Fans of the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament can expect some real battles in the ANGT Belgrade qualifier at FMP Basket City Hall starting this Friday, March 31, and lasting until a champion is crowned on Sunday, April 1.
The challengers for the fourth stop of the qualifying campaign including three former U18 continental champions: host and 2014 winner U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade; reigning champion U18 Mega MIS Belgrade; and two-time winners U18 CFBB INSEP Paris.
The last team standing in Sunday's first-place game will secure the fourth ticket to the ANGT Finals, which will be played at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Kaunas from May 19 to 21. That last qualifier will join U18 Barcelona, which claimed first place at the ANGT Zadar; ANGT Patras winner U18 Joventut Badalona; and U18 Real Madrid, which took top honors at the ANGT Munich.
In Belgrade this weekend, he eight teams will split into two four-team groups and play each other in round-robin style. The two group winners will face off in the first-place game on Sunday. The four teams in Group A are Zvezda, U18 Partizan Belgrade, U18 Valencia Basket and U18 Next Generation Team Belgrade. Group B is made up of Mega, CFBB, U18 UMANA Reyer Venice and U18 Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
In Group A, Zvezda is playing in the competition for the 16th straight season since 2007-08. The host side won the ANGT Finals title in 2014 and finished as continental runner-up in 2015 and 2016. Zvezda claimed first place in the ANGT Belgrade for eight straight seasons from 2011 to 2018, but hasn't won it since then. Zvezda lost to Mega in the first-place game in 2018-19; finished sixth in 2019-20; and then came up one win short against Mega and U18 ASVEL Villeurbanne, respectively, in the last two seasons.
Partizan will be making its 15th tournament appearance, all of them in Belgrade except 2018-19 in Munich. Partizan finally took first place for the first time in its home city in 2019-20 – beating CFBB – but missed out on its first ANGT Finals berth because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Partizan, which also lost in this qualifier's first-place game in 2017-18, lost all four games for eighth place in 2021-22. Valencia returns to Belgrade for the second straight season and its seventh appearance overall. The Spanish side took first place at home in the 2018-19 ANGT Valencia qualifier, finished third and seventh place the next two seasons, and then went 2-2 for fifth place at ANGT Belgrade a year ago. The fourth Group A team is the NGT Belgrade side, a collection of young talents from around the continent coached by former EuroLeague star Petteri Koponen.
Group B is highlighted by the reigning champion, Mega, making its 12th straight tournament appearance since 2011-12. Mega has reached the last six ANGT Finals and was continental runner-up in 2017 and 2019. Mega won at ANGT Rome in 2015-16, finished second in Belgrade the following season and won the Belgrade qualifying tournament in both 2018-19 and 2020-21. Mega went just 2-2 at the ANGT Belgrade last season before using an invite to the ANGT Finals to win it all.
CFBB has hoisted the continental trophy twice, in 2010 and 2017. The French academy is participating in its 14th of the last 15 tournaments, missing only the 2020-21 season due to government restrictions because of the pandemic. After finishing third in Kaunas in 2017-18 and 2018-19, CFBB lost in the ANGT Belgrade qualifier's first-place game in 2021 and won the ANGT Varese qualifier last year. Reyer returns for the first time since 2019-20 to play in its sixth qualifier overall. The Italian side has never finished better than sixth place, its final placing at ANGT Belgrade in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Another team back in the mix is Efes, which hosted the ANGT Istanbul in 2020-21 and took fourth place, the same finish it had at the 2017-18 ANGT Belgrade qualifier.