The Eurocup tournament concludes this weekend with the quartet of matches comprising the competition’s final four. Backed by a handful of road-tripping fans, Alba Berlin will take on the Black Tide of Bilbao Bizkaia Basket in the late game. Starting things up tonight will be Victor Claver and his youthful Valencia Power Electronics (That’s the team name, right? The Valencia Power Electronics?) teammates against Eurocup Coach of Year Ilias Zouros and more-than-the-sum-of-parts Panellinios.
So onto the stories (and one videoclip)!
Alba Berlin: Fans twittering 24-hour bus ride
Talk about turning the proverbial lemons into lemonade; the folks at Alba Berlin basketball went into damage-control mode yesterday upon realizing that some 400 ticket-holders might be stranded in Deutschland rather than be able to attend the final four games in Vitoria.
So what happened? Not only did the front office manage to provide a swell bus for the most rabid of backers, not only will sponsors Caja Laboral provide free food for the group upon arrival, not only will Jordi Bertomeu be personally meeting with the German road warriors, but these devotees are so into the road trip as to be tweeting the experience. (Last update: about 2.15am CET.)
Meanwhile, a few devotees managed to haul their butts all the way to Munich in hopes of getting a flight to Spain there; good news for these hardy types, as Berlin fans were allowed onto reportedly literally the last flight out of Munich. One
obsesser fan was even interviewed for German radio.
BiE thinks this whole Eyjafjallajoekull hullabaloo has proven one thing: Alba Berlin fans are in no way, shape or form lacking in devotion – hair-raising, life-shortening devotion, that is – for their team.
Valencia: That’s right, it’s Victor Claver
Well, there was no way BiE was going to get through this piece without at least one YouTube. And with Portland Trail Blazers fans desperate for any news and views on the lifer from Valencia, here’s a clip for you with a monster jam from the 2009-10 Rising Star Award winner (see below).
Bilbao Bizkaia Basket: Katsikaris just wants to make the final game, delineates strategy
Though Bilbao is on the cusp of its first-ever European championship title, coach Fotis Katsikaris is applying the old coaching cliché of just looking at these games one at a team. For Katsikaris, the goal is simply tonight’s game: “It would be a success to reach the final,” said the coach.
With a win, Bilbao Bizkaia would be automatically granted entry into the 2010-11 edition of Eurocup.
As for strategy, Katsikaris gives quite an extensive breakdown on the club’s official site; according to the coach, the crucial point for the Spanish side will be to “find solutions to open up the Alba defense,” which will require more patience and tenacious D from Bilbao.
However, there’s no way the Greek coach is about to give up the shoot-first-ask-questions-later offense of Bilbao: “We’ve shown we’re capable of controlling a game in any condition and they are not so used to playing a very high score. That’s why I say it’s important to be able, at any given time, be ready, break the match open [while avoiding the danger of losing] the concentration and rhythm of the game.”
Specifically, “[Julius] Jenkins is the key player in attack because he creates a lot of things, is a good shooter and can penetrate.”
Finally, Katsikaris emphasizes his not-so-secret weapon, i.e. the 13th man provided by the hometown crowd: “We’ll be at home – the ‘Black Tide’ in Vitoria shall be no less than 3,000 fans – and this will help us a lot […] especially when we go through complications and problems, for we can overcome them.”
For Panellinios, Coach of the Year seeks to top award
(Euroleague) – Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that Ilias Zouros of Panellinios BC, who took his team from the qualifying round to the Eurocup Finals, has been chosen as the 2009-10 Eurocup Coach of the Year.
In his third season on the Panellinios bench, Zouros has led the club to new heights as it aims for a first continental crown at the Eurocup Finals in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain on April 17 and 18. Panellinios played a spirited season to become the only team without homecourt advantage to win its Quarterfinals series and reach the Finals.
Zouros’ task was made difficult by injuries that cost the team two players in the midst of the Last 16. In fact, not one Panellinios player started every Eurocup game this season and only five of them played in all 14 games leading up to the Finals.
