Week Nineteen Preview

Bisons vs. Nizhny Novgorod and Nymburk vs. UNICS highlight the action in Week Nineteen.

Sunday, January 31

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

Krasny Oktyabr: Volgograd continues to struggle at home, losing last week to Zenit St. Petersburg. A bigger challenge awaits on Sunday: league-leading CSKA comes to town. If the Steelmen lose this game, they will drop to 2-6 at home.

CSKA: The Army Men have been successful at home and on the road. CSKA's scoring does suffer away from home (10 points per game less) and the defense gives up more points, but the team has still only lost once on the road in the VTB United League. The Army Men are also 5-0 all-time against Krasny Oktyabr in league play.

Bisons (Finland) - Nizhny Novgorod (Russia)
4:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: Loimaa Sports Hall, Loimaa, Finland
TV: Elisa Viihde (Finland), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Bisons: Sunday is crucial to Bisons' playoff hopes. Three games back of 8th-place Nizhny Novgorod, the Finns desperately need a win at home to stay alive in the postseason hunt. The team has yet to beat Nizhny, losing on a Evgeny Baburin buzzer-beater in October.

Nizhny Novgorod: The Volga club has opened up a two-game lead in the race for the final playoff spot. A win vs. Bisons would push the club's record above .500 and give Ainars Bagatsksis's men even more breathing room. Coming off a win over Olimpija in the Eurocup, Nizhny Novgorod will be in high spirits. Watch out for Victor Rudd: the American forward scored 28 in the game vs. Olimpija.

VEF (Latvia) - Zenit (Russia)
5:00 PM (6:00 PM MSK)
Place: Arena Riga, Latvia, Riga
TV: Riga TV (Latvia), Match! Nash Sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

VEF: Riga last won at home nearly three months ago and lost big in its first meeting with Zenit this season. Ex-VEF star Janis Timma starred for St. Petersburg in the victory. Can VEF get revenge on its home court Sunday?

Zenit: St. Petersburg suffered another setback this week, losing Evgeny Valiev to a season-ending injury. Vasily Karasev's men also fell to Zielona Gura in the Eurocup. It's not all bad news, however. The Latvian center Kaspars Berzins recently joined the club and should provide much needed reinforcement. He used to play for VEF, which should give added significance to Sunday's contest.

Nymburk (Czech Republic) - UNICS (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: The Game of the Week features two teams from the top half of the standings. Nymburk will have the home-court advantage, but expect UNICS to be favored. The Czechs have been wildly inconsistent since late December. Last week, the team fell to Lokomotiv-Kuban despite keeping the score close for three quarters. A win on Sunday would be huge for Nymburk, which has been slipping in the standings and could see its lead over 8th-place Nizhny Novgorod shrink to half a game with a loss.

UNICS: Kazan has rarely had trouble against Nymburk, boasting a 5-0 record all-time and 12 points per game scoring differential. Keith Langford led UNICS to a win over Nymburk earlier this season and starred in a victory vs. Maccabi on Wednesday that put Kazan in the Eurocup Round of 16.

Monday, February 1

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

Vita: Four of the team's last five games were on the road, making Monday's contest at home a welcome change. But don't expect Vita to snap its losing streak: Khimki will be heavily favored in Tbilisi. Vita has been better in recent weeks, but will likely struggle against the VTB United League's most explosive offense (Khimki averages 98.1 points per game).

Khimki: Several records were set when these two teams met in Moscow Region as Khimki knocked down 19 3-pointers and dished out 38 assists. The visitors also have a chance to give head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis his 100th victory in the VTB United League (UNICS coach Evgeny Pashutin is 2nd all-time with 95 wins).

Astana (Kazakhstan) - Lokomotiv-Kuban (Russia)
8:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: SC Velotrek, Astana, Kazakhstan
TV: KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), Match! Nash Sport (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Astana: Astana won two straight for the first time this season in January to improve to 6-10 and pull within two games of 8th-place Nizhny Novgorod. With an upset at home, the Kazakh club has an opportunity to make up even more ground.

Lokomotiv-Kuban: Kuban has won five straight to improve to 5th in the standings. The Railwaymen now have their sights set on bumping Zenit out of the top-4. On Monday, Georgios Bartzokas's men will be expected to win...Lokomotiv already beat Astana by 33 earlier this season.