(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv isn’t expecting to encounter too many problems on its way to the Euroleague Top 16 after receiving an encouraging regular season draw on Thursday.
Despite claiming a sixth European title in club history in remarkable fashion last season, Maccabi was one of four No. 2 seeds in the draw.
Nevertheless, despite the quasi-snub, the yellow-and-blue will be extremely confident of qualifying for the Top 16 after being placed in Group B with CSKA Moscow, Unicaja Malaga, Alba Berlin, Cedevita Zagreb and Limoges CSP.
The competition format is unchanged from recent seasons. At the end of the regular season, which runs from October 16 to December 19, the top four teams from each group will continue on to the Top 16, while the remaining eight squads will join the second phase of the Eurocup.
After the Top 16, between December 30 and April 10, the top halves of two eightteam groups move on to the playoffs, four best-of-five series scheduled between April 14 and 28. Those series winners will meet with the title at stake at the 2015 Final Four at the Barclaycard Palacio de los Deportes in Madrid, from May 14 to 17.
While there are still four months to go until the start of the regular season, and Maccabi and most of its rivals have yet to complete their rosters, the yellow-and-blue’s management was pleased with the outcome of Thursday’s draw in Barcelona, especially considering Group C includes the likes of Barcelona, Panathinaikos, Fenerbahce Ulker, Olimpia Milano and Bayern Munich.
“We were handed an interesting draw,” said new Maccabi head coach Guy Goodes, who stepped into the big shoes left by David Blatt.
“Our initial goal is of course to advance to the Top 16. We still need to complete our roster and build the best and strongest team possible. I hope we can live up to the high standard we set ourselves last season.
“Everyone is speculating what is good and what is not and what is easy and what is hard, but at this stage of the season you really still don’t know what the teams will look like. All in all, our group doesn’t look simple and we need to focus on ourselves, and take one step at a time like we did to great success last season.”
Also Thursday, Hapoel Jerusalem was drawn to face CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Euroleague qualifiers.
The eight teams in the qualifiers will vie for a single spot in Group A of the regular season with Real Madrid, Efes Istanbul, Zalgiris Kaunas, Nizhny Novgorod and Dinamo Sassari of Italy.
The seven remaining sides will play in the Eurocup.
The qualifying tournament will take place in Ostend, Belgium, between September 23 and 26. Should it beat Nymburk, Jerusalem will face the winner of the game between Russian powerhouse Unics Kazan and Basket Zielona Góra of Poland in the second of three possible rounds.