Week Seventeen Preview

Astana vs. Nizhny Novgorod and Bisons vs. CSKA highlight Week Seventeen action in the VTB United League.

Saturday, January 16

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

Krasny Oktyabr: Volgograd snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday, scoring an impressive road win in Krasnoyarsk. Playing at home against Vita--the only team yet to win in the VTB United League--the Steelmen will be heavy favorites.

Vita: Tbilisi played one of its best games of the season on Monday, despite losing on the road to Bisons. Can the Georgians build on that performance against Krasny Oktyabr? Led by Omar Thomas, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds in his debut, Vita may be tougher than expected.

Sunday, January 17

UNICS (Russia) - VEF (Latvia)
3:00 PM (3:00 PM MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Kazan, Russia
TV: Riga TV (Latvia), NTV+ (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

UNICS: Kazan has been unstoppable since mid-November, picking up wins vs. Khimki, Lokomotiv-Kuban and Zenit to improve to 2nd place in the standings. The most recent win was especially impressive. Facing an 8-2 Zenit squad, Evgeny Pashutin's men steamrolled the visitors in the opening period and went on to win by 35, 101-66. Taking on VEF at home, Kazan will be expected to extend its winning streak to eight and keep the heat on 1st-place CSKA.

VEF: Riga has played well on the road this season, winning three times. But the Latvians have yet to beat a team from the top half of the league and are currently tied for 13th with Astana and Kalev. History also does not bode well for VEF in this game: Riga is 0-6 all-time vs. UNICS, losing by an average of 13 points per game.

Astana (Kazakhstan) - Nizhny Novgorod (Russia)
4:00 PM (1:00 PM MSK)
Place: SC Velotrek, Astana, Kazakhstan
TV: KAZ Sport (Kazakhstan), NTV+ (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Astana: Ramunas Butautas's men continue to struggle on the defensive end: Astana and Vita are the only teams in the league to give up more than 90 points per game. On the bright side, the Kazakhs are scoring 91 points per game at home, which should test visiting Nizhny Novgorod.

Nizhny Novgorod: After winning back-to-back games, Nizhny lost in Nymburk on Sunday. With the defeat, the Russians remain stuck in 8th place at 7-7. Ainars Bagatskis's team has struggled on the road this season (2-7), which does not bode well for Sunday. At the same time, Nizhny is 6-1 all-time against Astana with the only defeat coming in 2011.

Bisons (Finland) - CSKA (Russia)
4:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: Energia Areena, Vantaa, Finland
TV: Elisa Viihde (Finland), NTV+ (Russia), United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Bisons: The Finns have been known to spring upsets at home, but their chances are slim on Sunday. Bisons face league-leading CSKA Moscow, and struggled last week to defeat an 0-14 Vita team. Injuries to several key contributors on CSKA's roster will help even the playing field some, but Bisons will still be underdogs at the Energia Areena.

CSKA: The Army Men are playing extremely well in the VTB United League and in the Euroleague, where they scored a win over Barcelona on Thursday. The result was especially impressive as CSKA was forced to compete without Nando De Colo and several other important contributors. The Red-Blues might give their younger players a chance in Finland, particularly Ivan Lazarev, who had a great performance vs. Barcelona in limited minutes.

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

Kalev: Kalev has a big hole to fill: big man Josh Boone signed with Khimki earlier this week after putting up huge numbers in Tallinn, including a 20-rebound outburst vs. Enisey in December. Sitting at 4-10, 13th in the standings, Kalev faces a steep climb to get in the playoff hunt. Taking on Nymburk at home, the club desperately needs a win to jumpstart its season.

Nymburk: These two teams met once before this season with Nymburk picking up a 14-point win at home. Michael Dixon starred in that game and has continued to excel for the Czechs, posting 35 points in a win over Nizhny Novgorod last week. If Dixon brings his best on Sunday, Nymburk could very well move to 10-6 and pass Avtodor in the standings.

Zenit (Russia) - Enisey (Russia)
5:00 PM (5:00 PM MSK)
Place: SIBUR-Arena, St. Petersburg, Russia
TV: United League TV
Stats: VTB-League.com preview

Zenit: Following a blistering 7-0 start to the season, St. Petersburg has hit a rough patch, losing three of its last four. The schedule has not been kind: Vasily Karasev's men played four straight on the road against top-8 teams. The team's last home game was on November 22, nearly two months ago. Zenit will be favored against Enisey, though recent injuries have weakened the team's depth and rotation.

Enisey: Krasnoyarsk has lost five in a row, including last week's crushing defeat to Krasny Oktyabr at home. Sunday's game will be a true test of Enisey's character. Zenit is playing at home and boasts one of the league's most potent offense. Enisey, meanwhile, gives up 88.1 points per game and will need to be careful not to allow Zenit to build a big lead early.