Both competitions had their matchups drawn on Thursday:
The qualifier groups were already decided before the draw due to regionalization, but the order of games was determined with games played September 21st through 23rd. Sfantu Gheorghe was picked as the host site for the eastern group, but the Romanian champions will not play on opening day with Kayseri and Szekszard squaring off to open proceedings. Sepsi will then play Szekszard on Wednesday and Kayseri on Thursday with the top team grabbing a spot in EuroLeague and the other two teams dropping down to EuroCup. Schio will welcome the other western qualifier teams to Italy and opens on Tuesday against Valencia before playing Bourges. Bourges and Valencia will then play the Thursday game with the fight for the last EuroLeague spot figuring to be quite competitive.
The two groups were also drawn and there are going to be some intriguing matchups. Defending champions Ekaterinburg will have finals rematches against Avenida. Czech champions USK Praha will look to bounce back from a disappointing last campaign, but French cup winners Lattes Montpellier and Italian champions Reyer Venezia also figure to have quarterfinal expectations from Group A. Nobody knows what to expect from MBA, which has been playing with an all-Russian team while Riga has shown the ability to play spoiler and the eastern qualifier will be at least expect to avoid elimination at this stage. Group B is highlighted by the latest set of games between the great Turkish rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. Every team will enter believing that they should be in the quarterfinals including the survivor of the tough western qualifier. Sopron will be looking to return to the semifinals while Dynamo Kursk is aiming to get back to that level. Landes has momentum after winning the French championship, Girona enters as cup winner from Spain, and Arka Gdynia has strengthened their roster after winning the title in Poland. With the top four teams in each group advancing to the quarterfinals, the next two teams will join EuroCup at the quarterfinal stage, and the bottom two teams will be eliminated.
With so many teams applying to play this season, there are a number of qualifying games to be played. The teams listed second will host the first games on or around September 23rd and the teams listed first will host the return games on or around September 30th with the combined score determining the winners. Once group play finishes, the top two teams in each group will advance to the Round of 32 along with the top four third-place teams from each conference.
There are six matchups on the eastern conference side. Elitzur Holon is looking to give Israel another team in the competition, but will have a tough task against Hatay, which has plenty of experience at this level as part of a large Turkish contingent. Eleftheria Moschatou is a bit of a mystery as a newer entry from Greece and will face Bydgoszcz of Poland. Also from Poland, Lublin will face Spartak Moscow with both teams having entered the competition this season with the expectation of the group stage and more only to draw each other. Elazig is another experienced Turkish team welcoming a new team from Greece to the mix in PAOK. Niki Lefkadas completes the group of Greek unseeded teams, although they have participated recently, drawing a tough team in Hungary’s PEAC. Csata will also be representing Hungary, facing Umea, the only Swedish team to enter this season.
The western conference has seven matchups, including some unexpected newcomers. Teams in the far west will play each other as Haukar hosts the first game in Iceland and then Uniao Sportiva welcomes them to the Azores. Italian upstarts Magnolia Campobasso face Spain’s Ensino. Ulriken Eagles, a surprise entry from Norway will feel like they can succeed against Belgium’s Liege while Slovakia’s Piestanske Cajky will feel the most unlucky with a tough task against France’s Carolo. Also from France, Tarbes faces Belgium’s Kortrijk. Grengewald Hueschtert is trying to bring representation from Luxembourg to the competition, but Italy’s Dinamo Sassari should feel like they are the favorites even as an unseeded team. London Lions had a similar hope for British basketball, but their solid roster will get a test when they have to travel out to Gran Canaria.
With so many teams involved this season, there look to be some strong groups even before the last teams are known. Group A certainly qualifies as Polkowice looks to return to past levels, surprise Greek champions Panathinaikos are preparing for this competition, and there will be significant travel to the east to Krasnoyarsk to face Enisey. Hatay or Elitzur Holon will complete the group and either one is likely to be considered one of the tougher qualifier teams. Hungary’s Gyor and Prometey, which as a team from Ukraine knew that they would not face a team from Russia, are still waiting for two teams to join them in Group B. One team will be the runners-up from the eastern EuroLeague qualifier and the group could get even tougher with Elazig facing PAOK in a qualifier. Turkey’s Cukurova Mersin Yenisehir has announced a loaded roster and figure to be the favorites in Group C with Poland’s Gorzow, Belarus’s Horizont Minsk, and the qualifying winner between Spartak Moscow and Lublin looking to join them in the knockout round. Group D also only has two teams set in Israel’s Ramla and Turkey’s Nesibe with the last place team from the EuroLeague eastern qualifier joining and the qualifying winner between PEAC and Niki Lefkadas looking more likely to have an uphill battle. Group E has experience in Russia’s Nadezhda Orenburg, which is looking to bounce back from last season, and Olympiacos, which was unable to retain their group in Greece. Serbian champions Crvena zvezda may have a fan friendship with Olympiacos on a multi-sport level, but Red Star will be looking to make a name for themselves by joining this competition and Eleftheria Moschatou will try to increase Greek presence in this group if they can prevail in their qualifier against Bydgoszcz. Group F has experienced teams in Turkey’s Orman and Hungary’s DVTK, but the intriguing name is Russian upstarts Nika Syktyvkar as more experience is set to be added with either Umea or Csata from the qualifiers.
There are still a number of blank spots to be filled after qualifying games, but there are already a number of strong groups in this conference. The second-place team from the tough EuroLeague western qualifier drops into Group G along with Swiss champs Fribourg, Spain’s Tenerife, and a qualifying winner between Grengewald Hueschtert and Dinamo Sassari. Group H looks to be one of the toughest with Spain’s Gernika, France’s Roche, and Italy’s Virtus Bologna waiting for the qualifying winner between Carolo and Piestanske Cajky. Group I has two Belgian teams in Namur and Mechelen, but they will not be favored against the third-place team from the EuroLeague western qualifier and the qualifier winner between Ensino and Magnolia Campobasso could also be tough. Lyon figures to be significantly stronger than anyone else in Group J, but Slovakia’s Ruzomberok, Spain’s Estudiantes, and a qualifying team in either Liege or Ulriken Eagles will still be looking to make some noise. Group K has three experienced teams in Belgium’s Braine, Germany’s Keltern, and Brno from the Czech Republic, but the qualifying winner between Islas Canarias and London Lions just adds more strength to this group. Villeneuve from France and KP Brno from the Czech Republic are waiting for two qualifiers in Group L with Uniao Sportiva-Haukur and Tarbes-Kortrijk needing to be played to complete the picture.