By Stefan Djordjevic / firstname.lastname@example.org
After the fifth week of action in the Basketball Champions League playoffs, a total of six teams secured a spot in the Final Eight Tournament.
Nizhny Novgorod was the first to do it and was followed up by Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon, Hereda San Pablo Burgos, Lenovo Tenerife, Casademont Zaragoza, and ERA Nymburk. The remaining two spots will belong to Happy Casa Brindisi/Pinar Karsiyaka and Turk Telekom/SIG Strasbourg.
It’s a diverse crowd but the Spanish teams take up the majority as all three squads that advanced past the regular season got the job done in the Round of 16 as well. They did it in a convincing fashion as well.
The reigning champions in Burgos came out of the same group (J) together with Tenerife as both teams reached a 4-1 record and all that remains is to duel out for the top spot in the group. Zaragoza also got to 4-1 in Group L after dismantling Nymburk which pulled through as well.
The Spanish clubs embraced the Basketball Champions League and are now flooding the final phase of the competition but it wasn’t so at the beginning. In fact, Tenerife was the sole Spanish team (including the qualifiers) in the inaugural 2016-17 BCL season.
They were outnumbered, especially by the French, German, Greek, Italian, and Turkish teams as those countries featured at least three clubs each in the competition’s regular season. However, the ‘sole warrior’ went all the way that season and won the first-ever BCL title.
Their success influenced the other teams and Tenerife was joined by two more Spanish teams – UCAM Murcia and Movistar Estudiantes – in the regular season that followed. Joventut also gave it a shot but failed to get past the second round of the qualifiers.
While there was more of them, fate didn’t allow for a bigger success as well. Estudiantes didn’t advance in the regular season while Tenerife and Murcia had to face each other already in the quarterfinals.
Murcia managed to take out the champions and went to the Final Four where they ended up in third place after losing to AEK (which became the new champion) and beating MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg.
The 2018-19 campaign played out in a similar fashion with three of four Spanish teams reaching the regular season and Tenerife and Murcia getting to the playoffs.
This time around, Murcia was eliminated early by the young and overachieving Telenet Giants Antwerp squad that took the continent by surprise while Tenerife reached the Final but just couldn’t overcome Segafredo Virtus Bologna.
Maybe not going all the way each year but the Spaniards certainly created a pattern for themselves as they are the only country to have a team in the Final Four in each season of the Basketball Champions League so far, and they are on a good path to repeat that this year as well with three squads in the quarterfinals.
Not only this year but last season as well. Granted, it was during peculiar times due to the coronavirus pandemic and after the hiatus, but it was perhaps the most successful season for the Spaniards in BCL as San Pablo Burgos went all the way from the qualifiers to the championship.
As if that weren’t enough, Zaragoza was also competing in the Final Four which made it the first time one country had two teams in the semis. Tenerife was also in contention but, as was already the case once before, had to clash against Zaragoza beforehand and only one could come out victorious.
Fast forward to this season and the story continued in the same direction with the same actors. Burgos is looking to make history and become the first team to win two straight titles while Zaragoza and Tenerife try to ruin it for them.
If the ‘coin flips properly’ (third time’s the charm) and they get lucky enough to avoid each other in the Final Eight draw, this year might end up quite big for the Spanish teams as they have a chance to take up as many as three spots in the Final Four, establishing their dominance on the European stage.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League