The importance of protecting the home court

Feb 13, 2017 by Igor Petrinovic, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
The importance of protecting the home court

There are only eight teams left in the race for the new 7DAYS EuroCup champion and, to get to the trophy, each team will need to get over three obstacles, battling it out for the first time in best-of-three series. Road playoff wins are traditionally of great value, but if history in the EuroCup has taught us anything, it is that everything starts with winning at one's home floor in the elimination rounds.

FC Bayern Munich, Hapoel Bank Jahav Jerusalem, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Valencia Basket have earned the home floor advantage in the quarterfinals this season, and Valencia, with its best Top 16 record and point-difference, is the one that would be a host throughout the playoffs. Having won the competition three-times already, Valencia is well aware how important it is that the road to the EuroCup title this season goes through its Fuente de San Luis Arena.

Last season, it was Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul and Strasbourg that reached the two-game EuroCup Finals, with Galatasaray lifting the trophy. The fashion in which the Turkish powerhouse got to the finals and won that series seemed very much what has served as a recipe to win this trophy in the past – protect your home floor.

During the campaign last season, Galatasaray had a 11-1 home-court record. But more importantly, in the elimination rounds - eighthfinals, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals - on the way to the 2016 EuroCup title, Galatasaray had four wins and no losses in front of its fans. Galatasaray had zero wins and four losses on the road in those series, while Strasbourg had gotten to the finals in a diametrically opposite way, by going undefeated on the road. When the two met in the finals, they won their respective home games, but Galatasaray did it by a larger margin.

EuroCup champions have always been dominant on their home floor. Since the inaugural ULEB Cup season 2002-03, the eventual champions have lost only one home game after the group stages. There have been a total of 35 home-and-away series in 15 years of the competition. There were seasons when the format changed and there were four playoff rounds, and there were seasons which featured three, two or only one elimination series. And then there was the 2008-09 season, where there were none. Regardless of how many elimination rounds there were, however, the team that was crowned the champion turned out to be dominant on its home floor.

The only time the eventual EuroCup champ lost its home game after the group stages happened in 2012-13 season, when Lokomotiv lost the second leg of the semifinal series against Valencia 63-68. But Lokomotiv had won the first game of the series in Valencia by 10 points and went through, only to beat Bilbao in the one-game finals and lift the title.

Since that Valencia win in Krasnodar, champs are 12-0 on home floor. Before that series, they were 22-0.

In EuroCup history, four teams went undefeated through the elimination rounds to become champions. But also, four times teams did not win a single road game in the elimination rounds, but went on to win the trophy, including Galatasaray last season, and a couple of teams that are in the quarterfinals also this season: Khimki Moscow Region in 2012, and Hapoel Jerusalem in 2004.

With the two-game home-and-away format being replaced this year with the best-of-three series, in which point-difference plays no role, the importance of the home floor could be even more significant in this year's playoffs.