Both reigning Eurocup champion Valencia Basket and German League champion FC Bayern Munich started the 2014-15 season in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. These teams now go against each other in the Eurocup Eighthfinals, in what promises to be a very exciting and balanced two-way series.
It will be a special series for Bayern head coach Svetislav Pesic and power forward Dusko Savanovic, who return to Valencia to play against their former team for the first time since leaving the club. Pesic and Savanovic worked together in Valencia in the 2010-11 season and led the team to the Euroleague playoffs and within one win of the Final Four. Savanovic was chosen to the All-Euroleague Second Team, becoming the only player in Valencia history to achieve such an honor. Pau Ribas of Valencia and Jan Jagla of Bayern played for DKV Joventut Badalona when the club lifted the then-called ULEB Cup trophy back in the 2007-08 season.
Valencia, two-game series expert
When it comes to Eurocup two-way series, Valencia Basket has been almost indestructible. In its previous eight Eurocup seasons, Valencia played 17 two-game elimination series and won 15 of them, including the only home-and-away finals in competition history, against Krka Novo Mesto in 2003, and against Unics Kazan in 2014. Valencia has never been swept in a two-game series, losing only twice on point differential – against Lietuvos Rytas in 2005 and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2013. Both teams went on to lift the trophy after downing Valencia in the semifinals. This is Bayern's first two-way series since the 1968-69 Cup Winners' Cup eighthfinals, which it lost against ASK Olimpija Ljubljana.
Bayern: competitive everywhere
Bayern is one of the two undefeated teams left in the competition after having won all of its six games and proving it can be competitive in many different ways. Bayern has been really effective at home, allowing just 68.7 points per game at Audi Dome – making it the second-best defense behind the other undefeated team, Lokomotiv Kuban. Bayern has been able to score fluently at home (90 ppg., fourth overall) and on the road (88 ppg., second). Bayern (39 rpg.) and Valencia (38.7 rpg.) are the best rebounding teams in the competition on the road, so controlling the boards will be a big key to this series. Bayern is first in assists (20.7 apg.) in away games.
Memories from 2010
Valencia has always been very competitive against German teams. It has a 10-0 home record against German squads and is 16-3 overall, though it has lost its last three games on German soil. Its best win came in the 2010 Eurocup final, in which Valencia downed ALBA Berlin 67-44 to lift its second trophy. Bayern sharpshooter Lucca Staiger was on the bench for ALBA that night, but did not get to play, while Rafa Martinez and Serhiy Lishchuk won their first of two Eurocup titles with Valencia. Martinez, Lishchuk, Pablo Aguilar and Pau Ribas have a chance to win their third Eurocup title, something unprecedented in competition history. Jagla is the only German-born player to ever lift the Eurocup trophy.
Not only are Valencia and Bayern high-scoring teams, but both teams have very different weapons. Bayern has as many as six players averaging in double digits in points, even though Nihad Djedovic (12 ppg.) is out against Valencia. Bo McCalebb (16 ppg.) and Bryce Taylor (12.2 ppg.) will have extended roles, while John Bryant (14.8 ppg.), Vlado Stimac (13.8 ppg.) and Savanovic (11.5 ppg.) lead the team under the baskets. Valencia heavily depends on its frontcourt of Bojan Dubljevic (15.3 ppg.), Kreso Loncar (11.4 ppg.) and Luke Harangody (10.8 ppg.), but has six backcourt players averaging more than 5 points, led by small forwards Romain Sato (10.7 ppg.) and Vladimir Lucic (9.8 ppg.).