Host Zalgiris among the favorites for EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Kaunas 0

The third ticket for the 2015-16 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals in Berlin next spring will be handed out this weekend at the three-day EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Kaunas, which tips off on Friday. The eight-team field includes three former continental champions – U18 INSEP Paris, U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius and U18 Zalgiris Kaunas – and another team that reached the ANGT Finals title game, U18 Fenerbahce Istanbul. The biggest question going into the tourney will be if anybody can beat Zalgiris, which has never lost a game at three previous ANGT Kaunas tournaments. U18 VEF Riga has reached the ANGT Kaunas championship game in each of the last two seasons only to lose both times to the host team.

The team comes out on top at Zalgirio Arena will become the third club to claim a spot in the ANGT Finals in Berlin, joining the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Torneo Citta di Roma winner U18 Mega Leks Belgrade and the reigning continental champion U18 Real Madrid, which won the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Torneig de Bàsquet Junior Ciutat de L’Hospitalet. The fourth qualifier will be decided at the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Belgrade in February.

The Kaunas field is broken down into two four-team groups with the two group winners facing off in Sunday’s championship game and the second-placed sides meeting in the Third Place Game. Group A includes U18 Cibona Zagreb, Fenerbahce, U18 Porsche Basketball Academy Ludwigsburg and Zalgiris. The Group B teams are INSEP, Lietuvos Rytas, U18 USK Future Stars Prague and VEF Riga. Six of the eight teams are back in Kaunas from last season. Cibona and Ludwigsburg come to Lithuania after sitting out last season. They replace U18 Bayern Munich, which will compete next month at ANGT Belgrade, and U18 CSKA Moscow, which took part in ANGT Rome.

Cibona finished fifth at the ANGT Rome two seasons ago with a 3-1 record and before that was 0-3 at the 2012-13 ANGT Siauliai. Fenerbahce enters the event after finishing fourth last season in Kaunas with a 2-2 record. It was 2-2 at the ANGT Hospitalet in 2013-14 and then awarded a wild card for the ANGT Finals, where it went 0-3. Fenerbahce reached the title game of ANGT Rome in 2012-13, but fell to U18 KK Spars Sarajevo. And the Istanbul-based club was the runner-up in the competition when it reached the ANGT Finals championship game in 2011-12 before losing to Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. Ludwigsburg returns to Lithuania after not competing in the ANGT last season. In 2013-14, the German club went 0-3 in Kaunas and was 1-2 at the ANGT Siauliai in 2012-13. The favorite going into the tournament is two-time continental champion Zalgiris, which prevailed in the ANGT Finals in 2002-03 and 2006-07. Zalgiris also reached the title game in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2010-11. Zalgiris has a perfect 12-0 record and three ANGT Kaunas titles from 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15. The club lost to archrival Lietuvos Rytas in the ANGT Siauliai final in 2012-13 and was 4-1 at the ANGT L’Hospitalet in 2010-11. Zalgiris has reached the ANGT Finals every year except 2008-09 and 2012-13.

The 2009-10 junior continental champ INSEP lost just one game last season – in the final group game to Zalgiris and finished third. INSEP, which is the select team at France’s National Institute of Sport and Physical Education, had a 2-3 record at the ANGT Belgrade in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 after having finished fifth with a 4-1 record at the 2011-12 ANGT Belgrade. 2011-12 title winner Lietuvos Rytas was 1-2 in Kaunas last season after going 3-1 at both the 2013-14 ANGT Kaunas and 2012-13 ANGT Siauliai events. USK failed to win a game in Kaunas last season after having won at least one game in each of its previous four ANGT events – 2011-12 and 2013-14 tournaments in Kaunas and 2010-11 and 2012-13 tourneys in Belgrade. VEF was rewarded for consistency at the ANGT last season by getting a wild card for the ANGT Finals after losing only one game at the ANGT Kaunas for the second straight season – to host side Zalgiris in the final. VEF had previously finished third at the 2011-12 ANGT Kaunas and 2012-13 ANGT Siauliai.