By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
This is it, the final battlefield. Four teams have risen above the rest and qualified for the 2017/18 Basketball Champions League Final Four in Athens. Both semifinal games are scheduled for Friday 4th of May. In the first game, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg will face AS Monaco Basket while the latter term is reserved for the hosts, AEK, who will count on the home-crowd energy against UCAM Murcia.
Here are some things to know about the matchups:
MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg – AS Monaco Basket (17:30 CET)
Monaco is the only team of the four to have already made it this far in the competition in the past and the only three players who have experienced the BCL Final Four are a part of their roster (Amara Sy, Bangaly Fofana, Sergii Gladyr). The French team won 17 out of 19 last games in this competition. Although they lost their last game (vs. Banvit), the competition never saw them record two losses in a row. Their primary weapon is the offense as they average 84.7 points per game with 51.2% scored field goals (one of the two teams above 50%) and it is led by Gerald Robinson with 53.4% FG.
On the other side, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg is the first team to have played three qualification rounds at the beginning of the season and still make it to the Final Four. It wasn’t easy especially taking into consideration their last three games as they lost two of them after having an advantage at the halftime. A significant factor could be their quick adjustment to other team’s courts as they won their last eight away games. Also, they have conceded only 22.8 field goals per game, fewer than any other team. Dwayne Evans leads the forwards of the league for the most free throws made (79) and grabbed rebounds (123). The team also took a major blow as Justin Sears suffered an injury in the recent German League game.
AEK Athens – UCAM Murcia (20:30 CET)
The stars seem to have aligned for the home team. It has been fifty years since AEK brought the first European trophy ever to Greece in 1968 and, after some seemingly impossible victories, they have the momentum to win another one in front of their crowd. They have an offensive rating of 112.6 points per 100 possessions and that number increased to 116 per 100 in the playoffs. Also, the bench was an important part of their game with an average of 33.7 points.
On their path stands Murcia, a team which improved throughout the season and changed their playstyle in order to adjust in their first year in this competition. What is very important for them is that they have won more games in a hostile court than at home and easily adjust to the unknowns. They have conceded 8.9 points per game fewer in the playoffs than in regular season games, decreasing the margin to 70 points per game, making them the most improved team in that section. Augusto Lima was the biggest surprise in the last three games as he doubled his performance number averaging 12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
The winners will advance to the final which is scheduled for Sunday 6th of May at 20:30 (local time), while the 3rd place game will be played at 17:30 (local time) on the same day.