Drew Nicholas (1999-2003) and perennial powerhouse Panathinaikos advanced by winning Group D, with Nicholas averaging 8.3 points per game. Panathinaikos: How Did They Get Here?
Sarunas Jasikevicius (1994-98), who was Nicholas's PAO teammate the past few years, advanced with his new Lithuanian team, Lietuvos Rytas, just barely squeaking in by winning a tie-breaker for fourth place in Group C. Saras joined the team mid-season, and if he qualified with enough playing time, would have lead the league in assists on a per-minute basis. Lietuvos Rytas: How Did They Get Here?
Key play: In the penultimate game of the regular season, L. Rytas had its back to the wall facing Euroleague champ Barcelona at home and needing a win to stay alive. A brilliant Steponas Babrauskas steal and layup pushed the hosts up 13 with just under seven minutes to play, but Barca kept coming and closed the gap to a single point. Then it was Saras’s turn to deliver and he pulled up for a fearless three to make it 81-76 and restore the hosts’ confidence as L. Rytas survived a free throw battle to win 88-87.However, days after qualifying for the Top 16, Lietuvos Rytas cut Jasikevicius for salary cap space, and Sarunas quickly signed with another Top 16 qualifier, Fenerbahce Ulker.
Terence Morris (1997-2001) and defending Euroleague Champions Regal FC Barcelona finished one spot above Lietuvos Rytas in the Group C standings, tied for second place (but losing a tie-breaker to fall to third). Regal FC Barcelona: How Did They Get Here?
Key play: Barcelona needed to finish the regular season in style and managed to do it with a top defensive play. A layup by Rubio with 5 seconds left and a huge block by Terence Morris right at the buzzer allowed Regal FCB to register a quality home win down the stretch.
James Gist (2004-08) and his new Serbian team, Partizan mt:s Belgrade, finished tied for third in Group A (but slip to fourth place on the tie-breaker). Gist was second leading rebounder in the Euroleague regular season, with 7.5 rebounds per game. Partizan: How Did They Get Here?
Key play: Partizan needed a Game 9 win at home against Prokom to reach the Top 16. It all came down to the last play as Gist, who had shot 3 for 14 from the field at that point, lifted a winning layup that set Pionir Arena on fire, 61-59, with less than a second to go. Partizan had made it to the next round.
The draw to determine the groups for the next phase of the tournament takes place on Tuesday, January 4th, and the next round's games begin on Wednesday, January 19th. As in past years, I'll periodically post updates on how the teams are progressing.