13 Games To Watch In 2018-19

13 Games To Watch In 2018-19

The League released the regular season schedule last week. Like the year before, teams will play a true round-robin schedule with a total of 182 games. Check out the games with the most preseason hype, including a rematch of last season’s championship, Zielona Gora’s debut and Loko’s revenge tour. 

Worth the wait: Lokomotiv-Kuban – Zenit
Time and place: October 5, 2018 at Krasnodar’s Basket Hall

loko_zenit_ubl_vtb_ (14)

Last season had incredible drama, but the 2018-19 campaign promises to deliver again. The League opens with a bang: Krasnodar taking on St. Petersburg at home. Both clubs brought in a new batch of foreign talent, while piling on Russian talent. Who’s more prepared for the start of the season?

Newcomer test: Tsmoki-Minsk – Zielona Gora
Time and place: October 7, 2018 at Minsk’s Falcon Club

tsmoki_vef_ubl_vtb_ (17)

The Polish club will debut on the road in Minsk. No one knows what to expect yet from Zielona Gora, including the Tsmoki scouts. What style of play will the League’s westernmost club employ? How good will they be to open the campaign? We will know more after they face the Belarusian champs, who barely missed out on the postseason last spring. 

Everyone hates Chris: Tsmoki-Minsk – Nizhny Novgorod
Time and place: October 20, 2018 at Minsk’s Falcon Club

parma_tsmoki_ubl_vtb_ (25)

Foreign players don’t usually jump from one middleweight club to another in the VTB League, but Czerapowicz made the switch, joining Nizhny Novgorod after a season in Belarus. Czerapowicz was a fan favorite at Tsmoki-Minsk, where he led the club in scoring, but now he’ll be suiting up for the enemy. 

Baltic derby: VEF – Kalev
Time and place: October 31, 2018 at Riga’s Arena Riga

vef_kalev_ubl_vtb_ (20)

These two teams have been battling for Baltic supremacy for years. Riga has enjoyed the upper hand, reaching the playoffs with enviable regularity, unlike their rivals from Tallinn. But everything could change this season. The two clubs meet for the first time in late October! 

Fridzon, Ex-Army Man: Lokomotiv-Kuban vs. CSKA
Time and place: November 11, 2018 at Krasnodar’s Basket Hall

The Krasnodar – Moscow rivalry has some serious teeth. The Railwaymen dealt CSKA its first loss of the season in 2018. Last October, former CSKA guard and Russian national team star Dmitry Kulagin signed with Lokomotiv. Now he’s joined by ex-Army sniper Vitaly Fridzon. Both clubs made significant moves this summer and will compete for the championship, which raises the stakes even more in this match-up. 

Even more nailbiters: Nizhny Novgorod – UNICS
Time and place: January 26, 2019 at Nizhny Novgorod’s Sports Palace

unics_nn_ubl_vtb_ (17)

After several rebuilding years, Nizhny Novgorod stormed back onto the scene, led once again by Zoran Lukic. The Volga club was competitive in almost every game, but lost again and again in the final seconds. 

The playoff series with UNICS was no exception. Nizhny battled the whole way and even had a chance to go up 2-1, before Quino Colom buried their upset hopes. What will happen in the first rematch of the season in Nizhny Novgorod? 

Karasev or Shved: Zenit – Khimki
Time and place: February 3, 2019 at St. Petersburg’s Yubileyny Sports Palace

khimki_zenit_ubl_vtb_ (34)

The debate over the League’s best Russian player has raged for years, but Alexey Shved made a bold claim last season, guiding Khimki to the championship game and a EuroLeague berth. Zenit forward Sergey Karasev would like a second chance. He’s still an elite scorer and the star on a Zenit team looking to break through. This early February showdown promises another exciting duel. 

Settling old scores: UNICS – Khimki
Time and place: February 15, 2019 at Kazan’s Basket Hall

f4_unics_khimki_ubl_vtb_ (35)

UNICS tore through the League in the regular season, losing only twice before the postseason, both times to CSKA. But Kazan peaked too early, struggling to get past Nizhny Novgorod in the quarterfinals before losing to Khimki in the semis. 

Tatars know how to hold a grudge. Rest assured, Khimki will face a hostile crowd at the Basket Hall in February. The game won’t be half-bad, either, featuring two of the League’s biggest teams. 

Perm Classic: PARMA – CSKA
Time and place: February 15, 2019 at Perm’s Molot Sports Palace

parma_cska_ubl_vtb_ (15)

PARMA takes on a bitter rival in the final game before the All-Star break. This match-up earned legendary status in the early 2000’s when PARMA’s predecessor–Ural Great–stole the championship from the Army Men. The fans in Perm remember and would love to taste victory again vs. the CSKA machine. With Moscow battling mid-season fatigue, this could be the perfect opportunity. 

Championship rematch: Khimki – CSKA
Time and place: March 4, 2019 at Khimki’s BCMO

f4_cska_khimki_ubl_vtb_ (66)

Khimki finished sixth in the regular season, but advanced to the championship, knocking out Loko and UNICS along the way. In the end, however, they were runners-up for the second straight year, as CSKA cruised to victory over Georgios Bartzokas and co. Can Khimki exact some revenge when it welcomes CSKA to the BCMO in March? 

No April foolin’: Loko – Khimki
Time and place: April 1, 2019 at Krasnodar’s Basket Hall

khimki_loko_ubl_vtb_ (44)

April Fool’s Day is canceled in Krasnodar when Khimki comes to town. Loko fans have no love for the Yellow-Blues, especially after Alexey Shved bounced their beloved Railwaymen from the playoffs. Playing at home at the end of the season is a great chance to take revenge. 

Priftis under fire: CSKA – UNICS
Time and place: April 1, 2019 at Moscow’s USH CSKA

cska_unics_ubl_vtb_ (27)

UNICS coach Dimitris Priftis will also be in a serious mood. Kazan enjoyed a nearly perfect regular season in 2017-18, losing only to CSKA. UNICS thrived on discipline and execution. But Moscow is known for ripping teams like that apart. Will the Greek boss take a different approach in order to topple CSKA?

Saratov against its own: Avtodor – UNICS
Time and place: April 21, 2019 at Saratov’s Kristall Sports Palace

avtodor_unics_ubl_vtb_ (13)

Two former Avtodor players made the move to UNICS over the summer: center Artem Klimenko and forward Maxim Sheleketo. Saratov proved it could play with the big boys last season, but changes to the roster and a new coach mean there are question marks again. Will the home team spring an upset vs. UNICS? And what kind of welcome will Klimenko and Sheleketo receive?