio and Darius Washington and there are genuine hopes that the club will achieve a higher level of success this season.
Last season was a tremendous one for UNICS Kazan, with the club coming third in their own domestic league within one result of the Eurocup. With entry into the qualifying rounds of the Euroleague via a wildcard place, the team has been given the chance to make their mark on Europe once again. Argiris Pedoulakis is the experienced head coach and with Curtis Jerrells and Keith Langford on court, the team has seen it all in European basketball.
Stelmet Zielona Góra
Last season was the first time that Stelmet Zieolna Gora competed in the Euroleague and they are clearly hungry for more this season. The club has promoted Andrej Adamek from assistant to the role of head coach and after coming second in their own domestic Polish league last season, they have room to improve this campaign.
The first round of matches in the qualification process for the Euroleague were spread over the 23rd and 24th of September. The results of the first round of qualifying for the Euroleague were:
- UNICS Kazan v Stelmet Zielona Góra 90-86
- Hapoel Jerusalem v CEZ Nymburk 94-84
- ASVEL Lyon v Telenet Oostend 86-77
- VEF Rīga v Strasbourg 53-82
The top scorer in the first round ended up on the losing side. Steve Burtt from Stelmet Zielona Góra managed to grab 30 points for his team against UNICS, but the Russian side prevailed in the end. This was down to the fact that they had two players who both gabbed 22 points Keith Langford and Curtis Jerrels. This was the tightest match of the first round.
The highest scoring match of the first round came in the Hapoel and Nymburk clash. Bracey Wright delivered 22 points for the winning Israeli side while Nymburk had two players serving up 18 points for the team, Darius Washington and Tre Simmons.
There was to be no glory for the home team at the qualifying round as Telenet Oostend lost out to French rivals ASVEL. Amara Sy grabbed 23 points and 10 rebounds for the French side while Mateusz Ponitka grabbed 17 points for the hosts.
An all French affair was set up for the second round when Strasbourg hammered Riga. Antoine Diot and Ali Traore both grabbed 15 points for the French team while Traore also managed to deliver 6 rebounds. Gerald Robinson countered with 14 points for Riga but it wasn’t enough to knock the French teams off course.
The second round of matches took place on the 25th of September. The results of the second round of qualifying for the Euroleague were:
- ASVEL Lyon v Strasbourg 74-65
- UNICS Kazan v Hapoel Jerusalem 82-71
In the French match-up, Ali Traore was once again the top man for Strasbourg, grabbing 14 points, but this wasn’t enough to grab victory with ASVEL being the stronger team for most of the match. Taurean Green provided 15 points and 12 assists for ASVEL as they marched through to the final.
They will be joined by UNICS who completed a thrilling comeback against their Israeli opponents. The first quarter was tied and then Hapoel were up by 6 at the break. However, the Russians dominated the second half with D’or Fischer being on top form with 16 points in the match. Joseph Jones was the main for the Jerusalem side with 12 points.
The final is scheduled for the 26th of September and takes place between ASVEL Lyon from France and UNICS Kazan from Russia. These teams have contrasting fortunes in Europe with UNICS hoping to improve on a season of much promise last year while ASVEL are keen to restore their name to the list of top European basketball teams. With a place in the 2014/15 Euroleague at stake, you can guarantee that both teams will be up for this game.
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