Mac TA grouped with familiar Euroleague foes

BSL champ Gilboa/Galil draws Hemofarm Vrsac, Hap J’lem to face Belgacom Liege in qualifiers.

David Blatt mac ta coach 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
David Blatt mac ta coach 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will get the chance to exorcise last season’s demons after being placed with both Partizan Belgrade and Caja Laboral Vitoria in Group A of the Euroleague regular season on Thursday.
Tel Aviv’s continental campaign came to a disappointing ending last season after a 3-1 series defeat to Belgrade in the quarterfinals, while Vitoria was the only team to beat Maccabi both home and away in the regular season or Top 16 of European basketball’s most prestigious competition.
Polish champion Prokom Gdynia and Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas, as well as another qualifier yet to be determined, were also drawn into Group A in Barcelona on Thursday, but the highlights of Maccabi’s 2010/11 regular season are expected to come when it seeks revenge against Partizan and Vitoria.
“We have been handed very strong opponents which are also of much interest to our fans,” said new Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, who feels it is still too early to predict how the group games will unfold.
“We are only at the start of July and it is very hard to tell how the teams will look when the season starts.
“Vitoria is of course an excellent side and we saw how Lior Eliyahu and his teammates beat Euroleague champion Barcelona to win the championship in Spain. Partizan won the Adriatic League and was in the Euroleague Final Four. Prokom is the Polish champion and is also coming off a wonderful season in Europe. Zalgiris was the runner-up in Lithuania and the champion of the Baltic League, with the team to come from the qualifiers also set to be a challenging opponent.”
Maccabi will visit Vitoria in its first regular season game on October 21, with the yellow-and-blue to end the initial 10-game group stage away to Gdynia on December 23. The Top 16 opens on January 16, 2011 and goes through March 3, after which the eight remaining teams will play in the best-of-five quarterfinal playoffs.
The regular season qualifiers begin on September 21, with Israeli champion Hapoel Gilboa/Galil drawn on Thursday to face Serbia’s Hemofarm Vrsac in the first qualifying round.
“There are no easy draws in the Euroleague,” said new Gilboa coach Lior Lubin, who was Oded Katash’s assistant at the club last season.
Gilboa will host the first leg at the Nokia Arena before traveling to Serbia for the return leg a week later.
Hapoel will have to come through three home-and-away ties to make the group stage, with the winner of the clash between Alba Berlin and Roanne of France awaiting it in the second round. A defeat in any of the rounds will give Gilboa a place in the 2010-11 Eurocup regular season.
Hapoel Jerusalem will have to overcome Belgacom Liege to reach the Eurocup regular season after being drawn on Thursday to face the Belgian team in the qualifying round.
“I don’t really know our opponent, but we will have plenty of time to learn about it,” said new Jerusalem coach Katash. “All the teams in this competition are of a very high level and I will get plenty of help from Israel coach Arik Shivek who knows all about Liege.”
The first leg will be played in Belgium on September 28, with the return leg to take place at Malha Arena a week later.
The loser of the tie will play in Group D of the EuroChallenge regular season, which also includes Barak Netanya.
Netanya was drawn into Group D on Thursday with Telekom Ankara of Turkey, the winner of the qualifier between Sweden’s Nörrköping Dolphins and Belgium’s Okapi Aalstar, as well as the loser of the Jerusalem tie.
Maccabi Haifa will play Paris Levallois for a place in EuroChallenge Group B, which also includes BT Ventspils of Latvia, the loser of the tie between Skyliners Frankfurt (GER) and Besiktas J.K. (TUR), as well as the winner of the encounter between BC Khimik Yuzhny (UKR) and CSU Asesoft Ploiesti (ROU).