Vier januari 2011 de dag waarop de EuroLeague-organisatie bekend heeft gemaakt welke teams bij elkaar in een poule zitten voor de volgende ronde van het toernooi. De Top16 bestaat uit vier groepen van vier teams. De eerste twee gaan door naar de kwart-finales.
Alle grote namen zijn door naar de Top16 behalve dus CSKA Moskou. Een van de opvallende namen is Union Olimpija Ljubljana. In de Top16 zullen dus een aantal grote namen gaan afvallen. De poules zijn zeer aan elkaar gewaagd. Groepen E en G lijken op papier het zwaarst waarbij in Group E Unicaja Malaga alweer een Spaanse tegenstander treft.
Groep H is vanwege een aantal transfers interessant geworden want coach Spahija speelt namens zijn nieuwe werkgever Fenerbahce tegen zijn vorige club Valencia. De Australiër Matt Nielsen heeft in de club uit Valencia verlaten voor de Griekse ploeg Olympiakos.
In de reacties gegeven door voornamelijk managers van de clubs zijn weinig interessante zaken te vinden behalve de reactie van Real Madrid-manager Herreros. Wij zijn blij dat we niet weer tegen een Spaanse club spelen. Die kennen ons te goed en zijn gewend om tegen ons te spelen. On the road winnen gaan heel moeilijk worden in steden als Belgrado en Istanbul.
Een aantal teams hebben hun roster in de tussentijd ook aangepast. Barcelona wat grote personele problemen kent door blessures heeft het team aangevuld met Joe Ingles en Allen Anderson. Een van de grote talenten in Europa, Dejan Musli, onder contract bij Caja Laboral zal waarschijnlijk toch op huurbasis elders gaan spelen.
Een paar weken terug kondigde men in Vilnius vol trots aan dat Sarunas Jasikevicius weer terug was. Na zes wedstrijden vertrekt de Litouwer en vertrekt naar Turkije om te gaan spelen voor Fenerbahce. In Moskou is er nog steeds geen nieuwe coach maar dat het spelersmateriaal ook niet aan verwachtingen voldoet wordt steeds duidelijker. Boban Marjanovic gaat voorlopig op huurbasis bij Zalgiris Kaunas spelen. Daarnaast hebben al spelers zelf openlijk gesolliciteerd naar een nieuwe club. Zo gaat het gerucht dat Ramunas Siskauskas naar Real Madrid wil overstappen en weer samen gaat werken met Ettore Messina.
Het is heel moeilijk om aan te geven wie de kwart finales gaan halen. Mijn persoonlijke verwachting is dat de volgende clubs een grote kans hebben om de volgende ronde te halen:
Group E: Panathinaikos (favoriet om de groep te winnen), Caja Laboral, Unicaja Malaga
Group F: Maccabi Tel Aviv, Regal Barcelona
Group G: Montepaschi Siena, Real Madrid, Efes Pilsen
Group H: Olympiacos (favorite om de groep te winnen), Fenerbahce
Unicaja president, Eduardo Garcia: “It’s a tough group no matter what. All of them are hard. Our three rivals in the group show a high level of difficulty but we will try with all our energy to be in the Quarterfinals. We do not really care about who the rivals are, luck had it that it was this way.” Caja Laboral president, Josean Querejeta: “It’s a difficult group. We play against Panathinaikos, a top class level in Europe. Also a team like L. Rytas who has clearly improved in the RS. And Unicaja is tough because we know each other pretty well. We had a negative streak in the regular season and I think we have improved, so I hope we have some recveries and a couple signings to have a good Top 16.” Panathinaikos team manager, Manos Papadopoulos: “A very strong group, like all of them. Everyone will have to play goodbasketball to advance. I think there will be good games and I am sure the fans will pack OAKA to enjoy the games against such fine teams.” Lietuvos Rytas GM, Martynas Purlis: “No easy groups nor teams in the Top 16. All our rivals have big names but we will try to fight and do something in this phase. We have two Spanish teams and a great name like Panathinaikos. We will fight in each game to get a chance to get to the playoffs. Each game should be like a final for us. We will go out there and give our best in each and every game.” GROUP F Union Olimpija communications director, Matevz Zupancic: “It’s a huge challenge for us. We are happy to be in the To p16 again after seven years. We think this is where we belong. The group is tough but also attractive so we expect a lot from this Top 16 for us.” Maccabi Electra president, Shimon Mizrahi: “It’s one of the hardest groups. We have Barcelona, an excellent team and current champ, Union Olimpija, with a lot of success this season and Lottomatica, also a tough team. I am sure we will play tough games but we are also a good team so we’ll go for the best.” Lottomatica Roma GM, Piergiorgio Bottai: “Obviously is a very hard group. We play against the defending champs, Regal FC Barcelona, a historic, Maccabi Electra and the surprise in the regular season, Union Olimpija. It will be pretty hard but also fascinating. We will give 110% to be in the Quarterfinals. We are happy to face these three teams and have to give our best to have chances to advance. Our fans will be very happy to see some of the best players in Europe.” Regal FC Barcelona board member, Joan Blade: “It is maybe not the toughest group at first sight, but nothing is easy. All the teams made it well in the regular season. Our games at home will be decisive to face this Top 16. There will be no easy road games, especially Maccabi, but going step by step is the key for our success.” GROUP G Partizan mt:s GM, Mladan Silobad: “We are happy to be in the Top 16 again. It is a good result for us because we changed the coach and many players. I am happy to play against good teams like Madrid, Siena and Efes. Many of the teams have former players of ours so it will be very interesting to play against them.” Real Madrid GM, Alberto Herreros: “It’s a complicated group. There are no easy teams in Top 16. We have Siena, the most regular team in RS, and then two trips to Istanbul and Belgrade which will be tough. We hope to do well in such a tough groiup. I prefer to play tough arenas with closer fans. It’s more motivating to play in those. Every loss, especially at home, will be critical in such a group. It will be really difficult to win on the road, too. I am happy that we don’t have to play against any Spanish team – we know each other too well and are used to play against us.” Montepaschi Siena president, Ferdinando Minucci: “A pretty homogenic group. I think all the teams have chances to make the Quartefinals. We had a great regular season with a new team and I am very happy of what we have accomplished