However, Zouros got the most of every person on his roster, from Eurocup rookies to a former Euroleague champion, leading the team to a perfect home record despite not having a single player ranked among the top 10 in any major statistical category. Zouros is the second winner of the annual award, which was introduced last season. The previous recipient was Oktay Mahmuti, then the coach of Benetton Basket Treviso.
The Eurocup Coach of the Year is part of an expanded awards structure meant to enhance the recognition of the finest Eurocup players and coaches for their efforts throughout the season. Earlier this week, Victor Claver of Power Electronics Valencia was selected as the 2009-10 Eurocup Rising Star Trophy winner.
Euroleague Basketball and its in-house experts will also select players for the All-Eurocup first and second teams and the Eurocup MVP. The Eurocup Finals MVP award will go the best player at that event as voted by accredited journalists in attendance during the title game.
Zouros had Panellinios playing inspired basketball from the start this season. First, his team took care of business with a convincing road win at VEF Riga in the opening leg of the Eurocup Qualifying Round. Panellinios opened the Regular Season by routing another eventual quarterfinalist, Gran Canaria 2014, on the way to a 3-0 start.
After averaging an 18.7-point margin of victory in those games, Panellinios slipped and dropped two games on the road before bouncing back in the Regular Season finale to knock out SLUC Nancy and become the Group G winner.
Panellinios continued to protect its homecourt throughout the season. After a 3-1 start to the Last 16, Panellinios sealed its place in the next round with a week to go. A Last 16, Week 6 win over another semifinalist, Bizkaia Bilbao Basket, was not by a large enough margin to reach first place, but that would not matter as an 11-point win over Gran Canaria in the first leg of the Quarterfinals paved the way to Vitoria-Gasteiz for Zouros and his team.
Zouros, 44, started his coaching career at age 20 in the Panionios youth system, where he won several Greek League cadet and juniors titles. His next step was to join Peristeri’s coaching staff in 1993. He got his big break at Olympiacos in 2000 and guided the team to the Greek League finals and Euroleague quarterfinals in 2001.
Zouros then spent the first of several seasons away from his homeland, leading Sagesse Beirut to the Lebanese Cup and Asian Championship titles in 2004. Stints at Peristeri, Aris and Racing Paris followed before Zouros came to Panellinios in late 2007. The rest has looked like a match made in heaven as he helped turn Panellinios into a rising powerhouse in Greece.
Now after earning Eurocup Coach of the Year honors, Zouros will look to cement a magnificent season with two more wins and a piece of club history in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The line, the fearless prediction: Book likes Valencia, BiE likes…
The oddsmakers at Euroleague/BallinEurope Sponsor Sporting Bet have installed – stop BiE if you’ve heard this before – the two Spanish clubs as favorites to settle the 2009-10 Eurocup cup in an Iberian home; both Valencia and Bilbao are getting poor-investment odds of just about 1/1. The Sporting Bet table on the odds to hoist the ‘Cup looks like so:
Alba Berlin 9/1
While imagining an Alba win amidst the Black Tide is difficult, BiE will fearlessly cover the Greek side against tournament favorites Valencia this evening: Here’s to thinking that brains win out over brawn, Claver is denied his open-floor opportunities, and that Panellinios overcomes its difficulties playing outside of Greece this year. At a whopping 16/5 against and a handicap of plus-8, i like those odds.
The BallinEurope fearless prediction, then: Bilbao over Panellinios in the final.
Valencia vs. Panellinios tips off at 6pm CET in Vitoria; Alba Berlin vs. Bizkaia Bilbao Basket starts at 8.45pm CET. The third-place game and final match are set for Sunday night at 6.15pm CET and 9pm CET, respectively. (Schedule dependent upon the temper tantrums of a certain Icelandic volcano, apparently.)
All games will be broadcast on TV network Eurosport 2 in 46 countries in Europe – gee, maybe it even be on in Hungary. In Germany, RBB Berlin has broadcasting rights, while network TET will be showing the matches in Ukraine.