Basketball: Tigers ready for title chase

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THAMES VALLEY TIGERS' coach Mick Bett has set his heart this season on lifting his club out of the ranks of also-rans, but winning the World Invitation Club Tournament, which begins today at Crystal Palace, is not high on his list of priorities.

Bett, whose club lead the First Division of the Carlsberg League halfway through his first season as a head coach, said: 'This should be an ideal way of getting us back into shape, but the WICT is not a title I'm eating my heart out to win.'

Nevertheless the Tigers, who open their schedule tomorrow night against the German club Braunschweig, look best equipped among the three English clubs to challenge for the men's event which Guildford Kings won last season as the first of their five titles. Tigers finished runners-up in three of those.

Birmingham Bullets play tonight against CSKA Moscow in the first of the men's quarter- finals of this five-day tournament which also has competitions for women, junior men and wheelchair players.

Moscow, who lost last season's final to Guildford, could well reach the final again although they will face a strong challenge from the German side Stuttgart, who are coached by the former Crystal Palace and Portsmouth coach Danny Palmer. Tonight, Stuttgart play USK Prague.

Guildford hardly look equipped to reach the semi-finals, particularly as they face the polished Swedish side, Solna, tomorrow night. Successfully defending the title is surely beyond them. They have re-signed last season's American guard Lorenzo Duncan, but he is unlikely to arrive until Saturday by when the Kings could be playing for the minor places.

The England international Trevor Gordon will also miss at least some of the tournament. He went on holiday in America having been told by the club that the event began on 3 January, when, in fact, it finishes. Alton Byrd is recovering from a knee operation.