Euroleague 2012-13, Qualifying Rounds, analysis

UNICS KAZAN vs. RATIOPHARM ULM

On the heels of a sensational Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut season, Unics will now try to get back to the continental elite through the Qualifying Rounds. Unics, that won the 2010-11 Eurocup title, finished third in its Euroleague regular season group and recorded a 3-0 start in the Top 16, which eventually allowed the club to reach the Playoffs. Unics, however, lost its final 6 Euroleague games, putting a bitter end to an otherwise great season. Unics also reached the VTB League title game, losing against CSKA Moscow. Always strong and ready, Unics’ one and only goal is to survive the Qualifying Rounds.

Ratiopharm UlmComing off its best season ever, Ratiopharm Ulm earned the right to play the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds and hopes to make the most out of this opportunity to reach the continental elite in its first shot in European club competitions. Ulm had a fantastic season in the German League, finishing the regular season in second place with a 27-7 record and reaching the finals. Head coach Thorsten Leibenath has led Ulm to its current success and will try to do even better in 2012-13. The first goal is a very challenging one – making Ulm the third German team in the 2012-13 Euroleague.

LE MANS SARTHE BASKET vs. BC DONETSK

Le Mans SartheLe Mans Sarthe Basket returns to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualifying Rounds for the first time since 2009 with the only goal of reaching the continental basketball elite early in the 2012-13 season. Le Mans comes off a solid domestic season in which the club reached the Semaine des As semifinals and made it all the way to the French League title game. BCM Gravelines and Elan Chalon, respectively, stopped Le Mans from lifting a trophy. Le Mans head coach J.D. Jackson and a nice core of players who have been together for several seasons hope to take the club back to the continental basketball elite.

BC DonetskAs one of the fastest-rising teams in European club basketball nowadays, BC Donetsk re-enters the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Qualfying Rounds full of ambition barely six years after its foundation – and with an Ukranian League title under its belt. Donetsk has a new boss in Vlada Jovanovic and has the chance to become the first Ukrainian team to reach the Euroleague regular season. Donetsk competed well in the Eurocup last season, winning its Last 16 group before losing against Lietuvos Rytas in the Quarterfinals. Expect Donetsk to be highly competitive from the very beginning of the season.

CEZ NYMBURK vs. TELENET OOSTENDE

CEZ NymburkFor the third year in a row, CEZ Nymburk will try to put Czech basketball on the Turkish Airlines Euroleague by taking on the challenge of the Qualifying Rounds to start the 2012-13 season. Last year, Nymburk knocked off heavy favourite BC Khimki but lost the Qualifying Rounds final against Spirou Basket. Nymburk also reached the Eurocup Quarterfinals for the second time in club history and won the Czech League for the ninth consecutive year – leaving no doubt about its dominance. Nymburk hopes to use its previous experience and a core of players that have been together for years to get to the Euroleague.

Telenet OostendeTelenet Oostende is ready to try to earn a spot in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague through the Qualifying Rounds. If it succeeds, Oostende will be back to Europe’s signature club competition for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Its solid year-round performance in the Belgian League allowed it to become its regular season champion. The best-of-five title series against Belgacom Spirou Basket went down to the final seconds of Game 5 but Matt Lojeski’s late heroics allowed Oostende to lift the trophy for the first time since 2007. The next step is trying to compete against the best teams in Europe.

PALLACANESTRO CANTU vs. PBC LUKOIL ACADEMIC SOFIA

Pallacanestro CantuComing off a good season in which the team competed hard against some of the best teams in Europe, Pallacanestro Cantu has been offered the chance to get back to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague through the Qualifying Rounds. Cantu comes off its first Euroleague season since 1994, but has won 10 continental trophies, including back-to-back Euroleague titles in 1982 and 1983. Cantu reached the Top 16 and lost the chance to reach the Quarterfinals due to a tie-break disadvantage against Maccabi Electra. Led by head coach Andrea Trinchieri and with a wild fan base, Cantu is ready to battle to return to the Euroleague.

Lukoil AcademicPerennial Bulgarian League champion Lukoil Academic has the chance to make it to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague through the Qualifying Rounds. If it manages to do so, it will mark the club’s return to the top European competition for the first time since the 1976-77 season, when it reached the first group stage. A two-time Euroleague finalist in 1958 and 1959, Lukoil comes off yet another successful domestic season. The club claimed back the Bulgarian Cup trophy and went on to win its 10th consecutive national crown. It now hopes to use its ambition and experience to reach the Euroleague.

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