By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Basketball Champions League is entering the final stage of the season with eight teams left to fight it out for the trophy.
U-BT Cluj Napoca, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, BAXI Manresa, Unicaja, Hapoel U-NET Holon, SIG Strasbourg, Lenovo Tenerife, and TOFAS are the names that have secured a ticket for the quarterfinals and the draw has treated the fans with very interesting matchups.
The quarterfinals will start on April 5th this season and will be played in a best-of-three format with, of course, the higher-seeded teams having the home-court advantage.
Eurohoops has taken a look at the bracket and introduces the most important facts to know before tuning in to the action.
While Cluj – Ludwigsburg and Manresa – Unicaja will open the quarterfinals, the next day the stage will belong to Hapoel Holon and SIG Strasbourg.
Story of the Season
Hapoel Holon and SIG Strasbourg are well-known names in the competition and they’re in the fifth and sixth season respectively in BCL.
However, from those runs, they have a combined just one appearance in the Final Four and it’s Strasbourg’s from last year when they finished fourth.
Meanwhile, Hapoel reached the Final Eight last year and it was their best run in the competition. It was a jump over the hump since, in previous years, they were always so close to advancing but just couldn’t get past the barrier.
This season, however, both squads have shown amazing character and the reward was this matchup in the quarterfinals.
Both sides had fairly big ups and downs but when push came to shove, they stepped up and got the crucial wins that let them pass through deep into the competition.
Holon won four games after being in a losing position at half-time, the most amongst all teams in the BCL.
Strasbourg won five road games after being down by ten or more points. They also won six out of eight games in overtime throughout their tenure in BCL.
It is quite clear why the two sides deserve respect and it will be a battle until the final second on April 6th as neither team is a stranger to comeback, they will fight until the buzzer and no lead can be a safe haven.
Moving on to tradition. These two teams faced off twice in the 2019-20 season and Hapoel was the victorious side both times.
In fact, they became the only team to score 100+ points against SIG in BCL. Additionally, Hapoel has not only won against Strasbourg but also has a total score of 5-1 against French teams.
Seems like that style of basketball suits them well to play against.
However, Strasbourg is looking to change that. New faces are ready to prove their worth and they’ve shown great versatility this season, perhaps most of any team.
Their offense was excellent but what makes it so great is that they always find a different way to score. Whatever the opponent closes off, coach Lassi Tuovi’s squad finds a solution in other areas.
They have scored 29.8 field goals per game, leading the competition. They are also second per possession with 1.16 points.
They logged a game with only five turnovers this season. They logged a game with just two free-throw attempts. They also logged two games with 12 made three-pointers one after the other.
Good or bad, Strasbourg seems to always find a way. And they play great on the road which is of great importance in the best-of-three series when you lack the home-court advantage.
Hapoel Holon will have to either play the best defense ever seen in BCL or they will have to step up offensively and accept the scoring race which could go either way.
Leaders and X-Factor(s)
And when it comes to scoring, Hapoel Holon is no stranger.
Chris Johnson, Adam Smith, Michale Kyser were all showing off their scoring potential this season with 20-pieces.
Joe Ragland, the most recent MVP of the Month in the competition, has been scoring but also more importantly dishing out the assists. He’s been on a great pace to enter the history books of the competition with 7.9 per game.
The X-factor, however, has to be Guy Pnini. The veteran has already made some big shots so far this season.
Although he is far from what he used to be and his volume of shots is low, Pnini proved that one or two big shots can save a season for the whole team and he might also make one or two to push Holon to the Final Four for the first time ever.
Let’s not forget Tyrs McGee who can also make the crunch time his playing field.
When it comes to Strasbourg, they’ve seen some changes throughout the season with Jarrell Eddie leaving but also losing John Roberson to injury.
That said, the above-mentioned versatility was what got them through as others stepped up.
Jordan Howard did a good job, coming in as the replacement for the injured Roberson while DeAndre Lansdowne and Yannis Morin have been in great form recently.
The X-Factor on this side of the coin would be Kameron Taylor who proved that he can double his scoring output from eight points on average to as much as 17.5 in a short-term boost in BCL.
Strasbourg will need every ounce of it in the battle of attrition with Holon.