Fenerbahçe to go all out in Euroleague
ISTANBUL / CANTU, Italy
Fenerbahçe Ülker forward James Gist tries to score a basket during his team’s Turkish Aİrlines Euroleague defeat against Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao. AFP photoFenerbahçe Ülker will be playing on a knife edge when it meets Bennet Cantu in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague tonight.
Both teams enter the game tied for the Group A lead with 5-4 records each. Caja Laboral and Olympiacos are also on 5-4 winning records, while Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao in fifth position still has a shot of making it to the Top 16 at 4-5. Despite its current position, Fenerbahçe Ülker could still crash out of the competition.
This evening, Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao hosts Caja Laboral in a match between the two Spanish teams, while SLUC Nancy, the bottom team with a 3-6 record, welcomes Olympiacos. The winner of the Bennet Cantu-Fenerbahçe Ülker game could win the group and earn the number one seed for the Top 16 draw. The loser would drop back in the standings; in Cantu’s case as far back as fourth and Fener, if other results conspired against the Turkish champs, as far back as fifth place, leading it to miss out on a spot in the Top 16.
The best-case scenario for each team would be if Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao and Nancy win, leading to a Fenerbahçe-Cantu match where the winner would come out top of Group A. The doomsday scenario for Fenerbahçe, however, is if it loses while Gescrap beats Caja Laboral. In this situation, Fenerbahçe would finish last in the tiebreaker of 5-5 teams, leaving it fifth in Group A and out of a Top 16 place. Caja Laboral is currently the group leader but has not yet guaranteed its Top 16 spot. Second-place Olympiacos and Bennet Cantu in fourth, however, have already secured their entry to the Top 16. If all goes well for Fenerbahçe Ülker, it will join fellow Turkish teams Anadolu Efes and Galatasaray Medical Park in the next round.
Meanwhile, Anadolu Efes welcomes Real Madrid in a game which will have no effect on the group rankings. Real Madrid has already clinched Group C with seven wins in nine games, while Efes is third with a 5-4 record.
Efes coach Ufuk Sarıca, however, refused to declare the game an exhibition match. “Although the game will not change the ranking of the two teams in our group, it will be an important game for prestige and morale,” Sarıca said according to the Euroleague website. “We want to be on our way to the Top 16 after winning in Istanbul at the last game of the regular season.”
Also in Group C, Maccabi Electra, who is in second spot with six wins, visits last-place Belgacom Spirou, which has a 2-7 record.
Fourth-place Partizan is set to welcome Emporio Armani in the only game that could alter the rankings in the group.
Partizan will top Armani if it wins or loses by less than four points. “We have a four-point advantage from our first game in Milan but I never think about these points,” Partizan coach Vlade Jovanovic said. “If, before the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, someone offered us the chance to play a last decisive game in front of our fans, we would surely accept.”