Key clashes between the leaders in both groups could have impacts on the way the regular season plays out.
Stats review: Looking at Round 8's top-of-the-table duels
Round 7 of the BKT EuroCup featured several important matchups as the London Lions notched a hard-fought road victory over Besiktas Emlakjet Istanbul in Group A, Paris Basketball and Dreamland Gran Canaria remained undefeated, and U-BT Cluj-Napoca rose into sole possession of second place in Group B with a 38-point road win. All that action has set the stage for the most intriguing round of the EuroCup season so far as the top two teams in both groups go head-to-head with Besiktas heading to Paris and Cluj hosting Gran Canaria.
The latter matchup features two of this season’s top defensive units. As the table above suggests, Cluj has gotten defensive stops on a higher percentage of the possessions it has faced than any team in the EuroCup. While the Romanian champs have done a good job forcing turnovers and avoiding fouls, their shot defense has been the factor that has differentiated them among this season’s other top units. Preventing runouts, employing full-court pressure effectively without conceding many quality looks because of it, and limiting shots around the rim, Cluj's success this season has been built on is ability to do the little things.
Shot defense tends to level out to a degree over the course of the season as it is difficult to contain the shot-making at this level over the long haul, which tends to magnify the little things teams do well defensively by the end of the year. Cluj has certainly established the right habits early but that will be put to the test against the reigning champions and this season’s third-most efficient offense in Round 8. The outcome there could provide clarity on whether there’s going to be a challenger at the top of Group B during the regular season as Gran Canaria would move two games clear with a victory.
Paris has already achieved that in Group B but will have a chance to make its cushion even more comfortable if it can defeat a second-place Besiktas team that has been in lockstep with on the defensive end on paper. Even though the outcomes they have achieved defensively have lined up almost perfectly, Besiktas and Paris have very different approaches with Besiktas looking to force teams to beat them inside the arc and Paris pushing the action away from the rim. How those differences stack up in Round 8 will be a storyline to follow as Paris currently ranks second in offensive efficiency and would put itself in prime position to finish the first half of the season undefeated with a win.
Even in mid-November, Round 8 will have a playoff feel as the EuroCup’s best look to make a statement.