Live from Herzegovinia
As playoff time is upon us...my long lost brother and freedarko fan, Meniscus Drovfascitis, currently stationed somewhere in Herzegovinia, has decided to offer some serious analysis of the upcoming Euroleague Final Four:
The brackets are set, the nets have been cut down, and the drinks are flowing….that’s right, its time for the Euroleague Final Four. Only four teams remain, and Moscow is set to have one of the most competitive Championships in recent history. Whether you’re a drunken Russian, a lazy Spaniard, a money-loving Jew, or just a b-ball fan, I’ve got the ill preview no one else will give you (probably because no one else cares.)
Euroleague Final Four: May 6-8, Moscow, Russia
Semifinal One: Tau Ceramica vs. CSKA Moscow
The Road to Moscow: Certainly the biggest surprise of any of the Final Four teams, Tau limped to a 6-8 regular season record and snuck in to the Round of 16 by tiebreaker. Two big wins against Panathaikos and Lithuanian giant Zalgiris Kaunas saw Tau cruise in to the quarterfinals where they surprisingly handled Benneton Treviso with ease, a team that had beaten them twice in the regular season. This is their first Final Four.
Why they will win: They have one of the best forward tandems in Europe. Lithuanian Arvydas Macijauskas has been tearing up fools despite being only 6’ 4’’ and the second-best Arvydas in Lithuania. He actually went undrafted in the NBA a few years ago, probably due to his height. Argentinean Luis Scola is their other forward. Draft-heads will remember him as the Spurs second round pick in 2002. He dropped 34 and 6 on Treviso in the first leg of the quarterfinals, and together Arvydas and Luis represent over half of Tau’s scoring punch,
Why they won’t win: They have to play tourney favorite CSKA Moscow in the semis and they have a former Atlanta Hawk, Travis Hansen, on their roster. Even in Europe the Hawks suck.
Drink of Choice: Sangria, even though none of their best players are actually Spaniards.
Draft Prospects: Center Tiago Splitter has been a role player, but is still being mentioned as a possible first rounder. He’s only 20, and apparently has some skills.
Blast from the Past: Kornel David, a white Hungarian with a black man’s name. He used to hold it down with some garbage Chicago Bulls squads in the late 90’s.
The Road home: For the second year in a row, a Final Four team will have home-court advantage. CSKA went unbeaten in the regular season, a Euroleague first, but not without some close calls against Tau, Benetton, and others. The round of 16 and quarters saw CSKA continue their domination, save for a shocking loss at Barcelona. Look for CSKA to be amped at home as they go for a fifth Euroleague crown and their first championship in over 30 years.
Why they will win: The games are in FUCKING MOSCOW. Maccabi Tel Aviv showed last year how key home-court can be in the Final Four, and CSKA wants to follow that example. Former Piston Marcus Brown has been nice lately, he’ll try and shut down Tau’s Arvydas 2.0, and he just might succeed.
Why they won’t win: They have played too many close games, and while lesser competition has faded to them all season long, don’t expect a team like Maccabi to roll over and die. Again they also have a former Hawk, David Andersen on their squad. While the Aussie has been pretty decent in recent days, the curse of the Hawks will continue.
Drink of Choice: Vodka homey. Straight.
Draft Prospects: Sergey Monya was a first rounder last year with the Blazers, no idea whether he’ll ever make the big leap. Other then that, CSKA is an old timey squad with little youth to speak of.
Blast from the Past: Estonian Martin Muursepp played a few seasons with Miami and Dallas. He’s possibly the most famous Estonian since Brendan Fraser played Link in “Encino Man.”
Semifinal Two: Panathaikos (Athens) vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Road to Moscow: Very uneven all year long for the Greek side, they had to pull out a tough 3 game series with their Turkish rivals Efes Pilsen to make it to the Final Four. The Greens have flown under the Radar, but pose a very dangerous threat in their attempt at a fourth Euroleague title. They also won in 1996, 2000, and 2002.
Why they will win: Panathaikos plays very well against Maccabi. They beat them in 2000 for the title, and knocked them off in the semis in 2002 on their way to another championship. Although this team isn’t nearly as strong as those squads, favored Maccabi might be preoccupied with the demons of the past.
Why they won’t win: Maccabi is really really good. And no amount of past history will change that. Former ASU star Michael Batiste has been playing very poorly lately, a huge source of discomfort for the Greeks, who will have to rely on Ibrahim Kutulay, a Turk, more then they would like to.
Drink of Choice: Ouzo for sheezy. The Greens have one of the most rabid fan bases in Europe.
Draft Prospects: Dusan Sakota. He’s a shade under 7 feet, and a pretty good shooter to boot. Only 19 years old.
Blast from the Past: You want some Lonny Baxter info? You got it. The former baby Bull and Maryland star has been riding the bench in Greece. Fuck Maryland and fuck Lonny Baxter.
Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Road to Moscow: Despite some bumps during the regular season. Maccabi has made their opponents look like the Egyptian army (cuz who doesn’t like a good Six-day War joke?). They destroyed Scavolini by 50 points and Ulker by 41. The Israelis have won 8 games in a row as they look to be the first European repeat champion in almost 15 years.
Why they will win: Superior guard play, led by Sarunas Jasikevicius and Tal Burstein. Saras is bar-none the best point guard in Europe, and definitely one of the top guards in the world. Burstein has filled in admirably for the departed Beno Udrih (now with the Spurs). These guys are tough to beat.
Why they won’t win: Although Maccabi looked unbeatable for most of this season, continuing their dominance from their victory in the 2004 Final Four at home in Tel Aviv, now its CSKA’s turn for some home cooking. Look for the crowd to be key.
Drink of Choice: The blood of Christian children for Purim pastries.
Draft Prospects: Burstein would make a great role player in the NBA, and his backup, Yotam Halperin is the next great hope for Israeli basketball. He’s only 21, and already a fan favorite.
Blast from the Past: Maceo Baston, Maceo Baston, Maceo Baston. ‘Nuff said.
CSKA over Tau
Maccabi over Panathaikos
CSKA over Maccabi (Although I hate to go against my peoples)