ANGT Kaunas preview: Zalgiris is the team to beat

Jan 10, 2017 by David Hein, Print
ANGT Kaunas preview: Zalgiris is the team to beat

The biggest question going into the second stop on the 2016-17 EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT circuit is if anybody can beat ANGT Kaunas host U18 Zalgiris Kaunas. The two-time U18 European champion Zalgiris has won the last four qualifying tournaments at Zalgirio Arena and has never lost while building up a 16-0 record at the Kaunas qualifiers in 2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16. The field in Kaunas from January 12 to 14 also includes three-time ANGT champion U18 CSKA Moscow, 2012 winner U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and 2010 champ U18 CFBB Paris, which won the title under the name U18 INSEP Paris. Also playing are 2012 ANGT finalist U18 Fenerbahce Istanbul, U18 VEF Riga, U18 Canarias Basketball Academy Las Palmas and U18 Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt.

The teams will play round-robin games in two groups with the group winners squaring off in the final on Saturday January 14. The winner of that game books its ticket to the ANGT Finals at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Istanbul from May 18 to 21, where they will join U18 FC Barcelona Lassa, which won the first qualifier ANGT Torneig de Bàsquet Junior Ciutat de L’Hospitalet.

Group A is topped by Lietuvos Rytas, which lost to Zalgiris in the 2015-16 Kaunas final and was awarded a wild card for the ANGT Finals in Berlin. Lietuvos Rytas lost out to VEF Riga in the Kaunas group stages the previous two seasons. In 2012-13, the Vilnius club knocked off Zalgiris in the final when the qualifying event was played in Siauliai and not Kaunas. In 2011-12, Lietuvos Rytas won the L'Hospitalet tournament en route to the ANGT title. CFBB finished third and fourth at the ANGT Kaunas in the last two seasons after falling to U18 Crvena Zvezda Belgrade in the ANGT Belgrade final in 2013-14. Fenerbahce went winless in Kaunas last season after finishing fourth there in 2014-15. In 2013-14, the Turkish club took fifth place in L'Hospitalet a season after losing in the ANGT Rome final. Fraport Skyliners will be making its ANGT debut.

Host and three-time ANGT Kaunas reigning champion Zalgiris tops Group B. Zalgiris has won 12 straight qualifying tournament games and 19 of the last 20 in the last five seasons - the only defeat being at the final in Siauliai in 2012-13. Zalgiris also has reached 12 of the 14 ANGT Finals to date and was continental champion of the first one, in 2003, and the fifth, in 2007. CSKA Moscow is the record champion with three crowns but its last title came in 2006 and its last appearance in the ANGT Finals was in 2007. CSKA finished sixth at ANGT Rome last season after not winning a game in Kaunas in 2014-15. The Russian club was 1-2 in Kaunas a season earlier after taking third place in Siauliai in 2012-13. VEF Riga went 1-2 last season in Kaunas after reaching the ANGT Kaunas final in 2013-14 and 2014-15 - both times losing to Zalgiris. After four straight ANGT Kaunas events of facing Lietuvos Rytas in the group stage, this season the Latvian side VEF will be in the opposite group with Zalgiris. CBA meanwhile is back in the competition after not playing last season. In 2014-15, the Spanish club finished fifth in Belgrade after a last-place showing in Belgrade a season before. CBA went 2-2 in Kaunas in 2011-12.

After the ANGT Kaunas, the competition takes a break until the ANGT Coin from February 10 to 12 in southern Spain. The final automatic berth in the ANGT Finals will be handed out at the ANGT Belgrade from February 24 to 26.