By Johnny Askounis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresh off the training camp or even at the bottom end of preseason preparations, 25 teams are gunning for the Basketball Champions League Regular Season. Three berths are in play from Sunday through the following week.
Completing the picture of the Regular Season, the Qualification Rounds will decide the holders of the remaining tickets. Turkey’s Antalya and Belek will host the upcoming Qualifiers between Sunday, September 24, and Sunday, October 1.
The participating teams were split into three groups with the survivor of each knockout tournament progressing to the Regular Season.
Benfica craves more upsets
The first team from Portugal to play in the Regular Season, Benfica returns to the Qualification Rounds. Retaining most players from the Cinderella story of the 2022-23 season, including Toney Douglas, automatically brings a favorite status to the team coached by Norberto Alves. TSU in the first round and potentially Kalev/Cramo or Norrkoping Dolphins in the second round are on the schedule.
Highlighting the opposite side of the bracket, Bakken Bears feature returning Michel Diouf alongside young upstart Noah Churchill, among others. Malcolm Armstead and KB Peja make the first challenge for the team based in Aarhus. Petrolina AEK Larnaca and Levicki Patrioti facing each other will result in the next opponent for either the Bears or Peja.
The reward for winning the tournament is entering Group G. Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, Galatasaray Nef, and PAOK mateco will be the next opponents.
Quarterfinals (Monday, 13:00-15:30-18:00-20:30 CET)
1-Bakken Bears (Denmark) – KB Peja (Kosovo)
2-Kalev/Cramo (Estonia) – Norrkoping Dolphins (Sweden)
3-Benfica (Portugal) – TSU (Georgia)
4-Levicki Patrioti (Slovakia) – Petrolina AEK Larnaca (Cyprus)
Semifinals (Wednesday, 17:30-20:00 CET)
Final (Friday, 20:00 CET)
Winners of Semifinals
Vojtech Hruban is back
Securing the services of the all-time leading scorer of the BCL confirmed Cholet among the favorites for a ticket to the Regular Season. Vojtech Hruban is arguably the biggest name of the Qualification Rounds. Leading his new team against Telenet Giants Antwerp in the first of three possible games, he hopes to eventually launch an eight campaign in the Regular Season, following seven with CEZ/ERA Nymburk.
Carrying players such as Willie Cauley-Stein and Olivier Hanlan, Openjobmetis Varese also looks to be placed with Lenovo Tenerife, Darussafaka Lassa, and VEF Riga in Group C. The necessary first step is overcoming the young and ambitious FMP Soccerbet.
Happy Casa Brindisi is certainly another contender, but Xavier Sneed picking up a thigh injury late in the preseason does not help. CSM Oradea is the first opponent for the Italian club. A win would set up a Semifinal contest opposite BG Gottingen or Heroes Den Bosch.
Quarterfinals (Wednesday, 13:00-15:30-18:00-20:30 CET)
1-Cholet (France) – Telenet Giants Antwerp (Belgium)
2-FMP Soccerbet (Serbia) – Openjobmetis Varese (Italy)
3-Happy Casa Brindisi (Italy) – CSM Oradea (Romania)
4-Heroes Den Bosch (Netherlands) – BG Gottingen (Germany)
Semifinals (Friday, 15:00-17:30 CET)
Final (Sunday, 17:30 CET)
Winners of Semifinals
SIG Strasbourg is on a mission
Compared to all remaining participants, SIG Strasbourg displays an additional motivation. Being able to possibly extend the streak of appearances in the Regular Season as one of the lasting originals of the league is among the major highlights of the Qualifiers. The French club will face CBet in the Quarterfinals.
Looking to join Group E alongside direct entries, Pinar Karsiyaka, Filou Oostende, and EWE Baskets Oldenburg. Monbus Obradoiro is another contender, especially after signing players the likes of Jordan Howard and Artem Pustovyi. The first of three possible games is against Mornar Barsko zlato.
A veteran of 22 appearances in the BCL with Nymburk, Lukas Palyza stands out in the roster of the Caledonia Gladiators. The Glasgow outfit must win four games, including the lone Pre-Qualifier versus Fribourg Olympic, to make the Regular Season. Legia Warsawa will face the Gladiators of Fribourg.
The experience of players such as Isaiah Whitehead and Demonte Harper makes Ironi Hai Motors Ness Ziona a significant threat to the favorites of the group. However, dealing with Karhu is the first challenge for the Israeli club.
Pre-Qualifier (Sunday, 19:00 CET)
Fribourg Olympic (Switzerland) – Caledonia Gladiators (Great Britain)
Quarterfinals (Tuesday, 13:00-15:30-18:00-20:30 CET)
1-SIG Strasbourg (France) – CBet (Lithuania)
2-Karhu (Finland) – Ironi Hai Motors Ness Ziona (Israel)
3-Legia Warszawa (Poland) – Winner of pre-Qualifier
4-Mornar Barsko zlato (Montenegro) – Monbus Obradoiro (Spain)
Semifinals (Thursday, 17:30-20:00 CET)
Final (Saturday, 19:00 CET)
Winners of Semifinals
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL