By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
ALBA Berlin’s EuroCup season has been admirable. With a 12-4 record entering the quarterfinals, the club’s young roster had turned heads all across Europe. However, when Unicaja Malaga grabbed a 91-90 road win in Game 1 of the series, nobody was really surprised. As good as ALBA was, Unicaja has a roster that’s capable of competing in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. That’s why ALBA’s response and a 101-81 victory in Malaga was the real upset of the series.
While just two ALBA players – Stefan Peno with 10 games as a member of FC Barcelona Lassa and Niels Giffey with 24 back in the 2014-15 season – have had a small taste of Europe’s top competition, Unicaja is full of players who have a combined for a total of 36 EuroLeague seasons under their belt.
Only Ryan Boatright and young gun Jaime Fernandez have not played yet in the EuroLeague. Moreover, Unicaja won the 2017 EuroCup without having home-court advantage in any series.
Georgian center Georgi Shermandini has been a member of EuroLeague trophy-winning teams, playing for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus and both Dani Diez and Carlos Suarez have played for Real Madrid.
If there’s a team in the competition with the know-how to come back in big games, Unicaja is the main candidate for that title. After all, Unicaja Malaga rallied from a 21-point deficit to stun ALBA by winning Game 1 of this series by one point, proving that it is as resilient a team as one might expect.
By comparison, UNICS Kazan’s players have a combined 13 EuroLeague seasons, Lokomotiv Kuban’s roster has 23 EuroLeague seasons, for Morabanc Andorra the total is just nine EuroLeague seasons and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne’s number is 21, mainly because Mantas Kalnietis, who competed for 11 seasons in the EuroLeague. Even Valencia Basket, which has already qualified, has a roster with a combined EuroLeague experience of 28 seasons.
Simply put, in theory at least, there’s no team in the 7DAYS EuroCup this season that seems to be more EuroLeague-ready than Unicaja Malaga. However, as has been proven time and time again in sports, numbers, and tradition don’t mean much after the tip-off. That said, the tip-off of Game 3 between Unicaja and ALBA is not to be missed by any true basketball fan.