Maccabi Tel Aviv 88.
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv was drawn with Tau Vitoria, Pau-Orthez and Lottomatica Roma in Group D of the Euroleague Top 16 on Monday afternoon.
The top two teams in the group will qualify for the elimination rounds, with the first place team guaranteed home-court advantage in the next stage.
Maccabi's toughest challenge is expected to come from Spanish club Tau, which finished at the top of its group in the regular season with 12 wins and two losses.
Vitoria, which just like Tel Aviv won all seven of its home games, will be looking for a small measure of revenge against the yellow-and-blue. In 2005, Tel Aviv defeated Vitoria in the Euroleague final in Moscow and last year, Maccabi knocked out the Spanish club in a Final Four semifinal in Prague.
Maccabi will host Tau in the first game of the Top 16 stage on February 15.
French club Pau-Orthez finished fourth in Group C with seven wins and seven losses and is the only team to defeat reigning European champion CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague this season.
The team is led by its four American players, C.C. Harrison, Aaron Miles, Britton Johnsen and Michael Wright, and despite being the weakest team on paper in the group, will be a tough opponent in France.
Lottomatica Roma, which played Maccabi in the previous round, losing at Nokia Arena but winning in overtime in Italy, is led by aging European legend Dejan Bodiroga and will be a dangerous outsider despite registering a 6-8 record in the regular season.
"There's no easy draw in the Top 16," said Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nikola Vujcic. "All the teams in this stage are strong and can beat the other, especially in our group.
"Tau showed how strong they are in the first phase. They are one of the top teams in the Euroleague this season, and we have a long history with them in the deciding stages.
"Pau-Orthez is the only team that beat CSKA so far, so it's impossible to underestimate them, and we saw how dangerous Roma can be in the regular season.
"We need to keep our home record perfect if we wish to advance to the quarterfinals, but we also must continue to improve as the season goes on and get some road wins.
"I really like the Top 16 because it's so intense. Every game counts and you must stay focused 100 percent for six games or else any team can defeat you."
Maccabi captain Derrick Sharp was also optimistic of his team's prospects in the Top 16. "We have a good chance," he said. "We always believe that we can beat any team in the Euroleague.
"We know Tau very well and I hope we defeat them again this year in the same way we did in the last two Final Fours. We haven't played Orthez in a long while, but we are better than them, and we have some unfinished business with Roma."
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