Week 26 Preview

UNICS travels to Nizhny Novgorod, Zenit hosts CSKA and more in Week 26 of the regular season.

Sunday, March 20

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

Nizhny Novgorod: The home team has an opportunity on Sunday to add another scalp to its collection. CSKA, Khimki and Lokomotiv-Kuban have each stumbled in Nizhny Novgorod. Will UNICS be the next to fall? Nizhny's only victory against the Kazan club came back in 2014 (1-6 all-time).

UNICS: Kazan had a big week, defeating rival Khimki thanks to a 38-point performance from MVP candidate Keith Langford. Now Evgeny Pashutin's men hope to keep the momentum going and complete a season sweep of Nizhny Novgorod (Kazan won by 34 in the first meeting).

Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) - Bisons (Finland)
4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK)
Place: Minsk Arena, Minsk, Belarus
TV: Belarus-5 (Belarus), Elisa Viihde (Finland), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Tsmoki-Minsk: Despite having fewer wins, Minsk currently sits above Bisons in the standings thanks to a superior winning percentage. The Dragons can widen that gap on Sunday as they host Greg Gibson's men in Minsk. Both teams are 1-4 over their last five, though Tsmoki's calendar has been a bit easier.

Bisons: Despite major roster turnover, there's been no panic in Loimaa. Bisons have been competitive in recent games, though the team has struggled to keep it close for the entire 40 minutes. That said, the team's American trio of Hill, Clark and Spark is capable of springing an upset and Tsmoki would do well to not underestimate its opponent.

Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia) - Kalev (Estonia)
4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: SA Tallinna Televisioon (Estonia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Lokomotiv-Kuban: After an incredible string of victories, capped by a win over Khimki, Lokomotiv-Kuban has lost three in a row to Fenerbahce, Nizhny Novgorod and Panathinaikos. Kuban leader Malcolm Delaney said in a post-game interview that the team needs to "get back on its feet." The Railwaymen will try to do exactly that at home vs. Kalev.

Kalev: The Estonians travel to Krasnodar after a win vs. Krasny Oktyabr, which snapped an extended losing streak. As coach Alar Varrak said, the game plan was to play as aggressively as possible on defense. It worked and now the visitors will try to beat Loko at their own game.

VEF (Latvia) - Vita (Georgia)
5:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: Arena Riga, Riga, Latvia
TV: Riga TV (Latvia), Silk TV Sport 3 (Georgia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

VEF: After taking care of business vs. Bisons, Riga moved into 11th place, within striking distance of 10th-place Enisey. VEF has a good chance to keep moving up as last-place Vita comes to town, a team that gives up an average of 97.4 points per game.

Vita: Despite the team's roster turnover, Vita has been competitive in recent weeks and played perhaps its best game of the season last week vs. Zenit, losing a hard-fought contest in the final minutes. Riga is not one of the league's top squads and Tbilisi hopes some of the momentum from last week will carry over on the road.

Zenit (Russia) - CSKA (Russia)
6:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: SIBUR Arena, St. Petersburg, Russia
TV: Match TV (Russia), Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Zenit: Two teams from the top three meet in one of the biggest games of the weekend. Zenit led the league for the first two months of the season before CSKA took control with the help of a record 19-game winning streak. Zenit is coming off a big win in Astana, though the team struggled a few days earlier to put away last-place Vita in Tbilisi. With several foreign players out with injuries, head coach Vasily Karasev has given his Russian players increasing responsibility, including Alexander Karpukhin, who starred in the win over Astana.

CSKA: The Army Men have been in excellent form in the Euroleague, picking up a win over Laboral earlier this week to move into 1st place in their group. CSKA will be in great shape mentally for the game vs. Zenit, which could be important, given that St. Petersburg is looking to get revenge for a 36-point loss to the Army Men in late 2015.

Enisey (Russia) - Astana (Kazakhstan)
7:10 PM (3:10 PM MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
TV: KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Enisey: Krasnoyarsk is precariously perched in 10th place. Despite struggling against the top-eight, Enisey boasts an excellent record against the league's worst clubs. The Siberian club has only played Astana twice in the league (both competitive games). In one of those meetings, former Enisey guard Donell Cooper set the record for assists in a game, dishing out 23 dimes.

Astana: The Kazakhs have struggled with injuries to several leading players, though Ramunas Butautas expressed some optimism that Pat Calathes and Nik Caner-Medley may return for the game vs. Enisey. No matter which team wins this meeting, the losing squad will have a chance to even the series, as Astana and Enisey square off again in early April.

Monday, March 21

Krasny Oktyabr (Russia) - Khimki (Russia)
6:30 PM (6:30 PM MSK)
Place: Dynamo Sports Palace, Volgograd, Russia
TV: Match! Nash sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Krasny Oktyabr: After an unexpected setback vs. Kalev, Krasny Oktyabr's playoff hopes have grown much slimmer. Nizhny Novgorod's lead is widening and the Steelmen still have dates with Loko, Avtodor, UNICS and Khimki. A win over the Yellow-Blues on Monday would be huge for the club, which has yet to defeat Khimki in league competition.

Khimki: A prolonged slump on the court led to a major change at Khimki: head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis--who recently celebrated his 100th win in the league--has been shown the door, replaced by well-known Serbian coach Dusko Ivanovic. Ivanovic did not meet with success in his first game as Khimki fell to Bamberg in the Euroleague. Not surprisingly, there will be a lot of pressure to take care of business vs. Volgograd and get the team back on track.

Nymburk (Czech Republic) - Avtodor (Russia)
6:30 PM (8:30 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: Avtodor and Nymburk have been neck-and-neck in the standings over the second half of the season and battle on Monday for 6th place. Both teams have virtually guaranteed a spot in the postseason, but there's still a lot at stake in the final weeks. Expect an extremely hard-fought game in the Czech Republic.

Avtodor: Saratov has been terrific in recent weeks, reeling off four straight wins, including a victory over Khimki. With a win on the road vs. Nymburk, Avtodor can move all alone into 6th place and keep the pressure on Khimki for 5th.