Both competitions conducted their draws on Thursday. In addition to the regular season groups, all qualifying pairings were picked as the last teams in each competition will need to be decided.
Group A: Famila Schio (Italy), UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia), CCC Polkowice (Poland), Tango Bourges (France), ZVVZ USK Prague (Czech Republic), Mithra Castors Braine (Belgium), winner Nadezhda Orenburg (Russia) vs. Cukurova (Turkey), winner ESBVA-LM (France) vs. Atomeromu-Tarr KSC Szekszard (Hungary)
Group B: Avenida (Spain), Dynamo Kursk (Russia), Flammes Carolo (France), Sopron (Hungary), Fenerbahce (Turkey), Hatay (Turkey), winner Wisla Krakow (Poland) vs. Olympiacos (Greece), winner Umana Reyer Venezia (Italy) vs. TTT Riga (Latvia)
Last season’s draw seemed to produce a rather unbalanced regular season while this year seems to have more even groups at first glance. Defending champions Ekaterinburg headline Group A, which currently features six domestic champions. Behind them, teams will be looking to compete for what will almost certainly only be three available places and all of them will feel like they should at least grab fifth or sixth place and a drop down to the EuroCup knockout stages. The qualifiers should also be able to mix it up quite well with the other teams, but the draw threw up an interesting result with Nadezhda and Cukurova matching up and preventing us from having three teams from both Russia and Turkey.
Group B has two of the semifinalists from last year compared to one for the other group. Add to that mix the top two remaining teams in Turkey and perennial playoff contenders Avenida and there will be quite a battle for the top four spots. There is plenty of room for upstarts in this group as French runners up Charleville look to make an immediate impact and one of Reyer and TTT Riga will also make it. The other qualifier will have Wisla trying to retain their place against Greek powerhouse Olympiacos and a win for them could make half of the teams in this group not the defending champions in their country.
A: Artego Bydgoszcz (Poland), Sparta&k M.R. Vidnoje (Russia), Sodertalje (Sweden), Gorzow Wielkolpolski (Poland)
B: MBA Moscow (Russia), Galatasaray (Turkey), Energa Torun (Poland), winner Spartak Noginsk (Russia) vs. Niki Lefkada (Greece)
C: Besiktas (Turkey), Inventa Kursk (Russia), Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus), loser Wisla Krakow (Poland) vs. Olympiacos (Greece)
D: Enisey Krasnoyarsk Region (Russia), Mersin Buyuksehir (Turkey), Sepsi-SIC (Romania), winner Gdynia (Poland) vs. Orman Genclik (Turkey)
E: Umea (Sweden), Beroe (Bulgaria), Botas (Turkey), loser Nadezhda (Russia) vs. Cukurova (Turkey)
Only one group in this half is already known in its entirety in Group A. The other teams will be waiting for all the qualifiers to conclude to find out where they need to a book a trip to later. As usual, the Turkish teams will be expected to qualify from their groups as there are also an abundance of Russian teams in this stage. No team will be thinking that they are out of contention for one of the top two spots in each group that will lead to automatic qualification as a pair of third place teams will also qualify from these five groups. Defending champions Galatasaray sit in group B, but keep an eye on Group E, where the likely two teams to progress, Botas and the loser of the EuroLeague qualification series between Nadezhda and Cukurova, are likely to make noise in the later stages of this competition.
F: Spar CityLift Girona (Spain), Uni Gyor (Hungary), Uniao Sportiva (Portugal), winner Belfius Namur Capitale (Belgium) vs. Lointek Gernika (Spain)
G: Aluinvent DVTK Miskolc (Hungary), KP Brno (Czech Republic), winner Nantes Reze (France) vs. Liege Panthers (Belgium), loser Umana Reyer Venezia (Italy) vs. TTT Riga (Latvia)
H: Nymburk (Czech Republic), Ruzomberok (Slovakia), Cinkarna Celje (Slovenia), loser ESBVA-LM (France) vs. Atomeromu-Tarr KSC Szekszard (Hungary)
I: BLMA (France), VBW CEKK Cegled (Hungary), Rutronik Stars Keltern (Germany), Lyon ASVEL (France)
J: Landes (France), Elfic Fribourg (Switzerland), Tarbes Gespe Bigorre (France), Sint Katelijne Waver (Belgium)
This half has two groups already set as DVTK and KP Brno are still awaiting two final groupmates. Group I is one to watch as ambitious ASVEL from France will clash with the more established BLMA. Two French teams are also in Group J. Travel could be interesting in the western section as TTT Riga could drop into this half instead of the east due to more eastern teams entering the EuroLeague qualifiers than western teams. While the western teams have been less competitive in recent years, last season’s run by Reyer should be a blueprint for these teams as they try to make a run through the knockout stages.