Top 16, Group G analysis

Dec 31, 2019 by Print
Top 16, Group G analysis

Three former champions with impressive EuroCup backgrounds and the bar always set high – UNICS Kazan, Rytas Vilnius and Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul – make up three-quarters of Top 16 Group G. AS Monaco, in its second straight Top 16 appearances in as many seasons in the competition, completes this group as the best rebounding team this season and, among active coaches, the man with the most EuroCup experience on the sidelines.

Elite EuroCup company

This group features classic EuroCup teams in former champions UNICS, Rytas and Galatasaray. Of all the teams still competing this season, these three have the most games played in competition history. UNICS is a perennial contender that won the title in 2011, played in the finals in 2014 and appeared in the semifinals three more times. In Round 6 of the Top 16, UNICS is set to become the team with the most games played in EuroCup history. It currently stands at 201, behind only Valencia Basket's 206. Rytas is a two-time champion, and even though those titles came in 2005 and 2009, Rytas prides itself on its EuroCup success, which also saw the team play in the finals in 2007 and reach the quarterfinals three more times, including last season. In Round 4, Rytas will move into third place all-time in games played in the competition.

Galatasaray won the title in 2016, when current UNICS guard Errick McCollum led it as the EuroCup MVP, and will now have a chance to face his old team. Galatasaray also played in the third-place contest in 2008 and by the time Top 16 Round 5 arrives, the club will enter Top 10 in games played in competition history. Then, there is Monaco, last year's newcomer, which has played just 26 games so far, but is as ambitious as the rest of the teams in this group. Monaco is led by head coach Sasha Obradovic who has coached 117 games in the competition, which is the most games by any active player or coach. Obradovic reached the 2018 finals with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and owns the streak of most consecutive wins by a coach in the EuroCup – 20 in a row from the 2017-18 season – which is experience that could be more important than all the history the other three teams have behind them.

No lack of confidence

This is the only group where every team has at least four losses so far; Rytas suffered six in the regular season. However, that does not mean any of these teams lack confidence or squeezed into the Top 16. On the contrary, Galatasaray, Monaco and Rytas all secured their Top 16 spots with one or more games to spare in the regular season, with UNICS - mathematically - being the only team that waited until the regular-season finale to punch its Top 16 ticket. However, UNICS's chances of being eliminated in Round 10 were out of the realm of realistic possibilities and the team ended up winning its regular season group. In addition, each of these four teams had at least one statement win that has boosted its confidence and put the rest of the competition on notice. Monaco dismantled Promitheas Patras in a key clash in its regular season group and Galatasaray beat Unicaja Malaga by double digits on its home floor to send a message of its own. Rytas swept the mighty Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, which in turn sent Lokomotiv crashing out, while UNICS swept Darussafaka and its competition-best defense. UNICS is also the only team in this group that had a winning streak as long as five games.

Strengths balanced out

This is a group that does not have a single player who averaged at least 5 assists or ranked in the top 10 in that category. Moreover, Group G does not have a single team that ranked in the top five in points, assists or three-point accuracy during the regular season. Galatasaray is the highest-scoring team in this group, sixth in the EuroCup with 82.1, and Monaco ranked 18th with a 76.3 average, while Rytas (80.0 ppg.) and UNICS (78.3 ppg.) are in between. Defensively, Monaco held opponents to the-fifth fewest points (73.2 ppg.) with Rytas 16th after allowing 81.1 points, while Galatasaray (79.9) and UNICS (77.5) rank in between. Moreover, in three-point accuracy, Rytas ranks seventh (37.2%), right ahead of UNICS (37.1%) and Galatasaray (36.8%). One team that does have a few obvious strengths is Monaco, which led the regular season in rebounding (39.4) and offensive rebounding (13.2), and ranked second in steals (9.0) and forced turnovers (15.9). But Monaco also has some serious weaknesses as it is the worst three-point shooting team in the competition, making just 27.9% of its shots from downtown and only 6.2 triples per game. Monaco did not score more than 82 points in any game and had just one player score 20 or more points in a game this season. Rytas is second in offensive rebounding (12.8 per game), but ranks near the bottom with just 49.1% two-point shots. UNICS committed the second-fewest turnovers (12.1) but ranked last in creating turnovers with 11.5 on average. Meanwhile, Galatasaray displayed a strong and efficient inside game by ranking fourth with 55.5% two-point shooting, but allowed the second-highest three-point accuracy (38.7%) and fifth-most triples (9.7) per game.

Shining individuals

Group G features the three players who have totaled the most points scored after 10 games so far this season. UNICS's Jamar Smith leads the league with 168 points and Errick McCollum is third with 162. Galatasaray's Aaron Harrison is in between them at 166. Harrison has been very consistent, having scored at least 12 points in each game this season, including three 20-point performances, while Smith and McCollum are the most dangerous one-two scoring punch in all of the EuroCup. Smith also ranks second in three-point accuracy this season (56.5%), while McCollum's average PIR of 19.8 is third-highest and leads all players on Top 16 teams. Monaco center Eric Buckner, the team's top scorer (10.7 points) and rebounder (5.4 rpg.), was first in the regular season in two-point accuracy at 80.0%, which is among the best four percentages in competition history. Rytas had four different players score 20 or more points at least once this season, including Martynas Echodas dropping 26 against Umana Reyer Venice and Eimantas Bendzius netting 27 against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. In addition to those, Rytas also set a season-high with 18 three-pointers made in a Top 16 clinching win over Tofas Bursa. A timely repeat of such offensive explosions could be a game-deciding and could easily swing the course of this Top 16 group.