Week 24 Preview

UNICS hosts CSKA and Khimki travels to Krasnodar to highlight an action-packed Week 24.

Saturday, March 5

Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) - Astana (Kazakhstan)
7:00 PM (7:00 PM MSK)
Place: Minsk Arena, Minsk, Belarus
TV: Belarus-5 (Belarus), KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Tsmoki-Minsk: Having the home court can be significant when playing against a team with a similar record. But while Astana often struggles away from home, Tsmoki has been inconsistent in Minsk, losing twice as many at home as on the road.

Astana: The Kazakh club has only won twice on the road this season and is 1-3 all-time vs. Tsmoki. Can Astana bounce back from its loss at home vs. VEF last week, when it led comfortably at halftime, before getting blown out in the second half?

Sunday, March 6

UNICS (Russia) - CSKA (Russia)
3:00 PM (3:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Kazan, Russia
TV: Match TV (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

CSKA: This has been one of the best rivalries in Russian basketball for years and the stakes are even higher this season with CSKA and UNICS battling for the top playoff seed. CSKA is coming off a comprehensive win over Real Madrid in the Euroleague and looks to keep Kazan from taking over the top spot in the standings.

UNICS: This may be Kazan's only chance to catch CSKA in the standings and move into 1st place. Unlike CSKA, Kazan suffered a big setback in Europe during the week, losing to Zielona Gura and getting eliminated from the Eurocup.

Playing in front of the home fans, UNICS will be desperate to score a big win. Kazan's last loss in the VTB United League came against CSKA in November. Extending the winning streak to 15 against the Army Men would be huge for UNICS's confidence.

Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) - Kalev (Estonia)
5:30 PM (5:30 PM MSK)
Place: FOK Meshchersky, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
TV: SA Tallinna Televisioon (Estonia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Nizhny Novgorod: Ainars Bagatskis wasn't happy with his team's performance in the Eurocup vs. Zenit, but Nizhny still advanced to the quarterfinals. Nizhny Novgorod has also played better in recent weeks in the United League, winning seven of their last 10, including a victory over Khimki. A win over Kalev could give Nizhny sole possession of 7th place.

Kalev: These two teams met last week in Tallinn, with Nizhny picking up a 14-point win. Kalev dropped into a tie for 14th place with the defeat. A win this weekend would be huge as the Estonians have yet to beat a team in the top-8 this season.

Nymburk (Czech Republic) - Krasny Oktyabr (Russia)
6:00 PM (8:00 PM MSK)
Place: SA Nymburk, Nymburk, Czech Republic
TV: TV Nova Sport (Czech Republic), Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Nymburk: Nymburk holds a three-game lead over Krasny Oktyabr for the final playoff spot with nine games left to play in the regular season. A win on Sunday would give the Czechs extra breathing room and put Volgograd's playoff hopes on life support. Ronen Ginzburg's men have already lost once to Oktyabr this season, losing to the Russian club in overtime in Volgograd.

Krasny Oktyabr: Volgograd has to win to keep its playoff hopes alive. D.J. Cooper, who led Oktyabr to victory over Nymburk in November, is no longer with the club, but Ekene Ibekwe has been outstanding in recent weeks and could give Nymburk's frontcourt major problems.

Zenit (Russia) - Bisons (Finland)
6:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: SIBUR Arena, St. Petersburg, Russia
TV: Elisa Viihde (Finland), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Zenit: Zenit dropped to 4th place in the standings after getting blown out by Khimki on February 18. The team was also eliminated from the Eurocup earlier this week by Nizhny Novgorod. But with 15 games left on the schedule, St. Petersburg has plenty of time to make up lost ground. Playing at home vs. 11th-place Bisons, Zenit will be significant favorites. Omar Thomas will also be making his debut for Vasily Karasev's club after moving over from Tbilisi.

Bisons: After losing several starters, Bisons have decided to go young, while keeping a few veterans around, such as Paul Hill. Despite the weakened roster, the Finns nearly beat Enisey last weekend. It's going to take an even better performance in St. Petersburg to challenge Zenit.

Vita (Georgia) - Enisey (Russia)
6:30 PM (5:30 PM MSK)
Place: Kutaisi Sports Palace, Kutaisi, Georgia
TV: Silk TV Sport 3 (Georgia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Vita: The Georgians suffered another blow last week, losing top scorer Omar Thomas to Zenit. Earlier this season, Vita lost by just 10 in Krasnoyarsk. Much has changed since then, including the head coach and a significant portion of the roster, but Nikolai Mazur's club will try to spring the upset. The game is being held in Kutaisi, a Georgian city with rich basketball traditions. The birthplace of Mikhail Korkia, Nikolay Deryugin, Zurab Sakendelidze and Nodar Djordjija, Vita hopes to reward its fans with a breakthrough win.

Enisey: Sunday's hard-fought win over Bisons in overtime was Enisey's first in four games. Krasnoyarsk's biggest challenge has been balancing a short bench with a busy schedule in two competitions (the club recently advanced to the FIBA Europe Cup quarterfinals). A win on Sunday would keep Enisey in 10th place and preserve the club's slim playoff hopes.

Monday, March 7

Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia) - Khimki (Russia)
3:00 PM (3:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: Match TV (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Lokomotiv-Kuban: Krasnodar has been on fire since the New Year, extending its winning streak in the league to 11 wins, including a huge victory vs. CSKA in Moscow. Earlier this week, Loko crushed Anadolu Efes in Istanbul to move all alone into 2nd place in Euroleague Group E. The team has been led by Anthony Randolph, whose sterling performance in recent weeks earned him the VTB United League February MVP.

Khimki: After two straight losses, Khimki dropped to 5th in the standings. Moscow Region regained some momentum with a win at home over Barcelona in the Euroleague, but needs a victory in Krasnodar to stay in contention for a top-3 seed in the playoffs. Going up against one of Europe's top defenses, Khimki's vaunted offense will need to be at its best.