It’s #BasketballCL Final Four time! A bit more than a year after Tenerife won the first ever Basketball Champions League, AEK Athens, UCAM Murcia, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and AS Monaco are in Athens ready to fight for the title. Who you got?!
— CourtSide Diaries (@courtside_drs) May 2, 2018
— CourtSide Diaries (@courtside_drs) May 2, 2018
MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg – AS Monaco
The first semifinal is a matchup that could well take place in the final as it features two of the most impressive teams of the whole competition: The side from Ludwigsburg had a pretty good record last season and fought all its way from the qualification rounds this one so nobody can claim it is some sort of one hit wonder as they sure know how to grind! Then, AS Monaco, with the 2/2 in Basketball Champions League Final Fours and just two losses this season – with an impressive 84.7 points per game and an outstanding 51.2% in FGs (the only team above 50%)!
A lot more can be said about Ludwigsburg – from the very characteristic style of play that their coach has implement to the set of players that you feel could make it to bigger stages that this side features – so the best thing you can do is read Chris Schmidt‘s piece about MHP Riesen that we hosted a couple of months ago. There, you’ll find all you need to know about coach John Patrick, Zalgiris’-possible-next-PG Thomas Walkup and arriving-from-Germany’s-2nd-division-and-dominating Dwayne Evans. Chris Schmidt is a member of Go-to-Guys so you might like to check them out too (provided you understand German).
For Monaco, it might sound as an exaggeration but watching one game will tell you enough of what you need to know about them: simply dominating. They have a lot of talent, they demonstrate fascinating levels of communication, they have improved quite lot on offense, they are very focuses, they are the best #BasketballCL team when it comes to defense. And this is where things get very interesting in terms of their battle against MHP Riesen this afternoon. You find out why on the graphs below:
Taken from the “closer look” articles on the official Basketball Champions League website, the graphs show the 4 Final Four teams’ Offensive and Defensive Ratings as well as where they rank in Steals and Turnovers and it’s quite clear that in the Ludwigsburg vs Monaco matchup we are going to be watching two of the best combinations of team offense and defense of the whole league.
AEK Athens vs UCAM Murcia
Or else: the hosts vs the underdogs! AEK is hosting the event, and is having a hell of a year as a multisports club in general (having won the title in the football league and being in the cup final as well as having won the cup title in basketball and being in the final of the Challenge Cup in handball!), and all but UCAM Murcia shocked defending champions Tenerife and knocked out Karsiyaka before making the trip to the Greek capital so it’s obvious they are not a side you can overlook.
Murcia is a slightly odd team, almost as if they scrambled to make a roster work after it was meant for a different set of players… Which is exactly what happened. The backbone of this squad is similar to last year’s team: athletic but slightly rigid big men like Delma and Tumba hold together a team composed of a bunch of effort guys with just enough shooting to worry the opposition.
They have added Augusto Cesar Lima, a fringe EuroLeague-level player who might give them that athletic edge they lacked at the center position.
And that’s exactly what Lima gave them – a very sharp athletic edge – and what Murcia proved to be – a team of effort.
Murcia didn’t start the season very well but improved greatly as it went on, being one of the most impressive teams of the playoffs – even if under most people’s radars. What’s going to be of great importance in this matchup is rebounding, an element of the game in which Murcia is doing great and in which AEK is doing terribly. A picture is worth a thousand words so check the graph below (from the official Basketball Champions League website):
Note that we are talking not about absolute rebound numbers but about percentages; that is, how many of the available rebounds each team grabs. AEK manages to get ahold of the ball in less than 1/3 of the times it misses a shot and just above 7/10 times the opponent misses one. Murcia’s players, on the other side, get the ball back in more than 1/3 of the times they miss a shot and more than 7/10 times their opponents miss – and this makes them the best rebounding team of all four that are in Athens.
AEK’s season developed in a similar manner to Murcia’s: They had a weird start – to the extent of firing their coach and giving the position to their up-until-then GM – then managed to grab a couple of important away victories and with some mid-season signings and a couple of big shots they managed to make it to the Final Four. We are talking about a squad that has experience, has talent and has enthusiasm. As well as the homecourt advantage, that is!