Week Eighteen Preview

Nizhny Novgorod vs. Avtodor and Lokomotiv-Kuban vs. Nymburk headline the action in Week Eighteen.

Saturday, January 23

Krasny Oktyabr (Russia) - Zenit (Russia)
4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK)
Place: Dynamo Sports Palace, Volgograd, Russia
TV: NTV+ (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Krasny Oktyabr: Volgograd is battling hard for a playoff spot, but catching Nizhny Novgorod won't be easy. Next week, the Steelmen host CSKA, while 4th-place Zenit comes to town this week. Oktyabr has also struggled on its home court, losing four of six games.

Zenit: St. Petersburg got some good news this week, signing Latvian center Kaspars Berzins to make up for the loss of Kyle Landry, who suffered a season-ending injury. After the loss to UNICS, Zenit has won back-to-back games in the United League and Eurocup. Now the team would love to make a push for the top-3.

Sunday, January 24

Tsmoki-Minsk (Belarus) - UNICS (Russia)
4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK)
Place: Minsk Arena, Minsk, Belarus
TV: Belarus-5 (Belarus), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Tsmoki-Minsk: Minsk played most of the league's top teams in December and early January, losing five straight before snapping the streak last week vs. Kalev. On Sunday, the Dragons face another contender, UNICS Kazan. Though Kazan has only lost twice this season, one of those defeats came at home vs. Tsmoki in the first week of the season.

UNICS: To its credit, Kazan has made enormous strides since October. The team's only other loss came against CSKA in mid-November. Keith Langford has been terrific all season, leading Kazan to a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Eurocup earlier this season.

Kalev (Estonia) - Astana (Kazakhstan)
5:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: Saku Suurhall, Tallinn, Estonia
TV: SA Tallinna Televisioon (Estonia), KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Kalev: After losing last week to Tsmoki, Kalev dropped into a tie for 14th with VEF. The Estonians have a good opportunity to get back on track vs. Astana, one of only two teams in the league yet to win on the road.

Astana: Despite struggling away from home, Ramunas Butautas's men know how to beat Kalev, boasting a perfect 7-0 record vs. the Estonian club. Astana already beat Kalev in early December and knocked off Nizhny Novgorod last week to remain in contention for a playoff berth.

CSKA (Russia) - Vita (Georgia)
6:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia
TV: United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

CSKA: There have been some big upsets this season, but don't expect much intrigue when Vita travels to Moscow on Sunday. These two teams bookend the standings and command very different resources. After suffering a disappointing defeat in the Euroleague, CSKA will be extremely motivated to take care of business quickly vs. Vita.

Vita: Though Tbilisi's chances of making this game close are slim, the team has shown improvement in recent weeks. Led by new head coach Nikolai Mazurs, the Georgians tested Bisons and only lost by three to Krasny Oktyabr on the road. Vita also inked a new player this week, Jherrod Stiggers, from Kifisia (Greece).

Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) - Avtodor (Russia)
6:30 PM (6:30 PM MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
TV: NTV+ (Russia), Match TV (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhny needs to bounce back at home after dropping a game in Astana last week. The Russians are hanging onto 8th place, but several teams are closing the gap. A win over Avtodor would be huge for Nizhny's playoff hopes.

Avtodor: Saratov, meanwhile, is trying to pass Lokomotiv in the standings and move closer to the top-3. Alexey Vasilyev's men are averaging 87.4 points per game and have played well on the road. It should also be noted that Avtodor's first win of the season came in overtime vs. Nizhny Novgorod.

Enisey (Russia) - VEF (Latvia)
Time: 7:10 PM (3:10 PM MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
TV: NTV+ (Russia), Riga TV (Latvia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Enisey: Oleg Okulov's men are in free fall, having lost six in a row. The schedule has not been easy: Enisey faced four of the league's top-5 teams in less than a month. On Sunday, Enisey has a great chance to get back on track, hosting 4-11 VEF.

VEF: The Latvians have also struggled, facing CSKA, Loko, UNICS and Khimki in recent weeks... It should be a good game in Krasnoyarsk, especially considering that VEF has played much better on the road this season than at home.

Monday, January 25

Khimki (Russia) - Bisons (Finland)
7:30 PM (7:30 PM MSK)
Place: BCMO Sports Complex, Khimki, Russia
TV: Elisa Viihde (Finland), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Khimki: Moscow Region is on a roll, boasting a seven-game winning streak in the United League. Alexey Shved has been terrific for Khimki. The Russian guard scored 22 points in a win over Bamberg in the Euroleague on Friday. Khimki has yet to lose at home this season and will be heavily favored vs. Bisons.

Bisons: The Finns have played well in recent weeks, knocking off Vita and Krasny Oktyabr, while playing CSKA close for three quarters. Greg Gibson's men are known for springing upsets, but expectations will be low as they travel to Moscow Region.

Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia) - Nymburk (Czech Republic)
8:00 PM (8:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: NTV+ (Russia), Match TV (Russia), TV Nova Sport (Czech Republic), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Lokomotiv-Kuban: Three teams are battling for 5th place: Nymburk, Lokomotiv-Kuban and Avtodor. Kuban brings a 7-2 record all-time into the game vs. the Czechs and will be playing at home. Krasnodary will also be looking to get revenge for their loss in Nymburk in early October.

Nymburk: After dropping out of the top-3, Nymburk has regained its momentum. A win in Krasnodar would allow the Czechs to pass Lokomotiv and put pressure on 4th-place Zenit. It won't be an easy task. Loko only gives up 71.2 points per game, while Nymburk has struggled away from home this season.