This upcoming weekend will be played the first ever ULEB Cup Final 8 tournament. While the years before, this second highest European cup has always been finalized with a Championship game in Charleroi, the ULEB has changed it and we will have the 8 best teams in a do-or-die contest in the Italian city of Turin.
The first game of the event will be the Turkish duel between Besiktas and Galatasary, two of the very traditional club teams from Istanbul. Both team will probably be supported by loud and devoted fans and it will be a tough game for both teams. Besiktas has built a very impressive roster this season with well known European Basketball talent like Preston Shumpert, Sandro Nicevic, Kaya Peker or Predrag Drobnjak. Additionally, Christian Dalmau and Rick Apodaca represent Puerto Rico in the only team that went for a 10-0 regular season in the ULEB Cup.
On the other hand, we have Galatasaray with a more US orientated roster where the main players are Robert Hite, Charles Gaines, Chris Owend and of course Dee Brown. The rotation is completed with two generations of Turkish basketball: Cenk Akyol and Huseyin Besok. All in all, this should be a hard fight but you can consider Besiktas as a slight favorite, they have the better record in the Turkish league so far. And may be the neutral basketball fans can see some plays like this.
The other Thursday match-up will be the game between Joventut Badalona and Pamesa Valencia. Well another national set up, this time from Spain. When the Badalona team may even be known by some fans in the United States because of Ricky Rubio, they are also the clear-cut favorites of this year’s edition of the ULEB Cup. Even Joan Plaza (head coach of Real Madrid) has the same opinion and sees the R&R team as favorites. R&R (Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio) is probably the most spectacular back court of whole Europe and they have a very good supporting cast with the experienced Demond Mallet or Ferran Lavina while the inside section with Jan-Hendrik Jagla, Petar Popvic and Jerome Moiso is doing their job.
The actual fifth placed in the Spanish league, Pamesa Valencia comes to Turin with the firm will to win their opener and go for it all. Behind the combined efforts of the experienced Fred House, Ruben Douglas and Shammond Williams, the team of coach Katsikaris features also some very interesting young talent with Victor Claver and Stanko Barac. Still this will probably not be enough to win against the team from Badalona that came of a convincing win against Euroleague Top 8 team TAU Ceramica this weekend in the Spanish league.
The two other games will be Dynamo Moscow versus PGE Turow Zgorzelec and the fight between Akasvayu Girona and Unics Kazan. We will have more on these games tomorrow.