Outside of competing in the Euroleague itself, one of the most important tournaments in European Basketball is set to get underway on Tuesday 23rd September. Eight teams will descend upon Oostende in Belgium to contest for just one place in this season’s Euroleague Regular Season. The importance of this competition cannot be underestimated as the winner will compete with the continents best in the coming months.
A do or die tournament, the Euroleague qualifiers have been played for the last six seasons and often produce some of the most iconic hoops action of the year. The path to the Euroleague is frantic and exciting, so what can we expect when the action tips off on Tuesday?
The event will start when French outfit Strasbourg clashing with Latvian powerhouse VEF Riga in the first game of the tournament. Strasbourg competed in the Euroleague last season and will be looking to book passage to the regular season for what would be the second consecutive term. As for Riga, they have never tasted top flight Basketball on the continent, but the club is making its third appearance in the qualifying rounds in four years.
Telenet Oostende are home favourites as the competition is being held in their Sleuyter Arena and the team will get its qualifying bid underway by playing ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne of France. The Belgians have not visited the Euroleague proper for over a decade after missing out in the final game last season. Lyon has been absent from the elite for too long as well, and would go into a sixth season without Euroleague action if they do not win the tournament this year.
On Wednesday, Hapoel Jerusalem will look to build on the Israeli League Cup success this week over Tel Aviv when they play Czech champions CEZ Nymburk. This is one of the most interesting ties of Round 1, with Nymburk looking to book its place in the Euroleague for the first time and Jerusalem looking for a first appearance since 2000/2001. Both teams will think they are in with a chance in this competition, making this Round 1 contest extremely interesting.
The final game of Round 1 will see Russian club Unics Kazan hit the court against Poland team Stelmet Zielona Gora. The Polish team will be looking to head back to the Euroleague after making its debut in the premier European club competition last season. However, Kazan will present an organized and efficient obstacle and the Russian club may feel it is on the cusp of nestling in among the Euroleague regulars. However, the team must crack the Euroleague qualifiers first.