Four former continental champions will be among the field at the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Kaunas, including the host team of the ANGT season's second qualifying tournament, U18 Zalgiris Kaunas. The two-time ANGT winners have claimed the crown in on their home court in each of the past four years, as well as in 2012.
Trying to dethrone Zalgiris in from Friday to Sunday this week will be reigning ANGT champion U18 CFBB Paris, three-time winner U18 CSKA Moscow, 2012 champ U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, 2012 runner-up U18 Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, as well as U18 Khimki Moscow Region, U18 Stellazzurra Rome and U18 VEF Riga.
The eight teams are drawn into two four-team groups and will play each other round-robin style. The winners of the groups will face off in the final on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the EB ANGT Finals in Belgrade at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. The winning qualifier from Kaunas will join U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona, which won the title at the ANGT Ciutat de L'Hospitalet earlier this month, to book its ticket to the Serbian capital. Subsequent qualifying tournament winners from Munich and Belgrade will also go automatically to the EB ANGT Finals in the spring.
There is a home-court advantage and then there is the relationship between the ANGT Kaunas and Zalgiris. The host team has never lost a game at the ANGT Kaunas, going undefeated in 20 games at the Zalgirio Arena dating back to the 2011-12 edition. The last time Zalgiris was defeated in a qualifying tournament came in the final of the ANGT Siauliai in 2013 against Lietuvos Rytas. And Zalgiris will be looking to continue that winning streak and advance to the EB ANGT Finals for the 14th time in 16 events. Trying to knock Zalgiris off in Group A will be Khimki, Stellazzurra and VEF. Khimki is back in the ANGT for the first time since the 2011-12 edition, when it went 3-0 in the ANGT Kaunas group stage and lost to Zalgiris in the Final. Khimki's three other appearances in the tournament came in the three editions from 2007-08 to 2009-10. Stellazzurra has been a regular in the ANGT for almost a decade, hosting the ANGT Rome from 2008-09 until 2015-16 and reaching the ANGT Finals in 2015. The Italian side took fifth in Belgrade last season after losing to U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade in the Rome final the previous year. VEF has played in the ANGTs in Lithuania since 2012, losing to Zalgiris in the ANGT Kaunas final in 2014 and 2015. The Latvians had a young squad last season and finished seventh in Kaunas.
Group B has three teams that have previously won the continental title, including reigning champs CFBB. The French side, which won its other ANGT crown in 2010 under the name INSEP, lost to Zalgiris in the Kaunas final last season before gaining a wild card for the ANGT Finals and winning the competition. CFBB was fourth in Kaunas in 2016. The 2004, 2005 and 2006 champion CSKA last season had its best showing in the competition in many years. The Russian team lost only to Zalgiris in group play and finished third with a 3-1 record after having collected just two victories in its three previous appearances. CSKA also was given a wild card for the ANGT Finals -- its first appearance there since 2007 -- and finished 2-1 in group play, losing to eventual champs CFBB. Rytas has played in every edition of the ANGT since 2007-08 and won the tournament in 2012, the same year it beat Zalgiris in the ANGT Siauliai final. Rytas lost in the Kaunas final in 2016 and was fourth last season. Fenerbahce lost to Rytas in the 2012 EB ANGT Championship Game and also played in the EB ANGT Finals in 2014. The Turkish team won two games last season in Kaunas to finish sixth after having gone winless the previous season.