Week 21 Preview

14 VTB United League clubs will be in action this weekend, highlighted by Kazan's visit to Saratov and CSKA's rematch with Nizhny Novgorod.

Friday, February 12

Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) - VEF (Latvia)
7:00 PM (7:00 PM MSK)
Place: Minsk Arena, Minsk, Belarus
TV: Belarus-5 (Belarus), Riga TV (Latvia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Tsmoki-Minsk: One win in five games (against struggling Kalev) has dropped the Belarusian club four games below .500 and three games back of Nizhny Novgorod for the final playoff spot. Despite a strong start to the season, time is running out for Tsmoki-Minsk. Playing 15th-place VEF at home provides an excellent opportunity to get back on track.

VEF: Janis Gailitis's men have lost five in a row, including a heart-breaking two-point defeat to Krasny Oktyabr in Week Twenty. Beating Minsk on the road won't be easy, but VEF does have three road wins already this season, while the Belarusians have only won twice on their home court.

Sunday, February 14

Avtodor (Russia) - UNICS (Russia)
4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK)
Place: Kristall Sports Palace, Saratov, Russia
TV: Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Avtodor: Saratov has lost three consecutive games to teams in the top-8, dropping to 7th in the standings behind Nymburk. Up next: a tilt with high-flying UNICS. A win against 2nd-place Kazan would not only boost Avtodor's confidence, it would also prevent the club from possibly slipping further in the standings.

UNICS: The first meeting between these two teams was a nailbiter: Kazan squeaked out a two-point win at home, rescued by Keith Langford's block in the final seconds. But while UNICS looked shaky at times early in the season, the team has since won 11 straight and still has a chance to catch CSKA for the #1 seed. With a victory in the Volga derby, Evgeny Pashutin's men can improve to 17-2 and keep the pressure on the Army Men.

Krasny Oktyabr (Russia) - Enisey (Russia)
5:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: Alianz-Basket, Volgograd, Russia
TV: United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Krasny Oktyabr: The Steelmen erased a 25-point deficit last week to defeat VEF and move into 9th place in the standings. But Oktyabr still trails Avtodor and Nizhny Novgorod by three games for one of the final postseason spots and can't afford a loss on Sunday to fellow playoff hopeful Enisey.

Enisey: The last time these two teams met, Krasnoyarsk let a 19-point lead slip away, losing 94-86 at home. Enisey will be looking for revenge in Volgograd, despite a 2-7 record on the road this season. A win would move Krasnoyarsk into a tie with Oktyabr and keep the team's playoff hopes alive.

Khimki (Russia) - Astana (Kazakhstan)
5:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: BCMO Sports Complex, Khimki, Russia
TV: KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Khimki: Monday's showdown with CSKA did not end in Khimki's favor, so expect Rimas Kurtinaitis's men to be highly motivated to get back on track vs. Astana. 7-2 all-time vs. the Kazakh club, Khimki has also outscored the visitors by an average of 15 ppg in head-to-head meetings.

Astana: Ramunas Butautas's men are currently tied for 10th with Tsmoki-Minsk and Bisons and still have a shot at qualifying for the postseason. Astana's chances on the road could depend heavily on how Khimki responds to back-to-back losses to CSKA and Real Madrid.

Vita (Georgia) - Kalev (Estonia)
6:30 PM (5:30 PM MSK)
Place: Tbilisi Sports Palace, Tbilisi, Georgia
TV: Silk TV Sport 3 (Georgia), SA Tallinna Televisioon (Estonia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Vita: Tbilisi kept Nizhny Novgorod from scoring 100 points on 2/7, but that's where the good news ends. Vita lost the game by 32 points, dropping to 0-19 on the season. When Tbilisi hosts Kalev on Sunday, don't expect a lot of offense. Vita is last in the league in scoring (66.9 ppg), while Kalev is 14th (75.8 ppg).

Kalev: Kalev has an excellent opportunity on Sunday to snap its six-game losing streak. The last meeting between these two teams was competitive, though Kalev ultimately pulled away in the final minutes. Since then, Vita has overhauled the roster and brought in a new head coach, making the outcome of this game difficult to predict.

Monday, February 15

CSKA (Russia) - Nizhny Novgorod (Russia)
7:00 PM (7:00 PM MSK)
Place: USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia
TV: Match TV (Russia), Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

CSKA: The Red-Blue machine keeps rolling, scoring a convincing win vs. rival Khimki on Monday. Viktor Khryapa was expecially impressive, earning MVP of the Week honors in the VTB United League for his performance.

Nizhny Novgorod: The first meeting between these two teams produced a shocking outcome. Playing at home, Nizhny dealt CSKA its only loss of the season in a thrilling overtime contest. 19-year-old Ivan Viktorov gave Nizhny an unlikely boost in the upset. Perhaps he'll have another chance to impress on Monday.

Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia) - Bisons (Finland)
8:00 PM (8:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: Elisa Viihde (Finland), Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Lokomotiv-Kuban: Following a loss in December to UNICS, Loko has won seven straight and climbed to 5th in the standings. The Railwaymen will be expected to extend the streak at home against Bisons. 27-year-old guard Matt Janning may also make his Loko debut after signing with the club earlier this week.

Bisons: The Finns have had success against Loko, twice upsetting the Railwaymen at home, and enjoy a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series. But winning in Krasnodar is not easy. Bisons will need to be sensational to pull out a win at the Basket Hall.