The perennial question at the EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Qualifying Tournament – Belgrade has been whether anyone could beat the host team, U18 Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. And that’s the same question this year as the 2014 continental champion is shooting for its seventh straight ANGT Belgrade title. But Zvezda could face a major challenge this time. The Belgrade powerhouse will play in Group A alongside U18 Porsche Basketball Academy Ludwigsburg, city rival U18 Partizan NIS Belgrade and U18 Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome. Group B consists of U18 Get Better Academy Prague, U18 Spars Sarajevo, U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv and U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade. The two group winners will square off in the championship game on Sunday with the victor booking the fourth automatic berth to the ANGT Finals at the 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Istanbul. The three teams that have already secured their spots at the ANGT Finals in the Turkish metropolis are ANGT L’Hospitalet winner and reigning continental champion U18 FC Barcelona Lassa, ANGT Kaunas champion U18 Zalgiris Kaunas and U18 Real Madrid, the victor of ANGT Coin.
Zvezda has reached the ANGT Championship Game in each of the past three seasons and enters ANGT Belgrade with a 27-game winning streak in the Belgrade tournament, having won the last six editions. Its last defeat was an 85-69 loss against U18 Beovuk 72 in the 2010-11 season en route to Zvezda’s first ANGT Belgrade crown. Zvezda has won its last 25 games over five seasons by an average of 29.9 points - with only two games being closer than 14 points (the 2012 Belgrade final by 1 point over Partizan and the 2016 final by 4 points over Spars). Partizan’s loss in the 2012 ANGT Belgrade final was the closest it has come to reaching the ANGT Finals. Last season the club finished third after losing to Zvezda in the 2015 Belgrade final. The previous two finishes were fourth and sixth place in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Ludwigsburg has played its three ANGTs in Lithuania with a 1-2 record at Siauliai 2013, 0-3 at Kaunas 2014 and 1-2 at Kaunas 2016. Stellazzurra will play in Belgrade after years of hosting ANGT Rome. Stellazzurra reached the Rome final the last three seasons, losing in 2014 to U18 Cajasol Seville, beating U18 Unicaja Malaga in the 2015 final and falling to U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade last season.
Group B will see a debut as GBA Prague makes its first ever appearance at the ANGT competition. Spars returns to Belgrade after losing to Zvezda in the final last season. The Sarajevo club finished third at ANGT Rome in 2015 before it was given a wild card to the ANGT Finals. In 2014, Spars finished sixth at ANGT Rome one season after winning the Rome title and playing at the ANGT Finals for the first time. Maccabi lost in the first ANGT Championship Game to U18 Zalgiris Kaunas in 2003 and has reached the ANGT Finals five times - but not since 2008. Maccabi lost to U18 FC Barcelona Lassa in the 2016 ANGT L’Hospitalet semifinals after taking seventh place at ANGT Rome in 2015. Mega also makes its way back to ANGT Belgrade after a one-season hiatus in Italy and the title at the ANGT Rome last season. Mega lost to Zvezda in the 2013 ANGT Belgrade final and then took fourth and seventh place, respectively, the following two seasons.