so far this season with the defending champs having been in our group. But there’s still a long way to go. It is a balanced group but we are optimistic and think we can do well. Our season goal was reaching the Top 16 and that is achieved already it. We are very satisfied with the season we had so far. It will great to play in front of more than 20,000 fans in Belgrade and it will a special game for Bo McCalebb. It will be interesting.” Efes Pilsen general manager, Engin Ozerhun: “I think that above all, all four teams had ups and downs in the regular season but managed to take it to the Top 16. It is a whole different story now, a new start for all four teams. I think we will be successful and will be able to compete and try to beat everyone. I believe it is the toughest Top 16 group. We played against Real Madrid and Montepaschi last season, and playing against Partizan will be very tough. I think everyone can beat any opponent in this group.” GROUP H Olympiacos GM, Christos Stavropoulos:”We had a wonderful regular season, very exciting and competitive. Our goal is to be again in the Final Four. We respect all the teams and we don’t care who the rivals are, we only know we have to be ready for all the six games in the Top 16.” Power Electronics Valencia president, Vicente Sola: “I think it is a very complicated grup, like the other three. The best teams in Europe are here. Zalgiris, Olympiacos we had played against them. Neven Spahija is now the FB Ulker coach and Matt Nielsen is at Olympiacos, both of them key pieces in our winning the Eurocup last year so I am sure that the fans will be motivated to see all these exciting games.” Zalgiris GM, Paulius Motiejunas: “Just like everytime in the Top 16, all groups are tough and all games will also be. I think we have a chance and we’ll try to win all the home games trying to give our best shot to be in the Quarterfinals.” Fenerbahce Ulker GM, Nedim Karakas: “The Top 16 is always difficult because the teams are stronger. This year we will try to do our best and try to make it as far as possible. We will play Olympiacos, a candidate for the Final Four. Zalgiris has also done a great job this season to be here. And Valencia, where our coach Neven Spahija was last year, I am sure those duels will be pretty exciting. The support that the fans give the team is very important, so we will do our best and try to make them happy.”
Top 16 Draw comments: Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball CEO
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 Draw. Especial thanks to the FIBA president, our friend Yvan Mainini, or your presence and support Taking advantage of the dates we are in, I hope the New Year brings you, and your family happiness, health and wellbeing. We are about to start a new and very competitive phase for all the teams: the Top 16. But before reaching this stage, the Turkish Airlines Euroleague has produced very good news that we all have to celebrate. First of all, this has been the most competitive regular season ever with almost all of the 24 teams having had options to be here today. The audience has responded to this competitiveness and we have increased the attendance of fans in our arenas by almost 11 per cent compared to last season. We keep on working to achieve the maximum reach of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague on Television. For example: if the Regular Season last year was followed in about 154 countries, the Regular Season this year has already been seen in one hundred and seventy-two. The Game of the Week has contributed to these numbers. Despite being a very young project, only 10 weeks old, the Game of the Week is a special game with high quality TV production, it is a weekly event watched across the five continents. Thanks to the collaboration of all the clubs, our broadcasters and Mediapro, the Game of the Week is consolidating itself more quickly than expected proving its huge potential for the clubs and Leagues sponsors. It is our obligation to make sure that the Turkish Airlines Euroleague reaches all the continents and all the basketball fans. We are especially proud, because for the first time in the history of European Basketball, from the Top 16 onwards, 5 games are going to be watched weekly in China, two of them live, thanks to the agreement we have reached with the TV channel CSPN and with the mobile operator CBC. In this way we increase the potential audience of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague by eight hundred million people I am confident that very soon we will announce other agreements all with the same objective: the promotion of basketball. This is good news that must be explained and shared. This must be explained to show that basketball is healthy. We have made many changes and I admit that some have provoked some mixed reactions. We will make more changes and we will make them with the maximum consensus possible. But the facts, (all this good news) show that we are following the right path and that we still have a long way to go. We are now reaping the fruits of all the hard work and efforts our clubs and partners have made. Our wish is to continue sowing the seeds and to keep on giving you good news in the future and to make the Turkish Airlines Euroleague even greater. This good news is largely thanks to those who are helping us. To all of them I want to express my gratitude. First of all to all of you, the clubs, thanks to the media and broadcasters because without your presence all these steps would have been very difficult. To Turkish Airlines, with whom we have started an adventure together this year. They are making an extraordinary collaboration and effort to spread our League and with them we are working daily to obtain the maximum achievements for our partnership. Thanks To Nike, Sportingbet, Efes Pilsener, Mondo and the City Hall of Barcelona, that this year has assumed the Responsibility of organizing the Turkish Airlines Final Four next May. Let me now introduce the new logo of the event. A logo inspired by two of the most representative catalan artists, Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró. With Barcelona we are enjoying a great collaboration, in order to succeed as we did in Paris, Berlin, Madrid And now with no further ado, it is my pleasure to invite Mr. Pere Alcober, Sports Deputy of the City of Barcelona, to address you all Thank you very much