May 08, 2016 by David Hein, Print

The EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT reaches its pinnacle at the 2016 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Berlin, where Europe’s elite youth club competition will decide its 14th champion. Five past champions, including reigning title-holder U18 Real Madrid, have reached the eight-team field, which will play in two groups at the Sportforum Berlin with the group winners squaring off in the championship game at Mercedes-Benz Arena hours before the Euroleague title is handed out on the same floor.

In addition to Madrid, the list of former champs includes 2003 and 2007 winner U18 Zalgiris Kaunas, 2010 champ U18 INSEP Paris, 2012 winner U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and U18 Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, which grabbed the trophy in 2014. Zalgiris also appeared in three finals: 2005, 2006 and 2011; while Lietuvos Rytas lost to U18 FMP in the 2009 title bout; and Zvezda lost to Madrid in the 2015 championship game. Another participant, U18 FC Barcelona Lassa, dropped the 2008 and 2013 finals.

Joining that sextet in the ANGT Finals are host U18 ALBA Berlin, which is back in the Finals for the first time since hosting it in 2009; and U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade, which is making its debut after winning the ANGT Torneo Citta di Roma Qualifying Tournament. This season’s three other qualifying tournaments were won by Madrid (ANGT – L’Hospitalet), Zalgiris (ANGT Kaunas) and Zvezda (ANGT “Marko Ivkovic” Belgrade). The other four clubs received wild cards invitations to the ANGT Finals.

The group stage will be played from Thursday May 12 through Saturday May 14. Group A comprises Barcelona, INSEP, Mega and Zalgiris, while Group B features ALBA, Zvezda, Rytas and Madrid. The most anticipated game of the group stage may be the showdown between Madrid and Zvezda– the penultimate game in Group B. The two powers met in the last two championship games with Zvezda winning in 2014 and Madrid grabbing a thrilling 73-70 victory in last season’s final for its first ANGT title.

Real Madrid completed the rare ANGT-Euroleague double last season, joining the 2006 CSKA Moscow club as the only other team to win both of the Euroleague’s club competitions on the same weekend. This will be the first time since 2011 that no club has representatives in both competitions after Madrid the past two seasons and Barcelona the previous two.

Zalgiris is the only one of the past champs in this year’s field to hoist the trophy more than once. If the Lithuanian giant can win again, it would pull even with CSKA Moscow (2004, 2005 and 2006) with a record three crowns. Should INSEP, Lietuvos Rytas, Madrid or Zvezda claim the title, it would pull even on two with Zalgiris and FMP (2008, 2009). Madrid also has the chance to be the first repeat champion since FMP achieved the feat in 2009 – also in Berlin. Since then, however, six different teams have won the six ANGT Finals. Barcelona, ALBA and Mega would all like to continue that trend.

One thing is certain, every team will be going into the ANGT Finals looking to play in the championship game Sunday before the Euroleague grand finale.