(Basketball Champions League) - A total of 16 teams enter on Tuesday night the race for a berth in the inaugural edition of the Basketball Champions League, half in Qualification Round 1 and the other half in Qualification Round 2, with the return leg of all eight ties scheduled for Thursday. Below we take a closer look at the four Tuesday encounters of Qualification Round 1, which involves the national league champions of Belarus, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia.
Neither of the two opponents have started their domestic championship campaign yet and both have several new pieces on the roster so team chemistry might be an issue, but on the other hand both Rilski and Minsk have maintained the same coaching staff as the previous season so there should continuity in their playing style. The two new arrivals in the Bulgarian side’s back-court, Kelvin Parker and Gerel Simmons, are expected to assume a big load offensively while Minsk’s have bolstered the frontcourt with Nemanja Milosevic and Djordje Gagic and will probably look to exploit their advantage close to the rim.
CSM Oradea (ROM) vs. Prievidza (SVK) at 18:00 CET
In the clash between the Romanian and the Slovakian champions the former appear to have a clear advantage, despite the theoretical drawback of playing the second leg on the road. That is because Oradea have already played their first two LNB league games and won both, behind solid displays. Branko Mirkovic, who arrived from Tsmoki Minsk in the off-season, had 17 points and seven assists in the 81-73 win over Pitesti at the weekend while Muhamed Pasalic and Martin Zeno collected 16 points apiece. For Prievidza on the other hand the domestic league gets under way in October but it is safe to expect newly-arrived guard Andre Jones, who played last season at Vita Tbilisi, to be their go-to player in this tie.
Petrolina AEK Larnaca (CYP) vs. U-BT Cluj-Napoca (ROM) at 18:00 CET
Similarly to Oradea above, Cluj-Napoca have already commenced their LNB league campaign but unlike the Romanian champions they have only game under their belt. It can be argued of course that it was enough to confirm what is expected from them, namely a strong team led by the two star additions of this summer, Vlad Moldoveanu and Kyndall Dykes, while former Serbian international Aleksandar Rasic is always a threat from the perimeter. Larnaca on the other hand are yet to play an official game but count on a much deeper roster this season, while they maintained key players from last year’s deep run in the FIBA Europe Cup like Slovenian former NBA-er Primoz Brezec.
Donar Groningen (NED) vs. BC Tartu (EST) at 19:30 CET
Both the Dutch Eredivisie champions and the Estonian league runners-up have largely maintained the same roster as last year and both also enjoy continuity on the bench, as Erik Braal and Gert Kullamäe, respectively, return for another year. Interestingly, both sides have another common feature this year in that they have decided to give some young players the chance to carve out a spot on the senior team. Tartu in particular have six players under the age of 20 on their 15-man roster, while three of them are still under 17. Groningen will be without one of their valuable veterans in this tie, Dutch international Arvin Slagter, who is still recovering from injury.