How about a Parisian vacation with a visit to the Louvre, a nice bottle of wine and some high intensity basketball? The last part may seem out of place, but starting May 7th, Paris will be hosting Europe’s largest basketball event, the Euroleague Final Four.
Just like the NCAA Final Four, the Euroleague Final Four comes down to the best of the best. Each team in this year’s Final Four has at least one title under its belt and is looking to add another. Imagine the energy of the NCAA Final Four merged with the patriotic fervor of the Olympics as fans cheer not only for their team, but also for their country.
The 2010 Final Four features teams from four different countries; Regal FC Barcelona (Spain), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Partizan (Serbia), and Olympiacos (Greece). All but Partizan were a part of last year’s Final Four in Berlin, and each team has something to prove after falling short to last year’s Champion, Panathinaikos.
The games are of epic proportion as winning teams and players become legends across the continent. Many players bring NBA experience. The game is pure and and intense, as proven by the rarity of any team scoring 100 points. In fact, you will see many games finishing with scores in the 70’s, indicating that defense is a staple and each possession holds value. As the highest level of competition outside of the NBA, some basketball purists insist that Euroleague basketball is the best brand of the game.
Lucky for basketball fans in North America, ESPN also appreciates Euroleague basketball and has partnered to stream the games online at ESPN 3 beginning this Friday, May 7th.
Regal FC Barcelona (Spain) vs. CSKA Moscow (Russia)
In a rematch from last year’s semifinal game, Barcelona looks to even the score this time around.
A solid team whose talent is approaching the level of its soccer-club counterpart, Barcelona will be looking to exploit any advantage against rival CSKA. One of those advantages is having two players who wore CSKA jerseys last season and know their tendencies well. Both Terence Morris and Erazem Lorbek should bring some inside scouting information and perhaps even some extra motivation. Barcelona won the Euroleague title in 2003.
Players you may know: Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, Fran Vazquez, Terence Morris, Pete Mickeal, Erazem Lorbek. Coach-Xavi Pascual
CSKA makes its 8th consecutive Final Four appearance. Perhaps not considered a favorite entering the season, CSKA has again proven itself a force as the team looks to utilize its players’ experience and maturity. However, this is the first Final Four visit with new coach Evgeny Pashutin. CSKA won the Euroleague titles in 1961, 1963, 1969, 1971, 2006 and 2008.
Players you may know: J.R. Holden, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Trajan Langdon, Zoran Planinic Sasha Kaun, Ramunas Siskauskas Coach-Evgeny Pashutin-Italian
Partizan (Serbia) vs. Olympiacos (Greece)
Partizan arrives in Paris as the underdog, perhaps the Butler of the tournament. But this underdog too will fight, as Partizan arrives with strong momentum, and a sense of destiny as they have seen the somewhat “improbable” repeatedly fall in their favor. The latest example includes an amazing win over Cibona with a full-length buzzer beater in the Adriatic League Championship. Their presence is well-deserved, however, as they collected a number of major wins on their way to Paris. They have only one player with Euroleague Final Four experience, but all of Serbia acts as their sixth man and will be in full support. Partizan won the Euroleague title in 1992.
Players you may know: Lawrence Roberts, Bo McCalebb, Dusan Kecman, Jan Vesely. Coach-Dusan Vujosevic
Their opponent is Olympiacos, best known to us for outbidding NBA teams and signing swingman Josh Childress away from the Atlanta Hawks. They won the Greek Basketball Cup this year, and after losing in the final moments of last year’s Final Four, they are poised to take the next step this season. This will be a focused team arriving in Paris. Olympiacos won the Euroleague title in 1997.
Players you may know: Scoonie Penn, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic. Coach-Panagiotis Giannakis